Maker's Mark bottle

Check out this cool new Maker’s Mark limited-edition bottle

The bourbon world is no stranger to cool-looking glassware, but this new Maker’s Mark bottle had me doing a double-take. It’s sleek with the black wax, sharp with the retro logo, and that black bottle is, in one word, breathtaking.

So what’s the new bottle for?

Well, Maker’s Mark has teamed up once again with Keeneland Race Track in Lexington to create this bottle that gives back to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF), a charitable organization that provides financial assistance to jockeys who have sustained debilitating on-track injuries.

Maker's Mark bottle

Love it!

And, according to a news release, each bottle has been signed in advance by the five leading active stakes-winning riders at Keeneland — Julien Leparoux, Robby Albarado, John Velazquez, Javier Castellano and Mike Smith — in addition to  Maker’s Mark Managing Director Rob Samuels and Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason.

The illustration of a jockey in white and red silks aboard a racehorse is the work of Louisville artist (and my friend) Jeaneen Barnhart, who is famous for her equine art. In fact, her art once adorned a Derby bottle of Woodford Reserve, and she’s done a few Derby Festival posters throughout her career as well.

“The people in the horse industry of Central Kentucky have played a big role in the history of Maker’s Mark,” said Rob Samuels, who is an eighth-generation whisky maker, in the release. “When my grandfather started Maker’s back in the 1950s, the horsemen supported him and helped spread the word that his bourbon was worth sharing. So, we’re honored to share something back in a meaningful way.”

The limited-edition bottles should hit store shelves in Kentucky starting July 3.

Birthday Bourbon 2020

Old Forester spills the beans on Birthday Bourbon 2020; Jim Beam to release affordable Old Tub BIB

While summer has only just begun, we’re already talking about the big Fall Bourbon Release season, thanks to Old Forester and its highly anticipated Birthday Bourbon.

Birthday Bourbon 2020

Love the bottle!

Not only does this release — which will be out Sept. 2, on founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday — signify the 20th iteration of this product, but it also comes out during Old Forester’s 150th year in the bourbon business.

According to a press release that came across my desk yesterday, the bourbon will be 10 years old and bottled at 98 proof.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that tasting room!

“Being part of the Birthday Bourbon selection process is one of my favorite parts of my job because of the legacy and tradition this expression represents,” said Jackie Zykan, Old Forester Master Taster, in the press release. “We’re really proud of what we’ve produced this year and think it’s a great way to celebrate George’s birthday and Old Forester’s historic anniversary.”

The special Birthday Bourbon will be priced at $129.99 — if you can find it on a shelf.

*  *  *

Old Tub bottle

New Old Tub!

In other news, Jim Beam is releasing a new/old Bottled-in-Bond* product called Old Tub, which is a product that actually dates back more than 140 years and was a viable early product for the Beam family. The bourbon will be about four years old and will be bottled at 100 proof, per the Bottled-in-Bond rules.

“We’re taking bourbon lovers back in time and making a delicious bourbon true to the way my ancestors intended over 140 years ago, when Old Tub was first crafted,” said Fred Noe, Beam Master Distiller, in a news release. “I’m excited to share this one-of-a-kind liquid with our fans and provide a bit of authenticity and nostalgia as we head toward another 225 years in the bourbon industry.”

The best news of all: Old Tub will be available for an affordable $22.99.

**If you’re wondering what Bottled-in-Bond means, here’s the definition, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Bottled in Bond is a label for an American-made distilled beverage that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the U.S. government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. As a reaction to widespread adulteration in American whiskey, the act made the federal government the guarantor of a spirit’s authenticity, gave producers a tax incentive for participating, and helped ensure proper accounting and the eventual collection of the tax that was due.

To be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond or bonded, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January-June or July-December) by one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof. The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded.

Woodford Reserve Five Wood bottle

Woodford Reserve officially releases Five Wood; Buffalo Trace opens for tours July 1

Since I’ve got nothing better to do at the moment than take a deep nosedive into the numerous private bourbon groups online, I’ve known about the new Woodford Reserve Distillery Series release, Five Wood, for about a month now.

The little bottles have been popping up on liquor store shelves, and the ravenous whiskey warriors (myself included) have been snatching them up quicker than Lysol wipes.

But alas, I received an official press release from the Woodford folks today about the product, and I truly can’t wait to try it.

Woodford Reserve Five Wood bottle

Five Wood!

As you know, the Distillery Series is an experimental line of bourbons and whiskeys from Woodford Master Distiller Chris Morris that is released a few times a year. The infamous Double Double Oaked is part of that series, and it’s the only one to this day that continues to be released once a year.

The others are one-off concepts Morris has tinkered with in his mad scientist laboratory, like the Five Wood. So where does the name come from?

Well, basically, Morris took some mature Woodford Reserve bourbon (which is aged in oak barrels), then finished that juice in four other barrels: an Oloroso Sherry barrel, an Amontillado Sherry barrel, a Ruby Port barrel, and a Tawny Port barrel.

I’m no math wiz, but those four barrels + the original oak barrel = Five Wood.

“This is the first time in Woodford Reserve’s history that we’ve blended whiskeys that have been finished in five different barrels,” said Master Distiller Chris Morris in the press release. “The result is a rich taste and a bright finish.”

The finishing process is nothing new in the bourbon world, as many brands have similar experiments on the market, including Angel’s Envy, which is based strictly on finishing straight Kentucky bourbon in sherry casks. But, as Morris noted, it is a new concept for Woodford — as far as the number of different barrels it is finishing its bourbon in.

I have not yet tasted the Five Wood, but I plan on doing that ASAP. I cannot confirm nor deny I own a bottle, but you better believe I’ll be posting the tasting notes once I get a taste!

Until then, Morris has shared his tasting notes with me:

Woodford Reserve Distillery Series – Five Wood Taste Notes

Color: Deep Black Cherrywood

Aroma: An intense medley of rich blackberry, dark cherry, dates, raisin, prune and red fruit

reduction notes sweetened with Damara sugar and caramel-coated walnuts. Dark

leather, oak and black licorice spice develop slowly.

Taste: Rich dark chocolate and espresso coffee caramel icing coated with a raspberry and cherry reduction.

Finish: Long, mouthwatering rich red fruit brightened with a drop of orange oil

Five Wood is now available to purchase online and pick up from the distillery every Friday. It retails for $49.99 for a 375 ml bottle.

* * *

Buffalo Trace reopens July 1

Buffalo Trace Distillery

The Buffalo Trace Distillery is a beautiful experience. | Courtesy of Buffalo Trace

Slowly but surely, Kentucky distilleries are opening up for public tours. Included in the early bunch are Evan Williams, Heaven Hill, Barton 1792, Copper & Kings, Wilderness Trail, Bardstown Bourbon Co. and a few others. Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Ky., is the latest to announce its opening date, which is Wednesday, July 1.

Of course with COVID-19 measures in place, things will be slightly different in this new time, including smaller tours, advance registration, and limited access to distillery operations.

According to a news release, Buffalo Trace is opening its newly expanded Visitor Center, which triples the size of the original and will allow ample space for the Gift Shop and new expansive tasting rooms.

“We are taking every step we can to address the health, safety and comfort of our guests to ensure the best experience possible,” said Homeplace Development Director Meredith Moody in the release. “Our goal is to create a safe haven for all visitors while providing the same rich history and experiences for which we’re known. We can’t wait to reopen to the public and show guests our expanded Visitor Center and tasting rooms.”

There’s a short list of guidelines for those looking to tour the distillery starting July 1:

  • Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
  • Advance registration required online.
  • Access to grounds and the playground only available to registered visitors.
  • New safety and sanitation protocols in place, including guests must wear face masks.
  • All tours remain free.
Sara Havens with bourbon barrels

I want to be the World’s Top Whiskey Taster, and I need your help!

So, Bardstown Bourbon Company is having a competition to find the World’s Top Whiskey Taster. I want this job, especially since I don’t currently have a job. It’s a job I think I could do pretty damn well, especially since I’ve been training for it for, oh, 20 years now.

To enter the competition, I had to film a 1-minute video talking about all the things that would make me an ideal candidate for the role. I posted it to my Facebook page, so now I just need you to go and like it. That’s it. Simple as peanut butter pie.

Click on this link to get to the video on my page.

Please and thanks!


Alcohol Professor: Buried Bourbon — Many bourbon legends can be found in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery

This one was fun to write, especially since it gave me something to do while still unemployed: Searching through thousands of graves at Cave Hill Cemetery, looking for familiar bourbon names like Van Winkle, Weller and Beam. I felt like I was in a live version of Where’s Waldo.

If you’ve never been to Cave Hill, I can’t recommend it enough! It’s beautiful, serene and healing. It’s a cherished piece of Louisville — and Kentucky — history. And I unearthed, so to speak, several bourbon legends on my many walks there, including “Pappy” Van Winkle, W.L. Weller, Jeremiah Beam, George Garvin Brown (of Old Forester and Brown-Forman fame), Arthur Phillip Stitzel and several others.

Here’s an excerpt from my story, which was published at


Pappy Van Winkle grave

Found some Pappy!

There are about 16 miles of paved roads amongst the cemetery’s 296 acres, so it’s an ideal place to escape for a few hours. Cave Hill also is one of the country’s top arboretums, as it features more than 500 types of trees and shrubs, contains five lakes and an underground spring, and yes, there actually is a cave on the premises.

As a Louisville resident for nearly two decades, I am ashamed to admit I’ve only been to Cave Hill a handful times. For someone who gets lost easily, it’s intimidating. Plus the fear of the gates shutting at 5 p.m. induces nightmares. Luckily, my walking buddy Maggie Cassaro, knows the cemetery well. Her parents are buried there, and she often showers various graves — friends, family and strangers — with rose petals. She also enjoys playing tour guide for curious out-of-towners.

This day, I was one of those curious cemetery walkers, and she was happy to show off the history, beauty and secrets of the expansive space …


Stubbees Bourbon Honey

This honey will have you buzzing

For my birthday last year, my friends Kat and Heather hooked me up with some bourbon-infused honey they had stumbled across while on vacation in Florida. I smiled and said thank you, and then put it in a cupboard and had long forgotten about it until … QUARANTINE!

Since I now have to put more effort into my breakfast — instead of just unwrapping a Luna bar at work — I decided to reacquaint myself with granola, yogurt and fruit, all drizzled in honey, of course. And when I opened my cupboard to find if I had any honey — BAM! — there was this Stubbees Bourbon Infused Honey, much to my delight.

Stubbees Honey

Oh, honey.

I’ve enjoyed the honey so much, it actually disappeared last week. (I also snuck it into a few cocktails here and there, including a Mint Julep during what was supposed to be Derby.)

So I had to order more, and when I went to the website, I found the Florida-based company also makes a Blackberry Bourbon Infused Honey! Well, I nearly fell off my rocker when I saw this, so I ordered one of each — regular and blackberry.

The flat shipping rate of $8 was not too shabby either.

The honey just arrived this morning, and I am relieved to have it back in my household. I can’t wait to try the blackberry and am trying to think of a cocktail to make it with. Suggestions are welcome, but I’m not feeling a Hot Toddy at the moment.

Honey: If Mariah and ABBA sing about it, it’s gotta be good! And for reading this post to the end, I give you the wonderful present of watching this ABBA gem below. Enjoy.


Weller Single Barrel

Summer lovin’: New Weller Single Barrel coming in June, folks!

Along with creeping out to see what all this “new normal” is about, we have something else to look forward to this summer: Weller Single Barrel. The wheated deliciousness will be bottled at 97 proof and dressed with a burnt orange label.

This makes me very happy, but also nervous, as I know it won’t be an easy bottle to find — like all Wellers.

“Many of our Weller fans have been asking for a single barrel bourbon for quite a while, and we’ve planned for this addition for a number of years, so we’re excited to be able to make this happen, said Joshua Steely, marketing manager of Buffalo Trace Distillery, in a news release. “Our rye bourbon mash bill has a variety of options, like Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Stagg Jr. George T. Stagg and E.H. Taylor, Jr. bourbons, so it’s nice to be able to offer some variety in our wheated bourbon mash bill as well.”

Weller Single Barrel bottle


The Single Barrel is the newest member of the Weller family, which also includes Special Reserve (green label), Antique (red), 12 (black), C.Y.P.B. (white) and Full Proof (blue). This orange label will definitely look sharp in family portraits.

Suggested retail is $49.99, but good luck even finding it on a shelf. The release says it’ll be out in June and will be released only once a year.

Let the bourbon hunting begin! I can’t wait to try this.

Hunter S. Thompson

Alcohol Professor: Pairing Classic Books With Cocktails

Without some freelancing work, I think I would have done gone crazy by now. I thank the stars that the esteemed website Alcohol Professor continues to take my submissions, because these stories have been fun to write.

This one is all about books and booze — or more specifically, what cocktails to drink while reading some classics. I turned to my Facebook family for some of these suggestions, and relied on my literature background for the others.

And I also talked with the cool ladies at Bourbon Women for their ideas as well. According to Bourbon Women President Kerri Richardson, now is as good of time as ever to revisit the classics — with a cocktail in hand.

“It’s natural during times of uncertainty, crisis or danger to seek guidance or solace from writers who have documented similar conditions, whether in novels or history books,” she told me, mentioning she was thinking about finally tackling “The Grapes of Wrath.”


On The Rocks Old Fashioned

Holy Toledo!: You gotta try this ready-to-drink Old Fashioned

How am I holding up, you ask? For a socially-bent barfly, not very well. It’s lonely at my basement bar, it’s not fun drinking by myself, and the music sucks! Plus, the bartender doesn’t have any of the necessary ingredients needed for the most basic of cocktails — like the Old Fashioned.

She did have some fancy Woodford Reserve cherries in the fridge, but they expired years ago. Blasphemy!

As you know, the Old Fashioned is the signature cocktail of Louisville, Ky., as proclaimed by Mayor Greg Fischer a six-pack or so years back. I scoured the city for its best Old Fashioneds a few times in the past while I wrote for the now-defunct Insider Louisville.

If you want to step back in time with me and peruse those lists, here they are. (Unfortunately, the new owners of Insider Louisville repurposed the website and discarded of most of the photos, so it’s just the text. Dumb.)

Yes, I now realize the list needs updating, and I will focus on that once things open back up, of course. That’ll be what I tackle after making sure I have a job and all.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing today is because I unearthed a shiny Old Fashioned gem while grabbing takeout last week at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen. I won’t lie to you and say I wasn’t there for the incredible bourbon sale they were (and still are) having, but I also enjoyed a filling lunch of hot chicken tenders and a side of ridiculously creamy mac-n-cheese.

While I was there spending way too much money for someone who is unemployed, Merle’s manager extraordinaire Wayne Sweeney talked me into trying a new, pre-made, ready-to-drink Old Fashioned called On The Rocks that was made with Knob Creek. At first I scoffed (secretly), because most pre-made concoctions I’ve tried just aren’t strong enough and have way too much sugar.

On The Rocks Old Fashioned

Mini but mighty.

But then he mentioned in passing that it was 70 proof.

Wait … what?? Now you have my attention.

You basically just open the little bottle and pour it over ice. You can add your own cherries if you’d like (as long as they’re not expired by more than two years), but the one thing you won’t have to worry about adding is bourbon. The first time I sipped it I was mesmerized. It actually stung my taste buds — in a good way!

The flavoring is spot-on, and it’s a prime example of a great Old Fashioned because it lets the bourbon nab the spotlight, while the simple syrup and bitters take supporting roles. And at 70 proof, this thing will sneak up on you!

My girlfriend, who prefers cider, took a tiny sip and winced like she had just downed a bottle of Tabasco. In my book, that is a successful drink!

Merle’s has them for sale for $12 a pop, or there’s a larger sized bottle that’ll pour four drinks for $40. (I also checked out the website, and it says they’re available at some Kroger liquor stores as well.)

Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen is located downtown at 122 W. Main St. They’re doing carryout, cocktail and bourbon sales Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and on Saturday from 5-9 p.m.

Please, please try the mac-n-cheese! You won’t regret it!

Who wants a bourbon mask?

Bar Belle with mask

Win a mask!

My niece is home from college — Roll tide! — and it turns out she knows her way around a sewing machine. (She did not get this from me, because at her age, I knew my way around a keg, and that’s about it.)

Anyway, she found some bourbon-themed fabric and made me a couple of masks! So I thought I’d give them away to my readers — all seven of you! Only kidding … I think.

These masks obviously are not professional-grade, or else I’d make Andy proud and donate them to healthcare workers. They’re more for everyday folks who need to make a run to Kroger or the liquor store.

I will give away two masks in a random drawing live on Facebook on Friday, April 24, at 4 p.m. All you have to do is follow these steps:

  1. Follow me on social media:
    Twitter: @TheBarBelle
    Instagram: barbelle_lou
  2. Comment on the Facebook post about this drawing by saying “Grease 2 is better.”

That’s it! Two simple steps! I will then load all the names into an online randomizer, and the first two names at the top of the fifth “spin” will win a mask.