The Kitchen Table façade

Beam’s new The Kitchen Table restaurant one-ups all other Kentucky distilleries

The Kitchen Table façade
The Kitchen Table: Come as a friend, leave as family. | Photo by Sara Havens

For 18 long months, the James B. Beam Distilling Co. (aka Jim Beam Distillery) in Clermont, Ky., was closed to the public. The powers-that-be decided, in essence, that while the world dealt with the ensuing global pandemic, it would be best to shut down tours and renovate and expand the campus.

After all, this was part of Beam’s five-year expansion plan, which included constructing a new distillery (Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery); expanding and renovating the visitor center, which is now called The American Outpost; and adding a full-service restaurant and cocktail bar called The Kitchen Table; among other projects.

Turns out the Beam crew was quite productive in those 18 months, and now the distillery is open again for tours — as well as delicious meals and creative cocktails.

I recently visited The Kitchen Table as part of a media experience, and I can say — with all due respect to the other distilleries in Bourbon Country — that Beam has just one-upped every other distillery in Kentucky and beyond. The restaurant is not only approachable and welcoming, but it offers gorgeous views of the distillery grounds and spectacular cocktails that highlight each Beam brand — from Booker’s and Basil Hayden to Baker’s and Knob Creek.

The restaurant was inspired by the Noe family kitchen table, where generations of Beams have shared meals and, of course, lots bourbon! Beam partnered with QED Hospitality out of New Orleans on the project, and the food as well as the vibe of the place is Southern hospitality at its finest.

Here are a few things I was able to try, which are a great representation of the menu.

First Course

  • Jim Beam Highball — I love a refreshing highball, and this was top-notch!
  • Spiced Pork Rinds — Yum! Cajun-seasoned rinds were delish!
  • Venison Poppers — I don’t usually eat venison, but I did, and it was pretty tasty.
  • Pulled Pork Empanadas — One of my favorites of the day: The pulled pork was smoked on the premises.
  • Lamb Ribs — A savory treat, with fall-off-the-bone meat.

Second Course

  • Golden Hour — This cocktail was made with Basil Hayden, Aperol and fillet blanc, and it was light and crisp.
  • Hot Brown Pizza — Fun fact: The chefs use the same yeast for the pizza crust that is used in Jim Beam bourbon. This pizza is a best-seller so far.
  • Smoked Pork Pizza — My favorite pizza of the bunch!
  • Wild Mushroom Pizza — The smoked gouda on this one was a highlight.

Third Course

  • Smash — A cocktail made with Old Grand-Dad 114, lemon, mint and sugar. It was kind of hybrid of a mint julep and hot toddy, served cold over crushed ice.
  • Burger — Wow! This was my favorite of the day, a double-decker fried burger that tasted like a Frisch’s Big Boy back when Frisch’s used quality meat.
  • Smothered Catfish — I don’t usually eat fish, but I made myself try this because it looked like chicken tenders. It was pretty darn good! Fluffy and fried.
  • Smoked Trout — I hate to say it, but I passed on this dish because of, well, fish.

Dessert

  • Basil Hayden Caribbean Cask — A neat pour, tried and true.
  • Bourbon Balls Can’t go wrong with these balls.
  • Spiced Apple — This as a treat: vanilla pudding with caramel, granola and baked apple pieces.
  • Chocolate Blackout Cake — Can I get a hell yeah!? This was my fav dessert because of the luscious hot fudge poured all over it, plus bourbon whipped cream and bourbon-soaked cherries.

As you can see, there’s a wide range of food here, and it’s all sourced locally (when possible). The table I sat at was patterned after a similar table in the Noe kitchen, and it’s reserved for VIPs, although you can request it when making reservations. Because everyone is a VIP at The Kitchen Table, right?! You better believe it.

And I also tried the Black Manhattan, which was made with Baker’s — one of my favorite Beam products.

Right now, The Kitchen Table is only open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday, and it’s recommended you just stop by and come on in. If you’re waiting for a tour or are killing time after a tour, it’s also recommended you sip on a cocktail or two from the oval-shaped center bar.

And lastly, I just love how the restaurant is all windows, showing the dazzling, serene sights of the distillery grounds. I could just sit there all day and look out onto the campus — as long as they kept my glass full, that is.

Here is a collection of photos from my experience. Enjoy!

A man at last year's Tailspin Ale Fest

Louisville’s best beer fest, Tailspin Ale Fest, returns Oct. 30!

A man at last year's Tailspin Ale Fest
Who’s ready for the 8th annual Tailspin? | Courtesy of Tailspin Ale Fest

The last time I attended Louisville’s best beer fest, also known as the Tailspin Ale Fest, I was unaware that a global pandemic was on the horizon and shit was about to hit the fan. It was February of 2020, and I still had a job, I didn’t own a single face mask, and I had a fondness for the word Corona — it goes well with a lime.

Had I known everything that was to come after, I would have cherished my time at the festival more. But honestly, I had a frickin’ blast sucking down samples left and right, and I don’t know how I could have had more fun.

Good news is, while Tailspin got postponed in February 2021, organizers are bringing it back for a Halloween-themed party on Saturday, Oct. 30. It’ll once again be held at Bowman Field, but this time at the Central American hangar closest to Taylorsville Road, which is outside. And it’ll run from 3-7 p.m. as usual.

Tickets are still available, and guests are encouraged to dress in costume for the 8th annual Tailspin. So what all is planned? I’m glad you asked.

First of all, there will be more than 250 samples of craft beer from near and far, along with cider and wine. Need more? Check out this list of amenities:

  • Shuttle stop options and a dedicated shuttle entrance
  • Cox’s Cigar Pavilion
  • Bourbon Barrel Beer Bar
  • Cider/Sour Bar
  • Drake’s Silent Disco
  • Live music from 100% Poly
  • Tarot Card Readers and other festive Halloween fun
  • Kentucky Heritage Section – Brews brewed in the bluegrass
  • Food Trucks

If you’ve never been, trust me on this, it’s worth every penny of admission. And if you have been, then what are you waiting for? Buy your tickets already!

VIP tickets are $80 and include early admission at 2 p.m., a free food voucher, a souvenir taster glass, and a Bell’s Brewery VIP Tailspin souvenir. And general admission tickets are $50 and include a souvenir taster glass. If you have a DD who doesn’t plan on drinking, tickets for them are $15. You must purchase your tickets online before the event, as no tickets will be sold at the gate.

Shuttle rides to and from Tailspin are an additional $15, and locations include Against the Grain downtown, Cox’s Spirits on Ruckreigel Pkwy., Drake’s Paddock Shops, Drake’s St. Matthews, Drake’s Hurstbourne, Evergreen Middletown, Highlands Tap Room, New Albanian, Union 15 near Iroquois Park, and Nachbar.

A scene at Woodford Reserve Distillery

Woodford Reserve celebrates 25 years with special events and releases

A scene at Woodford Reserve Distillery
Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall celebrate 25 years. | Photo by Sara Havens

On an unusually warm Monday afternoon in October, media gathered at the historic Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Ky., to hear more about the exciting things planned for the Brown-Forman brand’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall were on hand to raise a toast to the milestone and fill us in on some upcoming events and news.

“We see no sign that the global demand for bourbon will diminish,” Morris said. “More and more consumers worldwide are discovering one of the greatest exports from Kentucky — bourbon. And they are especially enjoying Woodford Reserve.”

Morris added that Woodford Reserve is the top super premium whiskey in the world, and under his leadership and the rest of the Woodford team, the brand has grown exponentially from 1996 until now, adding four other expressions to the Woodford cannon: Double Oaked, Rye Whiskey, Wheat Whiskey and Malt Whiskey.

Potstills at Woodford Reserve
The iconic Woodford Reserve copper pot stills will soon be joined by three more. | Photo by Sara Havens

Morris and McCall also showed off the distillery’s newest expansion, which will double the capacity.

Not only are they adding three more iconic pot stills to the facility, but they also constructed a new building that’ll make more room for more fermenters in the current distillery.

During the event, the Woodford team topped off some newly filled barrels that’ll soon — well, in five or six years — be part of a commemorative 25th anniversary release.

To celebrate the big 2-5, the distillery will be offering special tastings, cocktails and releases all month long. And on Friday, Oct. 15, Morris and McCall will be at the distillery to sign bottles and answer questions from 2-4:30 p.m.

Not A Kale Ale Beer

Lettuce drink beer! Green District now has its own brew

Not A Kale Ale Beer
Eat like a rabbit, drink like a fish. | Photo by Sara Havens

It’s not fun trying to be healthy. I don’t care if you’re name is Oprah, I’m never going to eat a pizza with cauliflower crust and pretend it’s better than the real thing.

Trying to be healthy as you get older is also quite a challenge, and by challenge I mean damn impossible. My metabolism, which has never quite fired on all cylinders, has seriously left the building. I may have to hire Dog the Bounty Hunter to help me find it.

Anyway, we all know what we should be eating, but rarely do we stick to rules. So when I can find compromise in my diet, I’m all for it. Case in point: The Louisville-based salad shop Green District now has its own beer, so I can eat like a rabbit and drink like a fish!

If you don’t know what Green District is, there are a few locations around town now, and there’s about to be a whole lot more. They told me they hope to open about 100 new locations around the country in the next five years, so there’s that.

Green District salad and beer
Salad & beer

Think of it like the Qdoba of salad … the employees can help you create your own salad from dozens of topping options, or you can just pick one of the already created salad concoctions if you hate making decisions.

The beer, which is only available at the Highlands location (1449 Bardstown Road) for now, was made by Falls City Beer and is called Not A Kale Ale. The description on the can is a “Light & Bright Citrus Ale.”

I stopped by the other day to try out the $3.50 beer and grab a fresh salad as well, and I must say that the beer pairs very well with a cob salad drizzled in ranch dressing.

First of all, let’s talk about the salad. They way it was chopped made it simple to eat. I just plunged my fork into the greens, and up came a perfect bite. No big lettuce leaves or huge bits of broccoli — everything was perfectly sliced and diced. They may actually get me to eat salads on the reg if this is how it’s going to be.

Now the beer. It was light and refreshing for an ale, and it really did complement my salad. The citrus notes in the ale worked perfectly with the greens and the grilled chicken. I secretly wondered how many calories and carbs the beer had, but I didn’t want to ask. I figure if my meal is healthy, then I can at least enjoy a beer.

Go check it out next time you’re in the Highlands. It’s located in the building that formerly housed a Comfy Cow, right near the intersection of Bardstown Road and Eastern Parkway.

Of course I couldn’t stop thinking about all my hot and sticky ice cream memories in that space, but I suppose I’m better off sticking to salad and a beer.

Bottles from Tasteless Tastings Olympics

Tasteless Tastings: Belated Olympic Edition

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about bourbon.

I’ve been embarrassingly behind on holding this Tasteless Tastings, and I have no one to blame but myself. I’ve had some of these bottles for months, and I’ve tried my hardest not to break into them until I could get some buddies over and do it to it. I invited five friends to join me, and we dove right in, tackling the most in the history of TT. We also had an Olympic theme going and awarded our top 3 with a gold, silver and bronze medal.

So here we are. Without further adieu …

Bottles from Tasteless Tastings Olympics
A stellar lineup indeed.

What are we drinking today?:

Penelope Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a four-grain bourbon from the new-ish Penelope Bourbon folks, and it’s a blend of three bourbon mash bills sourced from MGP in Indiana. The four grains include corn, wheat, rye and malted barley.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

80 Proof | $34.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: It has a nice nose. I like it! It’s got nice legs, too.

Heather: It’s smooth.

Kat: I like how smooth it is, but nothing really jumps out flavor-wise.

Bar Belle: It sure is a mellow little fellow.

Tonya: It’s light and airy. I could sip on this all night.

Elizabeth: I’m not sure I like the bottle because it looks too much like wine.

Zanne: Yes! It looks like a rosé!

Final thought:

A light and refreshing take on bourbon, this standard Penelope release is definitely a gateway whiskey.

Group Consensus:

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.


Silver medal

What are we drinking today?:

Five Brothers Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is the newest release from Heaven Hill that pays homage to the five Shapira brothers who founded the company in 1935. It’s a blend of five ages of bourbon ranging from 5 to 9 years old.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

90 Proof | $59.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: The nose is great on this one, but it kind of burnt me a little on first sip.

Bar Belle: That’s because you chugged it! You’re supposed to let it simmer in your mouth, not just swallow it whole!

Elizabeth: You didn’t pour me enough to truly get a taste. Quit being stingy!

Bar Belle: OK, fine! Here’s another pour.

Heather: I enjoy the rich nose on this one. It’s like you’re inside a rick house.

Kat: I’m getting apricot and citrus. It’s nice!

Heather: It’s an easy drinker for sure.

Kat: It really opened up in my mouth and was refreshing going down.

Bar Belle: Nobody say “That’s what she said,” please.

Final thought:

It’s a great sipping bourbon with the quintessential notes of rich caramel, dark chocolate and baked fruit.

Medal Winner!:

Silver — Second Place!


Puncher's Chance bottle
Bourbon or pirate booty?

What are we drinking today?:

Puncher’s Chance Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a blend of 4-6-year-old Kentucky bourbon and is partly backed by famed sports announcer Bruce Buffer, aka “the voice of mixed martial arts.” We’ll let Buffer explain the name of the product himself:  “A puncher’s chance means that anyone has the potential to succeed, whatever the odds or circumstances, if he or she works for it.”

Give me the nerdy numbers:

90 Proof | $34.99

What do we think?:

Kat: The bottle is not appealing to me. It looks like a rum!

Zanne: It looks like a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream!

Elizabeth: It looks like it came off a pirate ship.

Kat: It drinks young.

Zanne: There’s a subtle hint of burnt tire in this.

Bar Belle: I’m detecting some mustiness here.

Heather: It’s like watered down Irish whiskey.

Final thought:

While most in our panel did not prefer this bourbon, that doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy it. It drinks a little young, but there are some who prefer those flavors of green apple and pear, drizzled with some caramel. This is Kentucky bourbon, after all, so it’s got potential to be your everyday drinker. Note: A 21-year-old crashed our tasting session during this pour, and he not only loved Puncher’s Chance, but he said he’d buy it just because of the cool bottle. So there you go.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to get bought by college dudes named Kyle.


What are we drinking today?:

Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is the 10-year-old version of Michter’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It was aged in a heat-cycled warehouse and is very sought-after by bourbon aficionados all around the globe.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

94.4 Proof | $150

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: This smells MUCH better than the last one.

Heather: I get cherry up front — definite cherry.

Tonya: It has a nice burn … it’s that Kentucky hug they talk about.

Elizabeth: I like the nose better than the taste. It kinda burns.

Bar Belle: Are we drinking the same thing? This is amazing!

Kat: There’s a nice spice at the end, too.

Zanne: I’d like this by a campfire in the autumn. Where can I get this?

Bar Belle: It’s pretty hard to find unless you get lucky at the distillery downtown.

Zanne: Money can’t buy you love when it comes to bourbon.

Final thought:

With notes of cherry, caramel and spice, it’s everything nice you want in a bourbon. At 10 years old, it’s a solid pour that is worth hunting for.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to marry a millionaire.


What are we drinking today?:

Stellum Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a brand from the Barrell Craft Spirits that blends barrels of various ages from Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

114.98 Proof | $54.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: This smells like caramel!

Heather: I thought it would taste heavier than it does.

Zanne: Two thumbs up!

Tonya: I just added some water and that really helped me enjoy it more.

Bar Belle: The water really does open it up a bit. It’s nice!

Kat: I could sip on this while I watch my Eagles win this year.

Bar Belle: I’m sorry, did you mean Bengals?

Kat: No. No I didn’t. Are there still Bengals fans?

Bar Belle: Who Dey.

Final thought:

Not too shabby for a new product. This well-rounded bourbon has some bite, but if you can get past that, you’ll be rewarded with delightful flavors of caramel, cinnamon, vanilla and toffee.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to never be single (because it would be great in a cocktail).


Bronze Medal Winner

What are we drinking today?:

Penelope Barrel Strength Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is Batch No. 6 that is a barrel-strength version of the Penelope Four Grain. Again, the mash bills come from MGP, but the bourbons have been aged a bit longer, at 3.5-4.5 years. The uncut, unfiltered juice won Double Gold in the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Awards, and here it took the third-place Bronze Medal.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

115.8 | $57.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: It noses well.

Zanne: P does not stand for packaging — I still think it looks too much like a wine bottle.

Elizabeth: Wow! I’m really impressed with the rich caramel and butter notes in this.

Kat: I like this! It’s smooth for being so high in proof.

Heather: I’d even say it’s sweet, with a little smack to the rear on the finish.

Bar Belle: This is quite amazing and another reason why I prefer barrel-strength to, say, like 80 or 90 proof. If I want to add water, that should be my decision.

Final thought:

It’s a very well-balanced, high-proof bourbon that doesn’t feel high proof. With flavors of orange peel, fruit and caramel, this is the perfect bourbon to sip by the bonfire.

Medal Winner!:

Bronze — Third Place!


What are we drinking today?:

Stellum Rye

What the hell is it?:

A project by the Barrell Craft Spirits folks, this one blends rye whiskey barrels from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana to pay respect to the tried-and-true Indiana rye whiskey mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

116.24 Proof | $54.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: Wow! I’m getting maple syrup right up front. It’s delightful! Like a bourbon waffle!

Tonya: Whoa … I might set something on fire with this!

Zanne: I’m liking it with a few cubes of ice. It puts out that fire just a bit.

Bar Belle: No ice! Step away from the ice, Zanne!

Kat: This is a great example of a rye whiskey, and even though the bottle also looks like wine, I think it’s sharp.

Final thought:

This tasty little rye snack would make a wonderful treat on a cold night. With hints of maple syrup and brown sugar and a respectable proof of 116, this is a solid choice to add to your bar.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to stay the night.


Gold Medal Winner

What are we drinking today?:

Old Forester Single Barrel Rye

What the hell is it?:

This is the single barrel, barrel-strength edition of the Old Forester Rye Whiskey.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

124 Proof | $79.99

What do we think?:

Kat: I really like this one. Wow!

Zanne: I’m in!

Tonya: It’s smooth, and it’s toying with my tongue … in a good way!

Heather: It’s the Pop Rocks of whiskey!

Bar Belle: Holy wow! You better cash me outside with this one! Is that how you say the phrase?

Elizabeth: Not really, but we’ll let it slide. This whiskey has a wonderful after taste!

Tonya: You get all the flavor up front, and then the heat on the back. It’s a fun spirit.

Final thought:

It’s the Pop Rocks of whiskey. This one has the flavor, the punch and the subtle flavors of a candy factory sprinkled with black pepper. Although we sampled this one last, it was the obvious winner of the night, proving that good things come to those who wait. We want more!

Medal Winner!:

Gold — First Place!

Alcohol Professor screenshot

Alcohol Professor: 8 Newly Released Bourbons You Should Definitely Try

Alcohol Professor screenshot

The assignment: Write about the Great Bourbon Release Season of 2021 and provide some tasting notes.

My response: Do chickens have lips?

I enjoy writing these roundups because they keep me organized and up to date on the latest releases. I try not to make them too boring, because who wants to read about what someone else tastes? Bourbon is subjective, after all.

A few caveats here: Most of these you might not be able to find at your corner liquor store, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try them by the pour at your favorite restaurant, bar or liquor store that offers tastings. Also, samples from each of these eight whiskeys were provided.

There are also many I probably failed to mention, but this category is growing like my waistline during a pandemic.

Here’s a quick excerpt from my article in Alcohol Professor:

It’s as anticipated as the coloring of the trees, the cool, crisp nip in the air and pumpkin spiced lattes. The great bourbon release season is upon us, and this year, for some reason, it felt like it couldn’t get here quick enough. Perhaps we’re all preparing for another global shutdown, but as long as we have some damn fine bourbon to keep us warm and occupied, we’re ready for what’s to come.

Here’s a list of a few anticipated releases these next few months, along with some newbies to the scene that are worth your effort in tracking down. Of course there are more bottles coming out now than we could possibly cover in one article, so just think of it as a buffet of bourbon. And remember the golden rule of buffets: Take all you want but eat all you take.

Sara Havens, AlcoholProfessor.com

READ MORE HERE

Maker's Mark FAE-02 bottle

Maker’s Mark FAE-02 debuts

Maker's Mark FAE-02 bottle
Courtesy of Maker’s Mark

If you’ve been keeping up with the Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series, then you’ll be happy to hear the second FAE release will be available any day now at liquor stores around the state (and beyond).

FAE stands for “fatty acid esters,” and that’s what Maker’s Master of Maturation and Director of Innovation Jane Bowie focused on while coming up with this second iteration of the FAE line. Here’s the piece I wrote about FAE-01 back in March.

If you’re wondering what fatty acids have to do with bourbon, it’s all about the mouthfeel. These are the compounds that make some bourbons thicker and more viscous than others. And I like a thick, creamy bourbon.

So the focus for Bowie in 2021 was on texture. And she and the team split up the experiments with two separate releases — the FAE-01 and now the FAE-02.

For No. 2, the team started with the finishing staves, which were double heat-treated to really bring out the luscious mouthfeel. The staves were put into a fully mature barrel of Maker’s Mark for eight weeks and four days, and then the bourbon rested for a month in a stainless steel tank (thus ending the aging process).

Why let it rest in the tank?

Bowie says she believes this extra time allowed the fatty acids to “come together.”

“I notice the texture on this before the flavor,” Bowie adds. Flavor notes include milk chocolate, caramel and toasted nuts.

Here’s an info graphic showing the differences between 01 and 02:

Maker's info graphic
Courtesy of Maker’s Mark

The Wood Finishing Series is Maker’s way of sharing the story of distilling with its fans. The FAE-02 is the fourth release in the series. It’ll be available soon for a suggested retail price of $59.99.

King of Kentucky label

Long live the King (of Kentucky)!

Step aside, mere mortals, because the King of Kentucky has returned.

You won’t find him holding court on a liquor store shelf, oh no. He’s too in demand for that nonsense. If you’re lucky, you can try him by the pour at your favorite watering hole — but it might cost you a pretty penny and a whole lot more.

King of Kentucky bottle

So who is this king and why should we care?

The King of Kentucky is an annual release by Brown-Forman. It’s a single-barrel expression of older Brown-Forman bourbon. This is the fourth release of the series, and the barrel-strength juice is 14 years old. Master Distiller Chris Morris hand-selected 33 barrels for this 2021 batch. That’s about 2,700 bottles.

“This year’s release comes from two production days — 14 years ago — but a mere 12 days apart,” said Morris in a news release. “Given the fact that each bottling is of a single barrel, the very slight difference in age is undetectable. All the barrels that were selected for this year are of the highest quality.”

The brand’s name is a throwback to a popular bourbon from 1881. Brown-Forman acquired the rights to the name and brand in 1936.

King of Kentucky retails for a suggested price of $249.99, but again, it’s going to be damn near impossible to hunt one down. It’ll range in proof from 125-135 and will only be available in Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois.

I was fortunate to get a small sample of this year’s King, and I can assure you it’s worth all the hype — and more.

Of course the color is a gorgeous deep amber given its age and the fact that it comes from a heat-cycled warehouse. On the nose, I get raisin and fig, with a little bit of maple syrup for good measure.

And after a sip — wow! It reminds me of those chocolate-covered modjeskas they sell at the Old Forester gift shop. It’s rich caramel, milk chocolate, a hint of that Brown-Forman banana and even a little toasted coconut. The finish lingers, reminding me of taking a bite of a caramel apple but getting more caramel than apple — as was my goal always.

Bottom line, the King is worth the hunt. This is the bourbon legends are made of.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

Four Roses 2021 LE Small Batch will be highest proof yet

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch
The 2021 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch is coming soon …

During a Zoom press conference Monday, Four Roses Master Distiller walked me and fellow spirits writers through a quick tasting of the 2021 Limited Edition Small Batch, which will be released in late September in select stores and through an online lottery system on the Four Roses website.

The annual release is highly anticipated in the bourbon world, and this iteration is no joke. At 114.2 proof, it’s the highest proof yet to be released — and it’s quite tasty, as you might have guessed.

Elliott described his process of assembling the LE Small Batch. He explained he basically looks at previous releases and sets out to evoke a different flavor profile. Since Four Roses uses two different yeasts and creates 10 distinct bourbon recipes, it’s a lot of trial and error since he’s working with mature barrels that are usually distinct in various flavors.

For all the Four Roses geeks out there, here is the specific blend for the 2021 release:

  • 16-year-old OESV: 58%
  • 12-year-old OESK: 23%
  • 16-year-old OESV: 13%
  • 14-year-old OBSQ: 6%

The robust bourbon packs quite a punch, especially on the first sip. But once your tastebuds settle down, you can truly experience the nuance of baked fruit, caramel, chocolate, baking spices and even a dash of cinnamon on the finish.

“Hand-selecting the barrels to make up our annual limited edition bottling is one of my most rewarding experiences each year,” Elliott said in a news release. “The ability to work with 10 bourbon recipes each with distinct characteristics opens up endless possibilities. This year’s release brings a proof higher than any of the past Limited Editions, creating robust complexity and layers of flavors resulting from the variety of constituent batches and recipes.”

Let’s just face it: Four Roses can really do no wrong, especially when they’re using mature barrels for limited edition products like this one. If someone were to lock me inside one of their rick houses, I’d be happy as a clam sampling through their inventory like I was at Costco.

Signups for the bottle lottery will start today and continue through Sept. 12. You can only enter once, and if you win, you’ll get the right to purchase the bottle for a suggested retail price of $150. Only 14,500 bottles will be released

An example of a Louisville bar

Changing last-call hours is a knee-jerk reaction that’ll stifle Louisville bars

An example of a Louisville bar
The proposed amendment would force Louisville bars to close at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. | Photo by Sara Havens

On Aug. 23, Louisville Metro Council member Cassie Chambers Armstrong filed an ordinance that proposes a change to alcohol sales in Louisville from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Notice I said Louisville — meaning the entire city and not just one neighborhood.

According to Chambers Armstrong, the ordinance would help cut down violence that has recently occurred in her Highlands neighborhood — because all bad things happen between 2 and 4 a.m., right? The ordinance would apply to all of Louisville’s bars, not just the Highlands.

As you know, I am a champion for our vibrant bar scene and believe it’s just as important to our city as bourbon, basketball, tops chefs and, yes, even the Derby. Our 4 a.m. last call is proof that our city thrives long after midnight, and it serves a purpose for those working third-shift jobs and in the service industry, both of which are the lifeblood of our city. 

I believe this new ordinance would further harm our bar scene, which is still recovering from the 2020 pandemic shutdown, and punish all for the acts of some. I’ve talked with a handful of bar owners who say a healthy amount of their daily sales comes between 2 and 4 a.m., the time when folks in the restaurant industry get off work and have cash to burn while they wind down from their workday. 

Contrary to popular belief (most likely from those who haven’t stepped foot in a bar after midnight in years), most late-night drinkers are not delinquents, rowdy frat boys or gun slingers looking for trouble. They’re people from all walks of life looking to unwind, dance, play pool, catch up with buddies or bond over brews. They’re also tourists who have flocked to this trending Southern city in search of all things bourbon, including this immaculate bourbon culture we’ve created through our nightlife scene. 

I feel like the proposed ordinance was a knee-jerk reaction to an uptick in violence in Louisville, but our small businesses shouldn’t be the ones that get punished. In fact, many bars hire extra staff to man the doors and check IDs, and they truly value the safety of their customers and surrounding neighbors. I know this doesn’t apply to all bars, and the establishments that continue to have issues should be monitored and reprimanded. 

The unfortunate facts are these: our Louisville Metro Police Department is dealing with a staffing shortage, and violence after the pandemic is up 21% nationwide. Cities all over the country are dealing with the same issues, but the good news is there are opportunities for creative thinking on combating violence. 

Perhaps it involves more street lighting, more patrolling, more security staffing, more awareness and more conversations. Of course the gun control issue can’t be ignored here either, but that political hot-button topic won’t be changed anytime soon locally or nationally.

But back to the issue at hand. It’s not right that an industry built into the fabric of our city must suffer because of several recent incidents. Unfortunately crime will continue to happen at all hours of the day, not just between 2 and 4 a.m.

Louisville’s late-night hours should be a point of pride, helping us stand out from other nearby cities like Indianapolis, Cincinnati and even Lexington. Our nightlife scene attracts people from near and far because it is unparalleled in this area of the United States. 

It may not be your cup of tea to sip an Old Fashioned at a neighborhood pub at 3 a.m., but that doesn’t mean you can take that right away from others. Let’s figure out a solution without penalizing our small businesses.