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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 Districtnow 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.
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.
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.
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!
A light and refreshing take on bourbon, this standard Penelope release is definitely a gateway whiskey.
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.
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.
Most likely to get bought by college dudes named Kyle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
It was a bit unusual for a group of reporters to be huddled together underneath a tent on a hot and humid August morning at the Green Hill Cemetery in Frankfort, Ky., but if Freddie Johnson is involved, I’ll go anywhere.
Johnson is the legendary tour guide at Buffalo Trace Distillery who has worked there since 2002, and his father and grandfather before him worked there as well. He’s not only won numerous industry awards — including being inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2018 — but he also makes friends with every single person lucky enough to be on a Freddie Johnson-led tour.
He’s personable, his passion for the industry is unwavering and he’s so down-to-earth and approachable that you’ll want to be besties after spending even five minutes with the man.
But back to the cemetery. Johnson has been on the Board of Volunteers of the once-forgotten Green Hill Cemetery for nearly a decade, and he’s vowed to bring the historic grounds into the 21st century by helping raise funds, installing much needed infrastructure and garnering support.
The cemetery was established in 1865 and features the Kentucky African American Civil War Memorial, a 10-foot-tall limestone pillar that bears the names of 142 veterans of Kentucky’s United States Colored Troops who fought in the Civil War. The monument was dedicated on July 4, 1924, by the Women’s Relief Corps.
The cemetery is in dire need for community support, and its board has worked tirelessly to do what it can for the hundreds of tombstones that have been damaged, lost, buried or stolen.
Freddie Gets a Check
On Tuesday morning, the Sazerac company, owners of Buffalo Trace, presented Johnson and the board with a check for $11,872. The money came directly from the sale of every case of Freddie’s Old Fashioned Soda (Root Beer, Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer) sold at the distillery.
Johnson and members of the board were thrilled beyond belief at the amount of money they’ll now have to get started on the many projects needed to be done. He spoke about the project and what it means to him and his family — Johnson has several family members buried at Green Hill — and also what it means to Frankfort and beyond.
Johnson said he’d like this cemetery to be another reason why people visit Frankfort, and his goals include locating lost graves, indexing the entire cemetery and creating an online site where people can search for their ancestors, adding several light fixtures to keep out vandals, and restoring deteriorated tombstones, among many other goals.
Johnson was appreciative of the funds and the attention, and he says his goal is to leave this cemetery in a much better shape before he leaves this earth. Mapping the cemetery will be his biggest achievement, he says, because many families in the area have stopped coming to visit because they can’t find their family’s tombstones or markers.
Johnson and the board plan to work with bourbon archeologist Nick Laracuente to help with the project.