Kentucky Bourbon Festival starts (virtually) today!

2020 sucks … blah blah blah … everything is canceled.

But that’s not always true, especially when you have a team of creative thinkers planning an entire festival outside the box — or, rather, inside the box of your computer or phone screen.

The 29th annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival will commence today, Oct. 15, and run through Sunday, Oct. 18, with a series of free virtual sessions you can attend in the comfort and safety of your own home.

Yes, it doesn’t hold a flame to actually being in Bardstown, Ky., this time of year and rubbing shoulders with distillers and fellow bourbon buddies, but you gotta do what you gotta do this year, right?

One of my favorite memories from the Kentucky Bourbon Festival was taking a photo with the venerable Russell family (Wild Turkey) at the Bourbon All-Star Event where you sip the night away and also chat with master distillers.

Sara Havens and the Russell family
I think I fit right in! Call me Sara Russell!

Of course I had a few sips before asking for this marvelous photo, but the Russells were gracious and down for it!

The festival is offering nearly 20 “Spirits Education Seminars” that feature master distillers, master tasters, bartenders, chefs, etc. And all of these seminars take place in the evening, so you can settle in after dinner, grab some bourbon, and learn a thing or two from the industry’s top experts on a variety of topics.

Take a look at the schedule here.

Below are some of the sessions that caught my eye:

• “Supermarket Cocktails” with the awesome and talented Thomas Bolton, distillery diplomat of Maker’s Mark (Thursday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m.).

• ” From the Shadows to the Spotlight: Barton 1792 and Four Roses” with Barton’s Josh Hollifield and Four Roses’ Brent Elliott (Thursday, Oct. 15, 8:30 p.m.).

• “Why Bottled-in-Bond” with Heaven Hill’s Bernie Lubbers and Buffalo Trace’s Beau Beckman (Friday, Oct. 16, 6 p.m.).

• “The Art of Making Bourbon” (Several Sessions throughout the weekend) with Danny Kahn (Barton 1792) and Steve Nally (Bardstown Bourbon Co.) in Part 1, and Denny Potter (Maker’s Mark) and Conor O’Driscoll (Heaven Hill) in Part 2 (Part 1: Friday, Oct. 16, 7:15 p.m.; Part 2: Friday, Oct. 16, 8 p.m.).

• “Cocktail Quickie” with Bardstown Bourbon Co.’s Samantha Montgomery (Friday, Oct. 16, 7:45 p.m.).

• “Adventures in Food & Whiskey Pairing” with Michter’s Andrea Wilson and freelance writer Steve Coomes (Saturday, Oct. 17, 5:30 p.m.)

• “Cocktail Quickie” with Jim Beam’s Beth Burrows (Saturday, Oct. 17, 6:45 p.m.).

OK, OK, I’m just going to stop here. Basically ALL of the sessions look interesting to me, so just go click on that link above and read more about all of them.

I know where I’ll be this weekend — glued to my computer screen!

Kentucky Bourbon Festival glasses
Line ’em up! | Courtesy of KBF

One last thing to mention. If you want to get in on the Kentucky Bourbon Festival VIP action, tickets are $150 and include sweet swag like two KBF Glencairn glasses, easy access to the virtual sessions, and two three-day general admission passes to next year’s festival, which will hopefully be held in Bardstown.

You also get entered to win one of 14 bottles of bourbon signed by distillery pros that are featured in the sessions and also a chance to win a stay in Bardstown during next year’s festival as well.

VIP tickets are $150 and can be bought here; or you can just log on to this weekend’s sessions and watch for free.

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