Now this is pretty cool! Maker’s Mark is paying respect to one of its founders — Margie Samuels, wife of Bill Samuels Sr. — with this new collector’s bottle, called the Margie Samuels Founder’s Bottle. And what’s also cool: $25 from each bottle will go toward scholarships for the Bellarmine Women of Color Entrepreneurs Leadership Certificate program.
Margie was one of the first women to be inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame, and she is credited with not only coming up with that signature Maker’s red wax, but also envisioning bourbon tourism as we know it.
Margie was responsible for creating just about everything that makes Maker’s Mark the household name it is today — from the iconic bottle shape and red wax-dipped top, to the name, logo and inviting distillery visitor experience.
These limited-edition bottles will be available at the Loretto distillery’s gift shop starting Friday, March 5. They will retail for $64.95 and will be signed by Margie’s son, Bill Samuels Jr., former master distiller and chair emeritus of Maker’s Mark. The bottle also features artwork by Owensboro artist Aaron Kizer.
The sun is shining in my old Kentucky home today, and with talk of the Kentucky Derby, I feel as if spring is officially here. I jumped on a Zoom call this morning with fellow Louisville media to hear all about the new Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottle, which features equine artwork from the same artist as last year — Richard Sullivan — and, get this, the image is basically an extension of last year’s art.
Why does that matter? Because it’s going to look damn cool on your bar, that’s why! Sullivan’s image of the horses running the Kentucky Derby has basically been extended between the two bottles, so you can display them side by side and practically have Derby artwork on your bar — with delicious bourbon inside!
Bourbon and art make a lovely pair.
In this morning’s press conference, Sullivan, a Louisville-based artists and former professional baseball player, said this opportunity has been a dream come true, and his artwork is meant to “capture the spirit of the Kentucky Derby.”
The bottles will hit shelves as early as this week and retail for $49.99. You might be able to find some of the 2020 bottles in area liquor stores, and in fact, I just saw some recently at the Total Wine in St. Matthews.
Evan Williams releases Kentucky Derby Festival bottle March 11
And speaking of Derby, the fine folks at the Kentucky Derby Festival are once again partnering with Evan Williams for the annual Kentucky Derby Festival Bottle that features the 2021 Pegasus Pin on the neck. This year, the wax is a dapper hot pink!
The limited-edition 2013 vintage is bottled at 115 proof, which commemorates both the 66th Kentucky Derby Festival plus the 49th Pegasus Pin anniversary (66+49=115). Each bottle of the single barrel bourbon contains the exact day it was put into an oak barrel to age, the barrel number and the date it was bottled.
“Our partnership with Evan Williams celebrates two of Kentucky’s favorite things — the Derby Festival and bourbon,” said Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival President and CEO, in a news release. “Although 2021 will be different, Pegasus Pins are still a great way to share the Derby Festival spirit and support your favorite events.”
Also coming out this week is a new limited release in the Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series, titled FAE-01. This is the third in the series and is named after the staves that altered the standard Maker’s Mark bourbon.
“For 2021, we leaned into our column stills and nonchill-filtering process, which, simply put, helps us retain the texture and a higher viscosity of the whisky,” said Jane Bowie, Maker’s Mark Director of Innovation, in a news release. “What we got is an expression that highlights the fruit-forward taste profile in an unexpected and much welcomed way. It tastes just like a barrel warehouse smells.”
Now you got my attention! The smell of a rick house is like no other, and it brings me pure joy whenever I’m inside one.
The bourbon will be released anywhere from 110.3-110.6 proof and retail for $59.99 a bottle.
Y’all, you peel off the roof of any bourbon or whiskey distillery out there, and you’ll find lots of women working behind the scenes in every aspect from distilling to ownership to ambassadors and so on. Of course this isn’t news to me, because I’ve been writing about these ladies for years.
I was recently tasked by The Bourbon Review to round up a handful of innovative women working in whiskey today, and my list quickly grew to more than 20 in five minutes flat. As I say in the article, this list is only the tip of the iceberg — and I feel bad I had to leave out so many others.
What was fun about writing this piece was learning about a few of the women I didn’t know as much about and reading all about their distilleries and passions and nerdy whiskey backgrounds. What wasn’t fun was rounding up all 22 photos. But that’s my job, and someone’s gotta pay some bills and feed the dog!
Here’s an excerpt from “Founders & Creators: 22 Women of Whiskey,” and for the full story, click here.
Anyone who believes whiskey is a man’s drink probably hasn’t gotten out of the house in the last decade. In fact, women make up nearly 40% of whiskey consumers, according to a recent study by MRI-Simmons. And behind the scenes, women are taking on more leadership roles in the distillery than ever.
We wanted to highlight a handful of women in the whiskey industry, and that list quickly grew to 22. This is only the tip of the iceberg. To keep it manageable, we decided to limit the list to those working in the United States and those working in distilling and/or ownership roles. Each week this month, we also will take a deeper dive with some of the women here, so stay tuned.
You’ll see the word “passion” a lot throughout the list. Most of the people below are simply following their love of science, distilling and innovation and their desire to put a fingerprint on the whiskey industry despite their gender. And they all are doing just that.
Let’s raise a toast to passion, drive and whiskey-makin’ badass women!
1. Nicole Austin — General Manager/Distiller at George Dickel (Cascade Hollow Distilling)
Nicole Austin came on board at Dickel in 2018 after learning the ropes at Kings County Distillery, Oak View Spirits and Ireland’s Tullamore Distillery. In 2019, Austin launched her first product, the award-winning 13-year-old Bottled-in-Bond George Dickel Tennessee Whisky. The chemical engineer is certainly bringing new life to the Diageo-owned distillery in Tullahoma, Tenn.
3. Jane Bowie — Master of Maturation/Director of Innovation at Maker’s Mark
Since 2016, Jane Bowie has been leading the charge of innovation at the quaint and historic Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Ky. Bowie started as an international ambassador for the company years earlier and then made her way to the distilling side of the operation, overseeing Maker’s Private Barrel Select program and creating new products like the wood-finishing series. Sensory analysis is what she loves most, and it shows in the novel new releases coming from the distillery.
First thing’s first: It’s time for more Bar Bingo, this time featuring Valentine’s Day-themed cocktails at nine of your favorite local watering holes! If you don’t know what Bar Bingo is, read my post about it from early December.
The effort is once again put together by members of the Responsible Bar & Restaurant Coalition, and the goal is to collect a stamp from all nine places that are offering up two intriguing Valentine’s Day-themed drinks. Participating bars include:
Pints & Union
The Limbo/Riot Café
Once you collect all the stamps, you take a photo of your complete bingo card (which can be picked up at all nine bars) and text it in to Olivia Griffin, owner of The Limbo. You are then entered into a drawing for gift cards, booze and other fun prizes. All cocktails will be $10 or less.
I had a fun time completing my Bar Bingo in December, and it looks like this one will be fun as well, especially with drink names like Favorite Mistake (Gold Bar), Courtney Love (Ostra), Let That Man Go (Mag Bar), Emotionally Slutty (Limbo), Not in Love (Meta) and Champ “Pain” in My Ass (Zanzabar).
I believe the bingo cards will be collected through Feb. 28, so might as well start tonight!
Four Roses/Nanz & Kraft’s Flower Hour moves online
Each Valentine’s Day, Nanz & Kraft Florist in St. Matthews throws a big party with Four Roses featuring bourbon samples, appetizers (read: lots and lots of cheese and chocolate), a silent auction, jazz band and much more.
This year, however, they’re taking that party online, sort of, since we can’t really gather, sip and gab like we used to.
The good news is the online auction component will still be happening in the shop, and you have from now until Feb. 13 to stop in and place your bids. Nana & Kraft is located at 141 Breckenridge Lane.
Items up for grabs include the 2020 Limited Edition Small Batch, the 130th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch, the Al Young 50th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch and more. Basically, I’d like any of those bottles mentioned, ESPECIALLY the Al Young 50th, so if you need a reason to bid, make it a gift for me!
I can wine and dine you for that bottle, including but not limited to day drinking at your bar of choice, an invitation to my Bourbon Bungalow for a one-of-a-kind tasting experience, or partaking in a pub crawl through the Highlands or Germantown — or neighborhood of your choice.
Anyway, there’s another special promotion going on with Nanz & Kraft, too, and it includes a Valentine bouquet featuring a dozen Heart Roses and a bottle of Four Roses Small Batch for $125. Proceeds from this go to the American Heart Association.
So I have something to admit, and I’m guessing you already know this. I haven’t been getting out as much as I’d like to, because I REALLY don’t want this nasty Corona-cock virus, especially when the vaccine is so close. I feel like I’m letting you down as the Bar Belle of Louisville, but that’s where I am.
The other day, however, armed with a mask and an appetite for discovering new places, I managed to get to two bars and a pizza place (later in the week).
I not only love tacos, I’m obsessed with tacos. I want to eat them every day. I want to bask in all their folded-up glory. I want to be a taco.
So naturally I figured I’d love this new restaurant and bar that opened recently in the former Panera Bread location in the Highlands, which used to be the world-renowned ear X-tacy before that. In fact, I never frequented that Panera Bread because I felt like it was spitting on the X-tacy legacy, but now that something local has moved back in, I’ve let that guilt go — and it has nothing to do with tacos being in the name, I swear.
Anyway, this place is awesome! It’s colorful, spaced out, friendly and quite delicious. And the tacos are fairly authentic — as in Mexican-style tacos, not the Americanized version that comes with mounds of cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.
I had one asada (steak) taco ($3.75) and one tinga taco ($3.50), which featured chicken, and both were tasty and flavorful. The asada was cooked to crispy perfection, with just onions and cilantro added to the meat. And the chicken on the tinga was juicy and flavorful as well, and it was more like pulled chicken than pieces or, well, chicken finger-style. Both were served on homemade corn tortillas (you can also ask for a flour).
Now, my girlfriend and I are regulars at El Mariachi in Lyndon, and while we loved these tacos and admired their authenticity, we still think Mariachi serves up slightly better tacos. This is no knock on I Love Tacos, because I’ll definitely be back for more.
My friend who joined us also ordered the queso dip ($4.99), and it was quite amazing, as most queso is. On my next visit, I’d like to try the nachos, and on my visit after that, I’d like to get a burrito.
So what did I drink, you ask? You think I would have started with that! Duh. I had Ernesto’s Passion Fruit Margarita ($5.99), the frozen version, because the menu stated it was a People’s Choice Champion in 2019. It was fabulously sweet but not overly sweet, and the passion fruit tang played well with the tequila.
On my next visit to the bar area, I’d like to try the sangria ($4.99) as well as the raspberry margarita ($5.99) and blueberry margarita ($5.99).
I see that there’s also a location in Jeffersontown, so if you’re out that way, give it a try!
If you like to drink with your four-legged friends, then this new Highlands dog bar is for you! And if you just want to be around dozens of dogs that are romping around a room for hours, then you’re welcome to perch at a table to watch (and drink).
The space used to be a car repair shop, so it’s big and airy and concrete from wall to wall, with garage door-styled windows and doors that’ll open up when it’s nice out.
There’s also a dog park out back, and the bar offers various membership options for this area.
The menu is fairly small, with just a handful of beer (craft and domestic), wine and cocktail options. But there’s also local coffee and cold brew served, so that’s a nice option if you want to bring your laptop and get some work done while your dog frolics around the joint.
I don’t want to paint the picture like it’s a wild, free-for-all dog party going on. There are actually “park rangers” armed with squirt guns and tin-can shakers patrolling the area to make sure all the mutts are behaving.
Plus, your dog has to be updated on all its shots before entering, and there are forms to fill out. But you filthy humans can come right in and partake in the festivities.
I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I blame the worldwide pandemic for that. This is Chicago-style pizza in the former space of the beloved Clifton’s Pizza, and it was nice to see that they actually cleaned and spruced things up!
Not only that, but the beer taps were clean and had to be new, because my Bud Light was ice cold, crisp and crazy delicious as I was stuffing my mouth with deep-dish pizza. Yes, I know Bud Light isn’t local, but sometimes I slide back into the tastes of my college days and partake in a guilty pleasure. Leave me alone!
Jake & Elwood’s only serves beer and wine, and since it’s a Chicago-themed place, there’s plenty of Old Style and 312 on tap as well, plus an assortment of cans and bottles.
But let’s get to the pizza! You can get either thin crust or deep-dish Chicago-style, and the toppings are all the usual suspects. The menu also includes hot dogs (another Chicago staple), french fries — loaded or naked — as well as appetizers and salads.
I had a 10-inch cheese deep-dish pie, and my friend had two slices of thin-crust. We both enjoyed what we ordered and had plenty to take home.
I just had one criticism, since I have actually eaten a Chicago-style pizza in Chicago, and it’s about the amount of cheese that was used — or lack thereof.
The pizza came out with 2- or 3-inch-thick crust, per usual, but the middle part should be so heaving in cheese that it’s almost like a lasagna. This was not — it was actually thinner (since I didn’t add any toppings) than my friend’s thin-crust pizza.
That didn’t stop me from eating it, of course. And next time I’ll just ask for extra cheese. The sauce is spot-on, and overall it was a fun dining experience. I’ll definitely be back for more beer, too.
You know it, you love it, you look forward to it every year. No, it’s not the Super Bowl, it’s the annual Double Double Oaked release by Woodford Reserve.
It was announced just about 15 minutes ago that the 2021 edition (which actually has 2020 stamped on it) will be put out at the distillery in Versailles on Wednesday, Jan. 27, starting at 10 a.m. The limit this year is four bottles per person.
I definitely applaud the limit, because last year the Distillery Series release sold out in one day, as people were allowed to buy an entire case if they so desired — and many of them definitely desired.
It’s hard to say if the Double Double will last longer than a day this time, but it’ll be interesting to see. The 375mL bottles usually run about $50 each.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Double Double Oaked, we’re glad you crawled out from under that rock to join us. The product was first launched in 2015 and is basically bourbon that was meant to be Double Oaked but was left in the second flavoring barrel (heavily toasted, lightly charred) for an extra year. That first release may have been an accident, but it flew off the shelves, and now Woodford is aging it extra on purpose.
Just a warning: It’s going to be a madhouse Wednesday at the distillery. So dress warm and pack some patience.
Here’s my most recent story for the national website Alcohol Professor: a profile of Kentucky’s own Hive & Barrel Meadery. If you like sweet drinks like cider and fruit-based wines, you will really dig mead — for those who have never tried it.
Hive & Barrel is located in the same space as 3rd Turn Brewing in Crestwood, Ky. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out on an awesome outdoor drinking experience, as the expansive space is set under a canopy of greenery.
In fact, they call it the Oldham Gardens, and it’s quaint, charming and easy to stay distanced. It’s located right down the street from Kentucky Artisan Distillery, where Jefferson’s is based.
I met up with head brewer and co-owner Joel Halbleib at Hive & Barrel this fall to talk and sample mead, and also hear more about his barrel-aging experiments and his dabbling with cider and winemaking. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Halbleib credits brewing for changing his life for the better, and the path that brought him to mead is like the cherry on top, he says. Nearly two decades ago, he was in the IT world, pecking away on keyboards all day long and making a hobby out of homebrewing at night. He realized brewing was such an important, creative drive for him, he took the risky leap to pursue it full time. He quickly worked his way up the ladder in Louisville’s bustling brewery scene and spent 14 years as head brewer at Goodwood. And when the opportunity to dive into mead presented itself 3 years ago, he took the leap — mainly because he loves learning and welcomes a challenge. “This is my happy place. It really is. I’ve found it, and it excites me to do creative stuff,” Halbleib says. “I still do administrative stuff to keep my busier than I want to be on a computer, but it makes me happy to be creative.”
If Gwyneth Paltrow can coin a new term for divorce — a “conscious uncoupling” — then I can steal her thunder and create a phrase for things that just belong together — a “conscious coupling.” I’m talking about cheese and wine, peanut butter and chocolate, Laverne and Shirley.
In this list of obvious pairings is whiskey and beer. Back when we were allowed to drink in bars and not worry about contracting a virus that eats your lungs, if you saw me bellied up to the bar, I was most likely sipping on some bourbon while I guzzled a beer. Beer’s fizzy, cold, malty nature goes hand in hand with bourbon’s sweet but sharp bite.
Now, two local companies are joining forces to serve up a whiskey and beer that were made for each other — literally. The Kentucky-based brand Buzzard’s Roost has partnered with Louisville’s Against the Grain Brewery to make Roosted Chiquen Brewer’s Toast Finish and Roosted Chiquen Sippin’ Beer, which are not only sold together but the creators suggest you drink them side by side.
You may have seen these products already, because they were released over the holidays. I finally got around to trying them out the other day when I met up with company founder and master blender Jason Brauner at his restaurant, Bourbons Bistro. I was there to sample his delicious eggnog, but he shared some of the whiskey and beer with me as well, and it blew me away.
Both companies chose the same toasted oak barrel profile to create their products, ones that showcase the same notes of vanilla and smoke from the oak aging process. The beer is an American lager aged on oak at 6.5% ABV, while the whiskey is a straight rye whiskey at 105% ABV.
“Think of the staves we use in our barrels as a spice rack,” Jason said in a news release. “Picking and choosing flavor profiles, we can make a pretty good guess at what flavors will be imparted on our whiskey. Turns out — it also works well with beer.”
As I sit here watching the OSU/Alabama game, I’m enjoying the back-and-forth sips of whiskey, beer, whiskey, beer, especially knowing the flavors were designed with a purpose.
And it also makes me think of another conscious coupling: football and pizza. Order me a large cheese, please!
Pssst: While I was drinking — er, I mean conducting business — with Jason, he also let me try some of his latest project: Buzzard’s Roost Toasted Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey.
This should be out now, and let me tell you, it was absolutely sinister, but I loved every minute. A high-rye whiskey has a bite, and this was no exception. But the toasted finish rounded out that sting and created flavors that would make Martha Stewart blush.
Also at 105 proof, be on the lookout for this one as well!
A plume of smoke rises from the Sazerac-owned Barton 1792 Distillery as a signal of hope at the end of 2020. The news is of a new line of premium bourbons called Thomas S. Moore that’ll be finished in a variety of select casks from around the world.
Starting this month, we’ll (hopefully) see three expressions on store shelves: a Port Finish, a Chardonnay Finish, and a Cabernet Sauvignon Finish. Each will retail for a suggested price of $69.99, and we can expect other experimental finishes each fall.
According to the news release, Thomas S. Moore built the distillery now known as Barton 1792 in Bardstown, Ky. He was an early pioneer in Bardstown, and leading up to Prohibition, he established a whiskey empire, growing his humble operation into a powerhouse distillery, filling hundreds of barrels of whiskey every day.
The bourbon going into the Thomas S. Moore products will be the distillery’s signature high rye recipe.
If you’re a 1792 fan like me, then your lips quiver at the fond memories of long-retired 1792 Port Finish bottle. Well, on recent trips to the distillery, I’ve spotted the massive port barrels in the rick houses, and I’ve kept my mouth firmly sealed in anticipation that one day another port finish would rise from the ashes.
This explains it all!
For those interested, the Thomas S. Moore Finished in Port Casks will be 98.9 proof; the one finished in Chardonnay Casks will be 97.9 proof; and the one finished in Cabernet Sauvignon Casks will be 95.3 proof.
If 2020 was stripped down to a drink formation, what would it be?
In my opinion, it’d be a shot of rot-gut, bottom-shelf vodka because it’s flavorless, it’s pretty close to nail polish remover, and it’s gonna burn you going all the way down your bitter-ass throat. Now, some of you may have answered Jagermeister, Fireball or Watermelon White Claw, but at least these were made with some flavor and effort in mind.
The folks over at Louisville’s Flavorman, a world-renowned beverage development company, decided to capture the essence of 2020 in liquid form, and they came up with the alcohol-free beverage you see above.
Of course there’s no alcohol in it. It’s 2020, and we can’t have any fun!
According to a news release, the drink was inspired by four themes: seeking comfort, a global consciousness around health, the power of hope, and, of course, the unpredictable series of events that have defined this historic period.
These folks help concoct drinks for a living, so I trust they used their best minds and creative energies for the project. They decided to combine pink grapefruit (for its tart and bitter flavors, but also for its immunity-boosting qualities), sticky-sweet honey and smokey, spicy ginger.
And in a move that defines the year, they put the label on the can upside down.
“I think the team did a great job. The drink offers a playful snapshot — a time capsule — of 2020 in beverage form,” says Flavorman Founder & CEO David Dafoe in the release. “This last year has disrupted our world in ways we couldn’t have predicted, but it’s also proven our ability to adapt, innovate and find creative solutions to keep powering forward. That’s something we can all celebrate.”
Watch the fun video about the making of this drink here.
I was fortunate to get a sample of this 2020 carbonated mocktail, and even though I’m not supposed to consume grapefruit — I’ll go ahead and blame my high cholesterol on 2020, too! — I took a few sips to experience the shit year in liquid form.
It is indeed bitter at first sip, and the pale pinkish-orange concoction doesn’t really scream “Drink me, feel me, love me!” If you can get past the grapefruit punch in the face, there are some sweeter notes lingering on the finish, which must be the honey.
It tastes like Kool-Aid and Tang soaked their toes in the same hot tub of grapefruit juice while snacking on gas station sushi.
This beverage was only created out of fun, so you can’t really purchase it anywhere. But because you all are awesome for being on this here website, I’m giving you the chance to win the extra can I have! Just share this post on social media, tell me what drink best sums up 2020 for you, and tag a friend or two!
You can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — and if you haven’t followed me on those, then what are you waiting for?? 2021? I’ll pick a winner on Saturday, Dec. 12.