Scene from last year's Tailspin Ale Fest

Behold the best beer fest: Tailspin Ale Fest celebrates 10 years

Scene from last year's Tailspin Ale Fest
The Silent Disco is the place to be, if you’re not waiting in line to pee. | Courtesy of Tailspin Ale Fest

The fact that Tailspin Ale Fest is celebrating 10 years next week makes me feel like a proud parent, because I’ve damn near attended each and every one! It’s hands down one of the best beer fests I’ve ever gone to, and I wouldn’t miss this year’s event for anything — anything outside of the normal list of bad things that happen to people, that is.

I remember at one the early ones we had to endure freezing rain and sloshing through frigid puddles while standing in a long line to pee. And I remember at another one enjoying the incredibly odd warm weather we were rewarded one weekend in February — also while standing in a long line to pee.

The good news is the organizers of Tailspin listen to feedback each year, and they actually fix things and improve upon the event year after year. There are more bathrooms than ever before, more beer options, more food trucks and more ways to dance the afternoon away. The introduction of the silent disco a few years back was a score, and while I’ve never participated myself, it’s fun to watch others dance like nobody’s watching — even though everybody is.

Tailspin logo

This year, organizers are promising participation of more than 75 local, regional and national breweries with more than 250 beers available to sample. There will be at least 10 local food trucks, live music by Tony & the Tan Lines, Drake’s Silent Disco, Cox’s Cigar Bar, and a few other surprises.

Plus, there will be a “Women in Beer Bar” featuring craft beers brewed by women from around the country and here in Kentucky. I love that!

And perhaps the best news is that all proceeds go to Dare to Care Food Bank and the HOP Foundation. In fact, Tailspin has raised more than $90,000 for the organizations in the past nine years.

As always, the beer-soaked Tailspin takes place at the Bowman Field on Saturday, March 4, from 3-7 p.m. While VIP tickets are sold out, general admission passes are still available for $55. And if you’d like to hop on one of the nine shuttles located all around the city and one in New Albany, check out the website for more details.

See you there!

Double Double Oaked

Woodford Double Double Oak strikes again

I’ve been holding my breath — and alcohol intake (damn Dry January!) — all month for the announcement of this annual release by Woodford Reserve. So when I saw the email this morning about Double Double Oaked finally coming out, I did what any dedicated whiskey journalist would do: I threw my egg sandwich and dog in the car, poured my coffee into a to-go container and hit the road to Versailles.

Sure, I probably should have at least tweeted something out about Double Double 2022, but there was no time, and I can’t tweet and drive very well.

Double Double Oaked 2022
Double Double Oaked 2022 has arrived. | Courtesy

So now I’m back home with two precious bottles of one of my favorite releases of the year, and I’m here to tell you a little more about it. Double Double Oaked is mostly available at the distillery in small 375ml bottles.

The highly-anticipated bourbon is made by letting fully mature Woodford Double Oak sit an extra year in a second heavily toasted new oak barrel. That extra 12 months of mingling with the wood really produces an extraordinary whiskey that is known far and wide.

“We are excited to once again offer one of our most-coveted annual bourbon releases,”
said Master Distiller Chris Morris in a news release. “This is the perfect winter bourbon with tasting notes of burnt marshmallows,
cranberry and bittersweet chocolate.”

I haven’t cracked open my bottle yet, but according to the press release, you can expect notes of dried cherry and cranberry, along with blackberry jam, chai tea and clove. I can’t wait to try this first thing on Feb. 1 (again, damn Dry January!).

If you head to the distillery in the next few days, you can purchase two bottles per person for $59.99 each. Because of the bottle limit, they will likely have these through the weekend I would guess. But you never know. People do clamor for this bourbon, so don’t delay if you can help it.

Bardstown Bourbon Company's Origin Series

Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Origin Series is worth the six-year wait

Bardstown Bourbon Company's Origin Series
Meet Bardstown Bourbon Company’s Origin Series. | Courtesy

In September of 2016, I stepped foot inside the massive Bardstown Bourbon Company for the very first time. The occasion was a media hardhat tour, and I recall being thrilled that we actually got to wear a hardhat since construction was still going on all around us. I knew big things were in store for this new kid on the block, and looking back now, isn’t that the understatement of the year?

They’ve since expanded several times, going from 600,000 proof gallons per year to 7 million proof gallons — making them the seventh largest distillery in the United States. A majority of what BBCo makes is for other clients/brands/companies, but of course they dedicate some time on the still to themselves.

Six years ago they put some barrels down under the astute leadership of Master Distiller Steve Nally, and I’m happy to announce the three expressions are ready for their spotlight as part of the Origin Series.

“The Origin Series is the first opportunity to taste an expression that is 100 percent our whiskey,” said Dan Callaway, VP of Product Development for BBCo, in a news release. “We’ve put years of patience into this bottle, waiting six years until we felt it was truly ready to share with the world. The full technical capabilities of our distillery are on display with these three bespoke products.”

The Origin Series consists of a high-rye Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a wheated Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon, and a Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. It will replace the distillery’s Fusion Series, which included some of their younger distillate blended with aged whiskey that was sourced. The popular Discovery Series (blends of sourced aged whiskey) and Collaboration Series (finished whiskeys) will continue to be released.

The new 6-year-old whiskeys will debut in early 2023 and should not be hard to find — at the distillery and in your local liquor stores and bars. They’ll be released across the country in 24 states and will range in price from $44.99-$69.99. Also worth noting, BBCo will be starting a single barrel program for on- and off-premise retailers, so be on the lookout for single-barrel store picks.

I was fortunate to get samples of the three flagship products that make up the Origin Series, so let’s dive into them one by one. No hardhat needed.

Origin Series Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Origin Series Bourbon
Origin Series Bourbon | Courtesy

96 Proof | $44.99

With a mash bill of 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley, this high-rye bourbon is phenomenal from the get-go. On the nose I get candied peach drizzled in caramel — and some hints of baked apple and citrus.

And on the palate those fruit notes come to life, sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, more caramel and a reward of vanilla on the finish. I get the spice up front from the rye, but by the time it reaches my throat, it’s as smooth as molasses.

Knowing I can get a quality bourbon like this under $50 makes me happy.

Origin Series Bottled-in-Bond

Origin Series Bottled-In-Bond
Origin Series Bottled-in-Bond | Courtesy

100 Proof | $49.99

This Bottled in Bond release uses a wheated mash bill of 68% corn, 20% wheat and 12% malted barley. There is no sting or tingling with this one because there is no rye to be found, but what you get is a well-balanced, soft bourbon with layers of creme brûlée, toffee and even a little mint on the palate.

Of course there’s the familiar caramel and milk chocolate notes swirled up in there as well, and on the finish, I get the flavor combination of sucking on a Werther’s Original while taking a spoonful of vanilla bean ice cream. Delicate is the word that keeps coming to mind for this bourbon — delicate and delicious.

I’d love to revisit this mash bill after two more years of aging and about seven proof points higher. It just might give Weller Antique a run for its money.

Origin Series Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Origin Series Rye
Origin Series Rye | Courtesy

96 Proof | $69.99

With the standard rye whiskey mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, this release hits you with spice up front, but then it rewards with incredible notes of baked cherries, toasted marshmallow and dark chocolate-covered toffee (yes, there is such a treat at Muth’s Candies in Louisville, Ky.).

The finish is long and sweet, with a little mix of sugar and spice and all things nice. This is a sipping whiskey for sure — something I could pass the time with while sitting in front of a fire. There are so many complex layers of flavor going on here that these tasting notes might just be the tip of the iceberg.

I’d absolutely love to try this at barrel strength. Who’s signing up for a single barrel? Take me with you!

A rendering of the Bardstown Bourbon Company tasting room

Awesome! Bardstown Bourbon Co. to open tasting room, bottle shop in Louisville

A rendering of the Bardstown Bourbon Company tasting room
A rendering of the Bardstown Bourbon Company tasting room | Courtesy

Louisville is home to about a dozen distilleries and bourbon experiences, and now there’s another one coming to town to add to our bourbon resumé. Bardstown Bourbon Company announced this morning they’ll be opening a tasting room, bottle shop, and full-service bar at 730 W. Main St., just caddy-corner to Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery. It’s slated to open in the summer of 2023.

According to a news release, the space will offer bourbon educational experiences including blending, aging, making cocktails and more. And throughout the year, it will host a variety of events from special bottle releases, private tastings and one-of-a-kind elevated experiences.

“Bardstown Bourbon Co.’s new experience will feature education and deep dives that articulate our modern approach to blending, innovation and collaboration, capped by our genuine approach to hospitality,” said Dan Callaway, VP Innovation and Hospitality, in the release.

BBCo. is working with Joseph & Joseph Architects, Buzick Construction and Willie Martin’s for the project, which sits just a few doors down from the Slugger Museum.

“The bourbon experience we offer is second to none,” said Mark Erwin, CEO of BBCo., in the release. “We’re excited to bring this modern transparent approach to bourbon making to our Louisville home and look forward to introducing more consumers to the Bardstown Bourbon Company brand.”

A rendering of the Bardstown Bourbon Company experience | Courtesy

If you recall, the James B. Beam Distilling Co. opened a similar concept at Fourth Street Live, but it ended up closing during the pandemic. They promised at the time that they would be back in Louisville in some form or fashion, so fingers crossed we continue to get even more of these unique bourbon experiences in town.

I am personally thrilled Bardstown Bourbon Co. will have a presence here. Many people traveling to Louisville for conventions, business meetings or just passing through don’t have time to drive out to the distilleries, so this gives them an up close and personal look at different brands and the people behind them, and expanding bourbon knowledge is always a good thing!

Angel's Envy Cask Strength 2022

11th Angel’s Envy Cask Strength drops today

Angel's Envy Cask Strength 2022
Angel’s Envy Cask Strength 2022 | Courtesy

It’s crazy to think that just about a decade ago, downtown Louisville didn’t have a single distillery or bourbon experience to be found. And now, thanks to pioneers like Evan Williams, Old Forester, Michter’s and Angel’s Envy, the city now boasts about a dozen distilleries and plenty of bourbon-soaked adventures for locals and tourists alike.

Angel’s Envy launched its first product in 2011 and opened the doors to its state-of-the-art distillery on Main Street in 2016. And during that very first year or two of introducing the world to the Angel’s Envy brand, the Hendersons, led by co-founder Wes Henderson, decided to come out with a special cask-strength version that would become a rare treat for fans each year.

Angel's Envy bottle
Angel’s Envy bottle

Well, the 11th annual Angel’s Envy Cask Strength comes out today, and in my opinion, these are truly getting better each and every year.

This year’s release is bottled at 119.8 proof and comes with the fancy wooden case, just like in previous years. And there will be about 17,000 of these released in every U.S. state to spread the bourbon love around.

“Our annual Cask Strength expression is our most highly anticipated annual tradition at Angel’s Envy, both for our team and for our fans, and this year’s release is special – not just because it is an exceptional whiskey, but because it also marks an exciting time in Angel’s Envy’s growth,” said Gigi DaDan, general manager of Angel’s Envy, in a news release. “Looking ahead, we can’t wait to see the unique perspective that our new Master Distiller Owen Martin will bring to the Cask Strength program as he oversees it with the support of our best-in-class production team.”

I was able to try a sample of this year’s release and can attest to its creamy mouthfeel, as the press release describes. It comes off a little hot on first sip, but once you acclimate to the high proof, you get those nice warm flavors of brown sugar, black pepper, citrus and of course a drizzle of caramel.

The Cask Strength retails for $229.99.

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

Stagg returns for this year’s coveted Buffalo Trace Antique Collection

Most bourbon lovers, myself included, believe the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is near the top as far as bourbon unicorns go. Each bottle in the collection is near perfect most years, and the chances of you getting your hands on one of these are slim to nothing.

If you’re not familiar, the Antique Collection — abbreviated BTAC by us bourbon nerds — includes George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Handy, Eagle Rare 17 and Sazerac 18. The line came out more than two decades ago and pays homage to some great distillers and bourbon industry pioneers.

The big news this year is that George T. Stagg returns after being held back last year because he did not pass his tests. Really! The powers that be at Buffalo Trace decided the barrels selected for Stagg just weren’t ready yet, so back in the rick house they went. This year’s bottle features uncut, 15-year-old Stagg bourbon that has an impressive proof of 138.7.

Suggested retail for these is a laughable $99. Again, if you ever find one for that amount, you should run out and buy a lottery ticket immediately. On the secondary market, these range from $800-$3,000. Buffalo Trace notes that they’ll be hitting the market in mid-November.

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection
Behold the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. | Courtesy

Below is a description of each whiskey pulled from the press release:

George T. Stagg Bourbon

Created in 2002 at the request of a fan for a well-aged and barrel strength whiskey, George T. Stagg bourbon is well respected amongst bourbon connoisseurs and spirit judges. This year’s offering was distilled in the spring of 2007, making it 15 years and 5 months old at bottling.  The proof is 138.7, the highest proof for this whiskey in the past six years.  This year’s barrels were aged in warehouse K.  Tasting notes for this bourbon call out toasted pecan and chocolate sauce on the nose, a rich blend of baking spice, vanilla and cherry pie on the palate, and a robust finish of black coffee, molasses and oak. 

William Larue Weller Bourbon

The Antique Collection’s uncut, unfiltered, wheated recipe bourbon is William Larue Weller. The previous release of this wheated bourbon was honored with a Double Gold medal at the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  The 2022 release was distilled in the spring of 2010 and barrels were aged in warehouses C, K and N.  This bourbon registers at 124.7 proof.  A nose of toasted coconut, butterscotch and caramel, followed by a touch of mint, dark cherry and molasses on the palate and a full-bodied finish with hints of leather, nutmeg, toffee and vanilla can be found in this year’s offering. 

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey

Thomas H. Handy is the uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey. Last year’s release earned 97 points and was named in the top 100 spirits by judges at the 2022 Ultimate Spirits Challenge.  This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2016; aged in warehouses I, L and M and weighs in at a hearty 130.9 proof, the highest proof for this whiskey since 2012.  The flavor profile includes a nose with floral notes, anise, marmalade and meringue, followed by a palate with baking spice, a burst of orange peel and subtle dark chocolate, and a long finish of cinnamon, praline and candied orange.  

Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old Bourbon

This 101-proof whiskey was distilled in the spring of 2005 and barrels were aged in warehouses H, K and L.  The 2021 Eagle Rare release was honored with the Chairman’s Trophy at the 2022 Ultimate Spirits Challenge.  This bourbon has a nose with a hint of tobacco, chocolate covered cherries and a touch of oak, followed by caramel, vanilla bean, dark chocolate and oak on the palate and a full-bodied finish with baking spice, vanilla and butterscotch.   

Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old Whiskey

Previous releases of Sazerac Rye 18-Year-Old were named in the top three finest whiskeys in the world by the “Whisky Bible.”  This 2022 straight rye whiskey release has a nose of orange peel, lemon zest and molasses, a palate with a bold blend of black pepper, coriander seeds and maple syrup, and a well-rounded finish with mint, tobacco leaf and oak.  The barrels for this whiskey were filled in the spring of 2003 and 2004 and rested in warehouses K, M and P.  It is bottled at 90 proof. 

Rum and rye whiskey meet again for another Fortuitous Union

And here we have another installment of “happy accident turns into a damn fine spirit,” courtesy of the guys behind Rolling Fork Spirits.

In 2018, Louisville rum fanatics Turner Wathen and Jordan Morris joined forces to create a rum company in bourbon country. Of course they would utilize the plethora of bourbon and whiskey barrels we have here in Kentucky as finishing agents to their rum, which they source from Jamaica, Trinidad, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, etc.

During one of their finishing sessions, they accidentally poured their precious Trinidad rum into a vat full of rye whiskey, and thus was born Fortuitous Union, a blend of rum and rye that actually was quite delicious and nabbed much attention from whiskey drinkers near and far.

Fortuitous Union Batch 2
Say hello to FU2! | Courtesy

You can read the full story of that here.

Now, four years later, there are some new Fortuitous Unions on the market.

While the process of blending rum and rye whiskey was fully intentional this time, there was still a small hiccup of forgetting a barrel or two of rye whiskey in the finished product. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Let’s talk about the ingredients here.

FU Batch 2 consists of 4-year-old rum distilled in Barbados; 4-year-old rum distilled in Jamaica; 4-year-old rum distilled in the Dominican Republic; and 6-year-old rye whiskey distilled in Indiana (MGP).

The spirits mingled together for three days in a stainless steel tank, and then the rum-whiskey hybrid (aka distilled spirits specialty, or DSS) was put into highly sought-after, used bourbon and rye whiskey barrels.

The brands of those barrels weren’t named in the press release, but I was fortunate … or fortuitous? … to hang out with Wathen and Morris one Sunday afternoon in their barrel rick house, which happens to be at Starlight Distillery in Indiana. So I got to peek behind the curtain of this year’s FU and I took note of the brands.

One batch went into a used Weller barrel, one in a used Thomas H. Handy barrel, and one in a used Woodford Double Oak barrel. How about that charred oak real estate?

Turner Wathen
Turner Wathen is proud of his rum experiments, which will be revealed soon. | Photo by Sara Havens

The guys then created a small batch using the juice from all three finishes, as well as single barrels from each of the three.

So if you see this on the shelf, take a close look at the bottom of the label, and it will present you with a clue as to which one it is.

Wathen and Morris are doing some interesting things with rum finishes, especially in their Rolling Fork line, and as Wathen thieved barrel after barrel of experiments they have going on at Starlight, he was as giddy as a kid getting a pony for Christmas.

The FU sample I was most drawn to came from the Weller barrels, and it was bottled at 111.8 proof. It’s got some sweet tingles up front, followed by a little heat and spice from the rye, and then finishes long with a pleasant taste that reminds me of the frosting that goes on a cinnamon roll.

And the longer I let the sample sit out, the richer and more complex it got.

This would be great in a traditional daiquiri or even an old fashioned, but I’ll probably end up sipping most of it on its own. Wathen and Morris came up with their own cocktail, FU-Man-Daq, which merges a manhattan with a daiquiri, and I’ll post that recipe below.

I promised you earlier that there was a small snafu to this year’s FU, so here it is. When the FU brain trust was blending the rum and rye whiskey together, they forgot to add two barrels of the MGP rye. Thus the final product is about 85% rum and 15% rye.

But don’t fret: That rye really comes out on the palate, and the result is a perfect blend of two spirits that work well together. FU sells for about $55.

FU-Man-Daq Cocktail

  • 2 oz. Fortuitous Union
  • .75 oz. Antica vermouth
  • .75 oz. fresh lime
  • .75 oz. simple syrup

Shake with ice, strain and top with lime bitters.

old record player

What’s with the ‘Throwback Content’?

Today I published my first article with the tagline “Throwback Content,” and I wanted to quickly explain what that means. Basically, when Insider Louisville went under in 2019, they moved all of our content to a different site and disabled the photos and links.

You could still find the stories if you really dug through the interwebs, but then, about a year later, everything ceased to exist. Luckily I saved backup PDF copies of most of what I wrote for Insider Louisville the five years I worked there as Culture Editor.

Insider Louisville logo
RIP Insider Louisville: 2010-2019

So this “Throwback Content” is a way to bring those stories back to life. The first one is the comical story of the guys behind Fortuitous Union, a rum and rye whiskey combo that was created by accident.

It was a bit tedious to get the text from PDF to Word and then onto the website, so please excuse any spacing errors you might see. A few paragraphs I had to re-type because of glitches caused between the three platforms.

I hope to streamline this process and figure out a way around some of the issues I ran into today so that I can put up more of my old copy from IL. Stay tuned for more throwbacks!

Turner Wathen

Throwback Content: Fortuitous Union or happy accident? How a local spirits company turned an oops into an opportunity

Fortuitous Union bottle
Fortuitous Union came about by accident. | Courtesy of Fortuitous Union

Note: This story was originally published by Insider Louisville on June 21, 2018.

If you would have talked to Turner Wathen on the day it happened, it would have been a completely different story — a story that involved one giant accident and the demise of a business, a dream, a passion.

But hope springs eternal, and after a night’s rest, Wathen revisited the scene of the accident and discovered, lo and behold, that his mistake “was pretty fucking good.”

More on that in a bit.

Business partners and entrepreneurs Wathen and Jordan Morris had a solid plan for their startup company, Rolling Fork Spirits. After years of discussing, researching, brainstorming, scrapping ideas and starting new ones, the two decided they wanted to create rums that bourbon aficionados could get behind.

Wathen comes from a lineage of Kentucky bourbon-makers, and Morris has been a fan of whiskey long before it became cool. Wathen lives in Louisville and works in sales, while Morris lives in Portland, Oregon, and works as a lawyer.

The two met at a party through an introduction by their wives, Wathen recalls, and ended up talking whiskey all night long. Both men had a desire to get into the spirits business, but neither had the deep pockets needed to open a distillery.

After researching and testing out a sorghum-based spirit, which did not end up being a commercially viable product, Wathen and Morris set their sights on rum.

“Our objective was to be rum evangelists out of Kentucky and do cool things to rum that we think bourbon- and whiskey-centric audiences would appreciate,” says Wathen.

Turner Wathen
Turner Wathen | Courtesy of Fortuitous Union

Since making their own rum would be too costly, the two began looking to source rum from places like Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. They soon stumbled upon a batch of 12-year-old rum from Trinidad that contained no sugar, no color and no additives — ingredients sometimes added to mass-produced rums.

“There’s a lot of really good spirits out there that we can access through our contacts that we think are deserving of consumers’ appreciation,” Wathen explains. “We’re not the first to do it, we’re not the last to do it. We just try to be transparent about it.”

It ended up being some of the last Trinidad rum to be sold in the United States, so Wathen and Morris knew they had a solid base product. The plan was to release a high-proof, triple-finished spirit that had been aged in three different barrels — bourbon, port and then sherry. The plan was in place, a name was chosen and a label was even in the works. And then, that dreaded day in July of 2017 …

With Morris in Portland, Wathen was supervising the finishing process at an area distillery and warehouse they contracted for storage and services. The rum had sat about seven months in used bourbon barrels, so it was time to move it into the port barrels.

Jordan Morris
Jordan Morris | Courtesy of Fortuitous Union

In order to do that, Wathen says, all the barrels had to be emptied into a stainless steel dump tank, and then the rum would be pumped into the port barrels from there.

What could go wrong?

“Well, we pulled a dump tank we did not know had 90 gallons of rye whiskey in it,” he admits. “So we dumped our rum into this dump tank, and all of a sudden it scaled 1,000 pounds over what it should have been. I’m sitting there freaking out. My partner is on the West Coast, so he didn’t even know yet.”

Wathen recalls the sudden silence that fell over the room and the pale, frightened look on everyone’s faces. He figured he had just flushed his business down the toilet, so he told everyone to go home. The rum surely was ruined by the five-year-old rye whiskey.

After explaining the situation to Morris and his wife and anyone else who would listen, Wathen decided to go back into the distillery the next day and clean up the mess. Perhaps something could be salvaged, he thought.

And then, he tasted it. Color returned to his face as his taste buds savored the intricate, balanced and delightful flavors coming from the rum/rye whiskey hybrid. A big smile appeared when he realized his company was not doomed. Although it wasn’t what they planned, it still fit the mold.

Thus, Fortuitous Union was born.

“If it had been vodka, we would have had failure. If it had been a younger bourbon or a corn-heavy mash bill, it probably wouldn’t have tasted that good,” says Wathen. “Ninety percent of what we do are accidents. We’re just dumb enough to put money into our accidents.”

Wathen and Morris quickly readjusted the plan for this new, unexpected product. They also sought opinions from local spirits experts like Larry Rice, co-owner of The Silver Dollar and The Pearl and also an investor in the company, and author Fred Minnick. In fact, it was Rice who helped come up with the name — Fortuitous Union — which fittingly abbreviates to FU.

Local graphic designer Bill Green already was working on a label for the triple-finished rum, so he put that on hold and started from scratch on this one.

And as the label and bottling came together, Wathen and Morris worked on finding a supplier.

Fortuitous Union now is available in Louisville and Chicago — two markets the guys want to tackle first. You can find it by the pour at The Pearl or on the shelf at Old Town Wine & Spirits in the Highlands and eventually more liquor stores as distribution expands. It retails for $65.

FU is more rum than whiskey, but when sipped, it displays those familiar spicy notes common in rye whiskeys or high-rye bourbons. At 103 proof, the finish tingles with heat, which is definitely not a characteristic of most rums.

And while it can certainly fare well a fine cocktail, we preferred to sip it neat and let those flavors — sweet and spice — mingle in our mouth.

But don’t take our word for it — in April, it won a silver medal at the annual San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Wathen says there will most likely be other iterations of Fortuitous Union, but for now, they’re focusing on this product and also working on their original triple-finished concept, which they may call Rolling Fork Rum.

“We literally roll dice and hope it’s going to work, but also we spent a long time teaching ourselves how to partner with the right people — and we’ve gotten lucky,” he says. “It’s a lot of luck, a lot of risk, and there’s some vision in there between.”

This story was originally published by Insider Louisville on June 21, 2018.

Pappy Van Winkle

Oh Pappy Days! This year’s Pappy will be plentiful … or will it?

I just received the annual Pappy Van Winkle press release from Buffalo Trace, and it looks like all six expressions will be released this year — and there will be more bottles available than in the past. Does that mean you’ll be able to walk into Liquor Barn and find one on the shelf? Hell no!

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Van Winkle line partnering with Buffalo Trace Distillery.

 “(Buffalo Trace Master Distiller) Harlen Wheatley and his predecessors had been distilling the W.L. Weller wheated recipe for many years before our 2002 joint venture. We trusted their expertise in distilling and aging, and it paid off, as many of Buffalo Trace’s brands are just as sought after as our own,” said Julian Van Winkle III, president of Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, in the news release.

“My son Preston and I still take care of the marketing and management of our brands, but we leave the rest of it to the team at Buffalo Trace. The 20-year partnership has flown by, and I feel confident we’re leaving it in good hands for the future Van Winkle generations.” 

Pappy Van Winkle
The full lineup of Pappy Van Winkle whiskeys. | Courtesy

The bottles should be hitting shelves in October. If you’re curious about the suggested retail pricing and tasting notes of each expression, here are the notes from the news release:

$69.99 — Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon 10-Year-Old 107 proof

Tasting Notes: 

Color: Tawny in color.

Nose: Very sweet, with notes of honey, dulce de leche, caramel corn, rooibos tea and lightly toasted nuts. Hints of the wheat and corn are present which enhances the complexity. 

Taste: Medium-bodied palate with dried fruit and nuts. Each sip finishes with a very long bold wave of floral honey, caramel, and toasted barrel flavors which counter the weight of the alcohol.

Finish: An elegant balance between oak, grain, and maturation.

$79.99 — Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon 12-Year-Old (90.4 proof)

Tasting Notes:

Color: Brilliant amber.

Nose: Rich and decadent with butterscotch, toffee, vanilla and hints of nectarine and satsuma adding to the complexity. There is still a wisp of bready wheat present which is perfectly balanced with the spicy and rich oak notes.

Taste: Butterscotch and toffee are prominent in the taste but there are also hints of spiced praline which contribute to the long, round finish that is sweet without being cloying.

Finish: An outrageously well-crafted bourbon that pays homage to its source ingredients but shows that oak, the right distillate, and patience can create unparalleled depth and balance.

$119.99 — Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13-Year-Old (95.6 proof)

Tasting Notes:

Color: Rich copper color.

Nose: An incredibly enticing and complex aroma with notes of toasted pumpernickel, plum, fig, and sweet-tobacco aromas

Taste: Smooth with medium-to full-bodied palate bursting with bold and delicious flavors of toffee, caraway, and dried cherry, and a hint of leather and mint.

Finish: A symphony of flavors sits endlessly on the palate, causing the unsuspecting drinker to wish there was an endless supply in their glass.

$119.99 — Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 15-Year-Old (107 proof)

Tasting Notes:

Color: Striking, brilliant, copper color.

Nose: The aroma is seductive with intense sweet brown notes like maple, caramelized sugar, toffee, and toasted almond.

Taste: Waves of caramel and toffee meld into familiar memories of fresh-baked holiday spice cookies made with molasses. The mouthfeel is rich, supple, full-bodied and briefly veers toward decadent before the wood influences lend a balancing dryness.

Finish: Long, flavorful, and complex. An unbelievably opulent and flawless bourbon that takes wood and distillate to its absolute pinnacle.

$199.99 — Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 20-Year-Old (90.4 proof)

Tasting Notes: 

Color: Dark amber in appearance with ruby highlights.

Nose: This full-bodied bourbon has a sophisticated forefront of leather with complementary notes of smoke, warm tobacco, treacle, espresso, and charred oak.

Taste: The aromas and flavors are endlessly complex and each new sip reveals something new to discover.

Finish: Suave and confident with layers of bold, integrated nuances.

$299.99 — Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 23-Year-Old (95.6 proof)

Tasting Notes: 

  • Color: Rich mahogany color.
  • Nose: Reminiscent of a crisp fall day, with aromas of ripe red apples, cherries and tobacco.
  • Taste: Wood is the star here with supporting notes of caramel, apple, apricot, leather, walnuts, and vanilla Crème Brulé.
  • Finish: Long-lasting and rich, opening with bold flavors of oak and caramel that tease the palate before fading slowly and elegantly until the next sip.