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.
As I have said many times, it’s imperative to support our local bars and restaurants during this COVID lockdown. Many places are hanging on by a thread, and they’re doing their best to come up with creative ways to get you cocktails to-go, create a warm, safe place on their patios, etc.
And new this week, 10 area bars and restaurants — all members of the Responsible Bar & Restaurant Coalition — are banning together to offer up a fun way for folks to grab a cocktail and possibly win some prizes. Louisville Bar Bingo begins this week and runs through December.
Basically, each week the same cocktail will be featured on special at each bar, and it can be ordered to-go or for outdoor drinking. You print out a bingo card by going to one of the bar’s social media pages, and then collect stamps for each drink consumed. (You can also pick up blank cards at each establishment.) You need 16 stamps by the end of the month to compete for a massive prize including local gift cards, speciality bottles and more.
Participating bars are:
Gold Bar (Butchertown)
The Limbo/Riot Cafe (Downtown)
Mag Bar (Old Louisville)
Noche Mexican BBQ (Highlands)
The Merryweather (Germantown/Schnitzelburg)
“We have all made the commitment to do things right and follow the governor’s guidelines, but we are suffering because of it,” said Limbo Tiki Bar & Riot Cafe owner Olivia Griffin in a news release. “So we’re creating interesting and fun ways for the community to support us.”
While some bars are following Uncle Andy’s rules to a T, others are completely ignoring them, ultimately putting people’s lives at risk for contracting COVID-19. We can’t be doing that.
“So many of us in the bar and restaurant industry are committed to supporting each other, so it makes sense to do something that drives traffic to all our establishments,” Griffin added.
Louisville Bar Bingo is also being supported by local businesses that have yet to open back up but still champion the cause. And big-name sponsors include Four Roses Bourbon and Plantation Rum.
Cocktails on the bingo card are holiday themed and will range from a hot toddy (this week) to a spiked cider and even a “frostbite colada” at the end of the month. Now that one has my name all over it!
Every bar will put its own creative spin on the libation, and you’ll be able to taste them side by side and pick your favorites.
Personally, I’m definitely interested in checking out the White Russian, Cookie Jello Shot and Frostbite Colada, so you better believe I’ll be screaming “BINGO!” way before you all.
It was a chilly Tuesday back on Dec. 5, 1933, but that didn’t stop the nation from dancing in the streets out of celebration for the end of Prohibition. The 21st Amendment was passed that day, and Repeal Day, as it’s become known, has been honored ever since.
Skip ahead 87 years, and while 2020 hasn’t given us much to dance in the streets for, we should still recognize and raise a toast to Repeal Day, which falls on Saturday this year.
Whether you craft yourself a fine Old Fashioned or pop the top on your favorite beer, let’s all remember that things could be worse — our country went without a drop of (legal) alcohol for 13 long years.
There are a few places around town celebrating Repeal Day and offering up to-go cocktails, and even if they’re not signifying a “Repeal Day” party, it’s still important, now more than ever, to support our local bars.
I’m thinking I might buy a couple margaritas from Dragon King’s Daughter, El Mundo AND Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen — or maybe brave the elements next to the fire at Shop Bar and indulge in the aforementioned Old Fashioned.
There are also two interesting virtual sessions being planned for Saturday if you’re looking for a group activity.
Eaves will help you concoct three classic cocktails — New York Sour, El Presidente and The Vieux Carre — and you all will have fun sipping and mixing along.
“I am a distiller, not a mixologist,” says Eaves on the event website, “So let’s mix up some fun, chatting about being the first female master distiller in Kentucky, history of the spirits industry, booze and how glad we are that it’s legal again!”
The class starts at noon on Saturday, Dec. 5, and it costs $35. If you’re interested, I’d join now rather than later so you can get your kit in time.
If you’re wondering what Eaves has been up to since she left the master distiller position at Castle & Key, she’s created her own bourbon education company called Eaves Blind. If you’re a fan of Eaves or just a bourbon fan in general, you can sign up now to become a member of Eaves Blind and receive various experiments and products she’s been working on.
It’s a pretty damn cool concept, and it’s on the top of my Christmas list this year if anyone is looking for ideas for me. (hint, hint) Go check out her website and read all about it.
The other Repeal Day event is being organized by Fred Minnick, another bourbon extraordinaire, is called Repeal Day Expo. This takes place on Saturday from 1-11 p.m. and is an all-day virtual extravaganza with speakers, live music, cocktail-making sessions and much, much more.
Tickets range in price from $20-$50 (the VIP $140 tickets are sold out), and you can find out all the cool details at the link above.
For a shout-out, I also wanted to mention that the local Whisky Chicks group is also hosting a special Repeal Day Virtual Cocktail Soiree, but unfortunately tickets to that are sold out.
If you haven’t checked out Louisville’s newest brewery, TEN20 in Butchertown, today is the day to swing by. They’re releasing five new, limited-edition beers, and you can enjoy them on their outdoor deck area or to-go.
The brewery’s first bottled beer, a Russian Imperial Stout they’re calling The Machine, is one of the five releases.
I was fortunate to try a sample, and I haven’t been able to put it down since popping it open. It’s nutty, it’s rich and chocolatey, there are some vanilla notes — overall, it’s a robust stout guaranteed to nab some awards for head brewer Larry Horwitz.
The other four beers available today on tap (while supplies last) include a Chocolate Machine (I can’t even imagine!), a Coffee Vanilla Stockyards Porter, a Schwarzbier Black Lager, and an Ironworks Black New England IPA.
“We want to be sure that people can still celebrate the holidays safely, and we look forward to sharing these new specialty beers,” said Horwitz in a news release. “Each offering is warm and inviting, perfect to enjoy this time of year as the weather cools down.”
The brewery, which is located at 1020 E. Washington St., will be open today (Friday, Nov. 27) starting at noon.
You can get flights of the specialty beers, which is what I would recommend before committing to a whole pint.
Also, at 4 p.m. today, you can hop on the TEN20 Facebook page for a virtual meet and greet with Horwitz, who will guide participants through a tasting of the newly released products.
TEN20 will set up purchase stations for to-go packages and offer gift packs to ease purchases. Plus, the outdoor beer garden will be open and they have expanded the existing area into the parking lot to provide ample socially-distanced outside seating.
This could be one of our last nice, sunny days. So go stock up on some Vitamin D and beer!
Now that I’m doing bourbon tours for Mint Julep Experiences (shameless plug), I often get asked what my favorite bourbon is. As any bourbon aficionado might tell you, our top 5 fluctuates throughout a year, and it’s not exactly the PC thing to do to single out one single brand or distillery.
So I simply say either: “The one in my hand” or “The one you’re going to buy me later.”
But I will admit I’ve always had a soft spot for Baker’s Bourbon, part of the Jim Beam Distillery‘s Small Batch Bourbon Collection that Booker Noe released in 1992. Baker’s sister brands include Booker’s, Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek.
Baker’s is released in that sweet spot of 7 years old and at 107 proof — similar to a yummy brand released over at Buffalo Trace Distillery (Weller Antique, anyone?).
But Baker’s is a rye-grained bourbon, as opposed to a wheated bourbon like Weller. This means Baker’s will be spicy, nutty, oaky and a soft, sweet molasses that’ll permeate the finish.
I was fortunate to meet Baker Beam last year when I did a story for The Bourbon Review on the man, the myth and the bourbon legend. He was as humble as pie and as sweet as sassy as you’d imagine him to be.
He put in nearly 40 years at the distillery, working tirelessly behind the scenes and right alongside his brother David Beam and cousin Booker Noe.
Anyway, let’s get to the funny photo above. If you’re a Baker’s fan like me, on Thursday you can get a chance to get a similar photo and also perhaps win a one-on-one tasting experience with Freddie Noe, the 8th generation Beam family distiller.
As part of a holiday promo, the Baker’s team is calling it the Single Barrel Journey Experience. Beginning Thursday, Nov. 19, you go to the Baker’s Bourbon website and enter the Barrel ID number from the neck tag on your bottle of Baker’s. (If you don’t have a bottle, I suggest you go out today and grab one!)
It’ll tell you the story of exactly where your bottle aged in the rick house and share a few more tasting notes of exactly what you can expect out of your particular single barrel bourbon.
After that, you’ll get to enter the contest with your name and email, and hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky ones to get an awesome photo like I did — or even better, the tasting experience with Freddie!
I would do it first thing in the morning if I were you, because the press release notes it’s for “consumers that act fast.”
So go get your Baker’s (around $60), or if you already have one of the newish single-barrel bottles, just make sure the Barrel ID number on the neck tag is handy.
Baker’s makes excellent Old Fashioneds as well, so if you’re worried about spending that much money on a bourbon you haven’t tried, trust me — you’ll love it on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, or on a train.
Back all the way in September, I was in a regional competition for the Bardstown Bourbon Company‘s “World’s Top Whiskey Taster” title.
Somehow I beat out a handful of talented and fierce competitors that evening, and now I plan to bring the title home to Kentucky as I compete against nine others from around the country on Saturday, Nov. 14.
To say I’m nervous and apprehensive is an understatement, but again, just like in the last challenge, I’m trying to harness the powers of confidence and raw bourbon tasting to give it my best.
And that’s where you come in.
If you see me out, please buy me a bourbon or whiskey of your choice (no need to break the bank or anything), but don’t tell me what it is. Make me guess the proof, or the age, or even what type of whiskey it might be. If you buy me Fireball, though, I might give you the evil eye from 6 feet away.
Of course I’m not relying on the kindness of strangers (and friends) to prepare for this competition. I’ve been holed up in my bourbon bunker day and night practicing.
My brother who lives in Texas even sent me four blind samples — all from the Buffalo Trace family — and it was tough sorting them out.
If you have any ideas on other methods to practice, please feel free to reach out! Hell, I’ve been preparing for this competition since I turned 21 — OK, 19 — so I feel like I have a shot.
I just can’t let my nerves and second guesses get the best of me.
The competition won’t be broadcast live this time — to see my first competition, click here or watch below — but a video will be available later with the competitions and results.