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.
Maker’s Mark has been doing some cool stuff with special releases lately — for a recap, check out my pieces on the Wood-Finishing Series here and here — but this one truly takes the cake for anyone interested in the science behind bourbon.
The new Entry Proof Experiment will hit shelves later this month — you’ll most likely find it at the distillery gift shop, and if you’re a member of The Whisky Drop* Maker’s club, you’ll be getting the bottles in the next two installments. Basically, there are four bottles in this release, and all four come from an experiment held at the distillery in 2013.
To see how much impact barrel entry proof has on the taste profile of their bourbon, the folks at Maker’s Mark entered the bourbon into barrels at four different proof levels: 110 (which is what Maker’s has used since the beginning but is considered low in the industry), 115, 120 and 125.
For a quick explanation, entry proof is the proof of the distillate before it goes into a barrel. Many distilleries opt to put it in around 125 and then add water when it’s done aging, thus saving money on the amount of barrels needed. Some choose a lower number — like 110 — which was more common before and right after Prohibition because some believe by adding the water up front, it produces a better-tasting, nuanced bourbon.
Barrel entry proof is just one of the many bourbon-making components that can be manipulated to produce a different result. There’s no right or wrong number here — by legal definition, you can’t enter it into a barrel higher than 125 proof — it’s just the preference of the distillery and its master distiller as to when they want to add the water (before or after it ages).
So anyway, Maker’s decided to play around with the four different entry proofs, and they figured they’d let their fans get a taste of the experiment as well. The cool thing about these four bottles is that the age of the whiskey inside is about 8 years old — definitely older than the standard Maker’s Mark. So just taking that into account, it’s a rare release you’ll want to have in your collection. Plus, these are bottled at barrel-proof, so here’s your chance to try 8-year-old Maker’s Mark at cask strength!
I was invited to a media tasting and explanation of the DNA Project, and I was blown away by the completely different flavors each sample produced. Even someone new to bourbon would be able to tell the differences between each sample.
I was partial to the first sample — 110 — as was the majority of the group. The flavors were more rich, and that familiar Maker’s Mark mouthfeel was present from the first sip to the last.
The other three expressions had some funky flavors — the 120 proof even had strong pineapple notes, which is crazy — and it was easy to see why the founders of Maker’s Mark chose 110 and have stuck to that ever since, even though it ultimately costs them more money.
What this experiment shows is, yes, barrel entry proof does indeed have a pronounced effect on taste profiles. And the best news is that you can try it for yourself.
Maker’s suggests buying the entire four-bottle set (at $99 per bottle), but they will also be sold individually at the distillery and various bars and liquor stores in the area. The bottles are 750ml, and with a purchase of the set, you also get handmade posters from Louisville’s Hound Dog Press, which partnered with Maker’s for this release.
There are only 2,400 sets available, and the release is staying in Kentucky. Each poster will be numbered to match your bottles. Look for these later this August and tell me which one is your favorite.
*Speaking of The Whisky Drop, I hear they’re expanding the membership to more folks in Kentucky and Washington, D.C., so if you want to sign up for that, click here. It’s a membership service where you get two special bottles in the mail every couple months or so.
Get ready to loosen up those purse strings, y’all, because the bourbon releases will be coming at us full throttle in the next few weeks, leading up to September, aka National Bourbon Heritage Month. Here are two announcements to wet your whistle.
Old Forester 117 Series: Warehouse K
Lucky for us, we don’t have to wait until the fall for this one. The second iteration of Old Forester‘s 117 Series will be out Thursday, Aug. 12 — that’s TOMORROW, folks! — at the downtown distillery and your favorite liquor store (if you’re lucky).
The name is “Warehouse K,” and it features a blend of barrels aged on different floors from the famed warehouse. Supposedly, Warehouse K produces some exceptional bourbon and is the stuff of legends among bourbon geeks, similar to the Four Roses Tier 6 lore.
Constructed in 1953, Warehouse K is one of Brown-Forman’s heat-cycling rick houses and is the place where Old Forester plucks most of its Single Barrel expressions from.
“Warehouse K has gained a cult following among bourbon connoisseurs,” said Master Taster Jackie Zykan in a news release. “This blend is a representation across multiple floors and locations within this warehouse, giving a more holistic example of the profile its barrels yield.”
The 117 Series Warehouse K will be bottled at 110 proof and retail for $49.99 for a 375 ml bottle. The previous expression — “High Angels’ Share Barrels” — was also 110 proof and $49.99. The bottles will go on sale Thursday, Aug. 12, starting at 10 a.m. at the distillery.
Here are the tasting notes according to the news release:
Color: Rich honey.
Aroma: On the nose, creamy chocolate, caramel, and brown sugar lead, with a hint of golden raisin and a foreshadowing of the pepper the finish will unveil.
Taste: The palate brings with it a full-bodied and rich viscosity, peripheral spice, and a touch of black cherry alongside bitter molasses.
Finish: The robust yet balanced spice finish completes the story of the well-known complexity which is the K warehouse.
Parker’s Heritage 2021: 11-Year-Old Heavy Char Wheat Whiskey
For this annual release, you’ll have to wait until September. But I’ve got all the sordid details!
For the 15th edition of Heaven Hill‘s Parker’s Heritage, named in honor of the late Master Distiller Parker Beam, the company is going with an 11-Year-Old Heavy Char Wheat Whiskey.
The bottles come from a batch of 75 barrels that were charred to a level 5 (standard bourbons use a level 3), which will, according to the news release, show how a more intense char allows the liquid to penetrate deeper into each barrel stave and the effects on the resulting flavor.
Count me in! The mash bill consists of 51% wheat, 37% corn and 12% malted barley.
“The Parker’s Heritage Collection is a testament to the distilling legacy at Heaven Hill Distillery and the detailed attention each step of the process receives,” said Susan Wahl, Vice President, American Whiskies at Heaven Hill, in the news release. “We are excited to release the third mashbill in this heavy char series, showcasing the consistency of quality throughout our innovation pipeline. It is in tribute to Parker and his legacy that we continue to support ALS research and patient care with this collection.”
Each year, Heaven Hill donates a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold to the ALS Association. So far, they’ve donated more than $1 million toward ALS research and will continue raising funds with this bottle.
The Parker’s Heritage will be released in September and retails for a suggested price of $139.99.
I expect this news release to be one of many that’ll soon flood my inbox — because we’re officially less than a month away from the big Bourbon Release Season! Oh happy days!
The next Old FitzgeraldBottled-in-Bond release will be 11 years old and — as always, since it’s a Bottled-in-Bond product — 100 proof. This is the second time one of the seasonal Old Fitz releases has been 11, the first being the spring of 2018.
If you’re unfamiliar, Heaven Hill releases the fancy Old Fitz BIB decanters every spring and fall, and each iteration differs in age. This wheated bourbon meets the strict requirements of Bottled-in-Bond: the product of a single distillery from a single distilling season, aged a minimum of four years, and bottled at 100 proof or 50% alcohol by volume.
It’ll retail for $110 if you’re lucky to find one in a liquor store or at the distillery. These are highly coveted bottles, of course, so they’ll disappear quickly — like most bottles these days.
For the first time in 200 years, average, everyday bourbon fanatics like you and me can staya night atThe Samuels House, a historic home in Coxs Creek, Ky. (just outside of Bardstown), that has been converted into a bourbon museum honoring eight generations of Samuels distillers, including Bill Samuels Jr. and Rob Samuels ofMaker’s Mark.
The house was built in 1820 by John Samuels, whose father, Robert Samuels, actually made whiskey for George Washington’s troops in the Revolutionary War. And that’s only the beginning of this home’s story, which is saturated in history and bourbon.
I was fortunate to attend an open house Tuesday evening to check out The Samuels House with Bill Jr. and Rob Samuels. Of course they had a full charcuterie spread for the dozens of guests, plus Maker’s-fueled cocktails, so it was a fun time had by all.
Did I mention it might be haunted, too? More on that in a bit.
The house stayed in the Samuels family until the late 1950s, and it was recently re-purchased by Rob Samuels, Chief Operating Officer of Maker’s Mark. He decided it would be the perfect place for bourbon lovers to stay while they’re tackling the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and also where the Samuels family could display eight generations worth of family photos, significant artifacts, important documents and dusty old bottles that encompass the original Samuels distillers (T.W. Samuels) and the modern Samuels distillers (Maker’s Mark).
So what’s here?
Well, what I loved seeing the most was the actual deep fryer Margie Samuels used to experiment with when creating the iconic red wax — the same wax that now adorns every Maker’s Mark bottle since her and her husband Bill Samuels Sr. created the brand in 1954. Also on display is Margie’s English pewter collection that inspired her to name the new bourbon “Maker’s Mark.”
The house is a blend of 200-year-old charm and modern updates. Inside the kitchen, for example, there’s a full gas range and a modern sink and cupboards, but across the room is the original fireplace where the residents would cook before electricity and gas lines made it into homes.
The house can accommodate up to eight guests between three bedrooms, and the average nightly price ranges from $1,250-1,500.
Rob and Bill Jr. spoke about how much this home means to their family, and they had a great time filling the rooms with family heirlooms and memorabilia.
“We look forward to sharing this with folks who are traveling here, and even people here in Kentucky who might be interested,” said Rob Samuels. “Folks are drawn to Kentucky culture, and hopefully this can help attribute to that energy and interest.”
Bill Jr. seemed most excited about a pistol that is behind glass in the foyer, which he explained is most likely the very last firearm surrendered in the Civil War.
The weapon was supposedly surrendered in the front yard of The Samuels House by Frank James (of the notorious James Gang), who was part of the last armed group fighting at the end of the war. He turned the gun over to T.W. Samuels, the Nelson County sheriff (and family’s first commercial distiller), and it has remained in the family ever since.
Being in a house that old, we had to ask if anyone had ever experienced something spooky. Of course we were in the cellar, where spooky oozes in most cases, and one of the curators confirmed that indeed there have been incidents of paranormal activity, and that the former owners actually kept a spreadsheet on the encounters.
The only story we got out of him had to do with two construction workers who got spooked while pouring cement and came running full speed out of the cellar doors. They described a demonic roar in the basement, along with lights unexpectedly going out, which made the two grown men exit the basement in 2 seconds flat.
They ended up going back in to finish the job, so it must not have been too disturbing.
Property Info (according to the website):
Accommodations for up to 8 guests; 3 bedrooms (2 king, 1 queen; 2 additional pullout beds)
Nearly 3,500 square feet of space (main level, upper level, and basement)
Set on 2 acres of mature oak trees surrounded by horse pasture
Parlor room with custom-crafted bar and 50+ historic bottles of family-produced whisky
Numerous Samuels family artifacts and pieces of bourbon history on display
Stocked chef’s kitchen with gas range, fridge with premium whiskey icemaker
Dining room with custom-designed dinnerware and glassware
Covered porch with outdoor dining area
Basement media room and game lounge
Stone patio featuring a gas grill and fire pit
Premium ‘Comphy’ brand sheets
100% Turkish cotton towels
Aveda bath products
Smart TVs with cable access and streaming capabilities
To book The Samuels House or just read more about it, click here. Booking starts in September!
It’s been nine years in the making, so what’s another 15 minutes? As the Yarbrough brothers — Victor, Bryson and Christian — eagerly awaited the official ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon at their new Brough Brothers Distillery in Louisville’s Park Hill neighborhood, the sky opened up and poured rain on the medium-sized crowd of family members, business supporters, government officials, media and industry folks.
Victor Yarbrough didn’t seem to mind one bit, and he helped usher people — including Congressman John Yarmuth, Mayor Greg Fischer and Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman — underneath the distillery overhang and tent that was set up in the parking lot.
After about 15 minutes, the rain subsided and it was back to business: cutting the ribbon on an enterprise the brothers started in 2012 that was finally coming to fruition.
Brough Brothers Distillery is now open to the public in a modest building that sits off Dixie Highway.
“It’s an exciting process being able to be in Louisville’s West End and being able to age bourbon in a community where you come from,”said Christian Yarbrough, CMO, in a news release put out before the ribbon cutting.
During the ceremony, Victor Yarbrough said the distillery accomplishes two goals for him: building a legacy and opening up opportunities for others.
Brough Brothers is the first black-owned distillery in Kentucky, and with Bryson Yarbrough at the helm of distilling, he’ll be the state’s first black master distiller as well.
“As Louisville’s Congressman and the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus, I’m thrilled to help celebrate the grand opening of Brough Brothers Distillery in West Louisville,” said John Yarmuth. “Black Louisvillians have been involved in distilling for centuries, and the Yarbrough family’s work to build this company from the ground up is a tremendous step forward in making the distilled spirits industry more reflective of our nation, our city and our people.”
Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, welcomed Brough Brothers as the 42nd member distillery, noting that No. 42 is no coincidence since it belonged to Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in Major League Baseball.
“Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, and Brough Brothers will break the color barrier in bourbon,” he said.
The brothers filled their first barrel of bourbon in 2020, and they already have bottles available locally and in 23 states total. The flagship Brough Brothers brand is bottled at 82 proof, aged a minimum of six months and was distilled in Indiana.
Brough Brothers Distillery is located at 1460 Dixie Highway. While tours haven’t started quite yet, there is a gift shop and tasting room on site.