Whitesnake Angel's Envy

New releases: The Angel’s Envy Tawny Port Finish is old and sexy, plus say hi to Elijah Craig rye

Whitesnake Angel's Envy

A tale of two Tawnys.

Here I go again on my own. Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. And I’ve made up my mind. I ain’t wastin’ no more time …

Those, my millennial friends, are lyrics to a kick-ass ’80s song by hairband Whitesnake, and in the video, which they actually played on MTV back in the day, there was pin-up goddess Tawny Kitaen, rolling around half-naked on the hood of a muscle car.

It’s a beautiful piece of pop culture art stamped in time.

And my brain, which is forever stamped in all things ’80s and ’90s, immediately drew parallels to the video when I first heard about the new Cellar Collection from Angel’s Envy, which is finished in tawny port casks. Sure, Tawny is an unusual name, so you can understand why I automatically pictured an Angel’s Envy bottle frolicking on top of a car.

But when I took that first sip, there were way more similarities between the two beauties than just the name. They’re delicious. They’re rich. Their deep, auburn color teases, taunts and tantalizes with every sip. And on the other end of the spectrum, they’re both old — as am I.

Let me get my mind off that car and just focus on the bourbon for a minute. I was fortunate to stop by the Angel’s Envy Distillery last week for a top-secret media get-together announcing the new release. Of course they made us keep it a secret until now, so I apologize that I couldn’t spread the good news earlier.

Let me give you the quick details: The release is the second in the Cellar Collection (the first was the Oloroso Sherry Cask finish) and features 10-year-old bourbon that was finished for 10 months in tawny port casks. It is bottled at 111.6 proof and will retail for about $249.99. The limited run of just 5,400 bottles will be available beginning Feb. 8 at select retailers in Kentucky, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Tennessee, as well as at the distillery in downtown Louisville

Angel's Envy Tawny(If you’re a member of the free-to-join 500 Main club, you’ll be getting an email soon about being able to purchase it in advance.)

Anyway, during the short tasting experience, we heard from Angel’s Envy Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson, Production Manager Kyle Henderson and Lead Distillery Operator Andrew Henderson about the limited release.

Wes Henderson opened the discussion by explaining the concept of the Cellar Collection. Basically, there’s no set date or expectation of when something new has to be released. It comes down to quality — and the wow factor.

“I don’t believe in innovating just to innovate,” Wes said. “We didn’t release this just to have something out there. It’s very different than anything we’ve released before. We set out to make the best whiskey we can, and this one, I believe, is very much in line with what my father (bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson) preferred — more subtle, not in-your-face.”

Kyle Henderson — Wes’ son, Lincoln’s grandson — added that currently, there are about 17 more experiments going on at the Bacardi-owned distillery.

“Those include all the dumbass ideas that won’t see the light of day,” he joked.

Now, as you know, regular Angel’s Envy is finished in ruby port barrels between three to six months. So how is tawny port different? For one, tawny port, which is made from red grapes, is aged longer in oak casks — giving it a golden-brown color. Port, in general, is a type of sweet wine made in Portugal.

So how does the Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Tawny Port Barrels taste?

It’s peppery, it’s nutty, it’s fruity. It’s like throwing a handful of Werther’s Originals into a blender with about two Red Hots. It’s everything you want a finished bourbon to be, yet its flavors are unfamiliar but intriguing. It’s like doing a cartwheel on the hood of a car and having knees that’ll stick the landing. (I miss those knees.)

I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not that I’m not obsessed with Tawny Kitaen. It’s the price tag — a whopping $250! I get it — it’s a lot.

Maybe you don’t want to shell out that much for a bottle of bourbon, but it would be worth the search at a bar or restaurant or liquor store’s tasting bar for a sample. Or just bite the bullet and buy a bottle. Keep it in your private stash, hidden away from the wife or the husband, right next to your Whitesnake cassette tapes.

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Elijah Craig releases a rye

Elijah Craig rye

Say hi to Elijah Rye.

As a bourbon writer, I run to the mailbox as soon as I get home every day. Unfortunately, I encounter more bills than fun packages, but every now and then, I get something truly special.

Case in point — a box from Heaven Hill that contained a sample of the new Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey and a loaf of rye bread baked by Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll himself!

Of course I popped that bottle open as soon as I could and enjoyed the sweet and spicy nectar. But I also savored the bread and ate a slice every morning for breakfast until it was gone. One day I even made a sandwich with two slices — and it was wonderful. Thanks, Conor!

rye sandwich

Turkey on rye.

But back to the rye. The mashbill includes 51% rye, 35% corn and 14% malted barley, making it pretty smooth for a rye whiskey with that much corn in it.

I could sip this neat all day, but I also believe it’ll be quite tasty in a cocktail like an Old Fashioned, because that rye won’t take any shit from the sugar.

And for those still in shock from the Angel’s Envy sticker price, this is much more affordable. Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey will be released this month in North Carolina, South Carolina, George and Oregon — What? No Kentucky?!?! — and retail for $29.99.

I suppose since you can’t get it here, you all can stop by and sample some of mine.

Just like Conor’s bread, fine whiskey was meant to be shared.

Motor boating, pitching tents and much more at this week’s Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow!

Bar Belle at the Louisville Boat Show

I’ve crashed the Louisville Boat Show in my day! It’s pretty damn fun!

Sure, January is a pretty crappy month. It’s cold, it’s dark and all your friends are on damn diets! It’s hard to find much to do, let alone people to do it with you.

But thankfully, mid-January is the perfect time to start plotting for summer adventures. And what better way to dream about oceans and lakes and warm weather than at the annual Louisville Boat, RV & Sportshow, which returns to the Kentucky Exposition Center at the Fairgrounds starting Wednesday, Jan. 22, through Sunday, Jan. 26.

Bar Belle at the Louisville Boat Show

I’m on a boat!

Now what does this have to do with drinking, you ask? Well, for one, Four Roses will have a presence at the Boat Show in the form of a pop-up bar of sorts. You’ll find the Four Roses Bourbon Lounge on the show floor, right near all the big-ass boats and RVs that cost more than my bar tabs ever will.

If you’ve never been to the Boat Show, I can attest it’s pretty entertaining to walk around and look at all the toys you could own if you won the lottery. Plus, there’s an entire section of free stuff! You know, candy, pencils, Band-Aid holders, beer koozies and lots more!

Here’s a quick overview of some of the special events going on during the show, courtesy of the press release:

  • The Hawg Trough, an interactive 5,000-gallon aquarium, will provide a unique, underwater view of how fish react to different techniques, bait and lures. Top anglers from around the area will demonstrate their fishing and casting skills in the tank during daily, free seminars.
  • The kids’ area is returning, with a number of family-friendly activities in one place. Yogi Bear™ will be at the show for meet-and-greets and autographs in the Bear Cave Fun Zone, hosted by Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp Resort Mammoth Cave. Kids can also enjoy free catch-and-release fishing in the Trout Pond, get crafty at the Create-a-Crankbait station and more.
  • Attendees can test their boating abilities with the Boating Skills Virtual Trainer from America’s Boating Club.
  • Super Thursday festivities will take place on Thursday, Jan. 23, including one-day-only special offers and meet-and-greets with superheroes. Kids are encouraged to dress as their favorite characters — those in costume will get a free, handmade, ice cream sandwich from Ehrler’s Ice Cream!
  • For the first time, the show will feature a Career Day on Friday, Jan. 24. High school and college students can learn about careers in the boating, RV and fishing industries.
  • The Poker Run will take over the show floor on Friday night for those 21 and older. As the winners are crowned, Nick’s Boat Dock will keep the party going at their booth. Don’t miss the chance to mingle with professional wakeboarders during this time.

And that’s the gist of the Louisville Boat Show. Admission is $12 for adults. Who knows, maybe it’ll inspire you to pitch a tent or invest in a pontoon — and we all could gather, drink beer and float in a lake. Boat up!

Old Forester family of bottles

Old Forester beefs up its single barrel proofs (!!)

When I read the news this morning, I immediately heard the voices of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” echoing through my head and down into my liver. Did you?

If you have no clue what I’m talking about, watch this:

 

So what news am I talking about? Well, I assure you it has nothing to do with politics or the Mexican drug cartel, but rather something more close to home and indeed happy. Turns out Old Forester, a bourbon brand that turns 150 this year, is celebrating this milestone by beefing up the proof on its single-barrel releases.

The Louisville company typically releases its single-barrel bourbon at an average 90 proof, but with consumer demand at an all-time high for higher-proofed products, especially from blokes like me, Old Fo decided to now let those who pick a barrel pick a proof, so to speak.

“Since our founding 150 years ago, we’ve always listened to our customers and looked for ways to innovate to meet their tastes,” said Jackie Zykan, Old Forester master taster, in a news release. “Proof and filtration are both really important factors in the final flavor and complexity of a whisky, and we wanted to be able to share how special some of these barrels are when the product inside is tasted in raw form.”

Old Forester bottles

Love the new labels! | Courtesy of Old Forester

So say you’ve got like $10,000 in your pocket and you want to buy a barrel of Old Forester. Once you and your group of friends (which better include me) pick your barrel, then you get to decide if you want it bottled at a nice 100 proof or an even nicer barrel strength, which could hover around 125 or higher!

Thus, why happy days are here!

It seems higher proof bourbons are on a rise these days, and for good reason. They pack more punch — and flavor, in my opinion. Let the consumer add water if she likes — that decision should be up to her, not added for her.

Take the recently released Weller Full Proof, or Booker’s, or George T. Stagg, or the 1792 Full Proof as examples of higher proofed bourbons that are successful and quite tasty. Heck, even Old Fo’s sister brand, Woodford Reserve, released a stout Batch Proof last year that was 125.8 proof.

Old Forester Single Barrel bottles can sometimes be found in the distillery’s gift shop, but mostly they’ll be at the stores and restaurants that actually spent the money to buy the barrel. Just keep your eyes and ears open for single-barrel offerings, as I’m sure they’ll be rolling off the line very soon.

I’m guessing all the major (and not so major) liquor stores in town already are in the barrel-pick calendar, as are bars and restaurants that sell picks — like Silver Dollar/The Pearl, 21c, Butchertown Grocery, Bourbons Bistro, Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, Taj, etc. So just pay attention and stop in from time to time.

The suggested retail price for the 100 proof Old Forester Single Barrel bottles is $49.99, while the barrel strength bottles will go for $79.99.

Anyone lucky enough to be heading to the distillery soon for a barrel pick and needs some help, I’m no master taster, but I would like to master the tasting experience! I’ll even let you slide into my DM for that invite … or whatever the kids say.

Anyway, bravo, Old Forester! Happy days are here again …

Old Forester family of bottles

Great, now I need more shelf space. | Courtesy of Old Forester

Al Young

Al Young: A bourbon legend, an industry champion and my friend

Al Young

Al loved to ham it up when events got a little stagnant. | Photo by Sara Havens

“Brent (Elliott) said, ‘We’re coming out with a limited-edition release for your anniversary, and I need to know what you want it to be. I was honored they even decided to do it. So I thought for a while, and then I set the perimeters of what I was looking for.” —Al Young, on his 50th Anniversary Four Roses Small Batch

This morning as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I expected to see photos of unwrapped presents, of families gathering around the tree, of special bourbon bottles being open and shared. But what I didn’t expect to read was the gut-punching news that the bourbon industry had lost a legend on Christmas Day: Al Young, brand ambassador extraordinaire of Four Roses Bourbon.

As confirmed by his daughter on his personal Facebook page, Young was 77 and is survived by his lovely wife Gretchen and three children.

Al Young

Al and me at the Nov. 9 Barrel Through Hunger event.

I had just run into Al on Nov. 9 at the Barrel Through Hunger event, and I actually sat right next to him and his wife Gretchen for the dinner portion of the evening. He was as lively as ever and was looking forward to some time off for the holidays.

In recent years, Al has traveled far and wide touting Four Roses — a role he was destined for and that brought him back to his love of theater.

In 2017, when Four Roses released the Al Young Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon, I met up with Al for a feature story on his career, his new bourbon and his thoughts on the booming industry.

We chatted for over an hour — and sampled his delicious bourbon — about everything from his first internship at Actors Theatre to his rise through the distillery and his recent role of ambassador and storyteller.

You can read that story here, if you’re interested. Gretchen told me that night in November that she often pulls up my story to show friends and family — a compliment that means so much more than any Facebook “like” ever could.

No matter where I ran into Al — whether it was at Churchill Downs during Thanksgiving or an official Four Roses event — he always seemed genuinely happy to see me, to talk bourbon with strangers and to champion for the industry that defined his career. It’s cliche, but I don’t think Al ever met a stranger.

Al will be missed by so many. I know he had a million stories left to tell, and no doubt those stories he did share will continue to be passed on through everyone he spent five or 105 minutes with.

I had Al sign my bottle that night, even though I have several signed by the legend. Since he was sitting next to me, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for another autograph. Most distillers simply scribble their names, but Al paused a moment and wrote, “For Sara: Be mellow! Al Young 2019.”

Sure, “Be mellow” is a brand saying, but I was impressed he knew the correct spelling of my name and left that pesky “h” off. Attention to detail was one of his assets for sure.

It’s a gift I will forever cherish, although I can hear Al telling me that bourbon should be drank and I should open the damn bottle!

Cheers, Al. You will be forever remembered in my heart and the hearts of millions.

Bar Belle's Tasteless Tastings bar

Tasteless Tastings: Deck the Halls 2019 holiday edition

Tasteless Tastings bottles of bourbon

Let the tastings begin!

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample.

This month’s iteration is holiday-themed, so let’s deck those halls with the bowels of someone named Holly. Let’s get to it …

 

What are we drinking today?:

Two Bitch BourbonTwo Bitch Bourbon Eureka Gold

What the hell is it?:

Straight out of Eureka, Nev., this straight bourbon whiskey (aged at least two years) comes from a new Nevada-based spirits company named after the owners’ love for their two newfound dogs. Along with this product, named for the old Wild West town the owners reside in, they offer the Pack Leader Reserve and a Small Batch with Bite. Apparently, Eureka sits in the Diamond Mountains on the “loneliest road in America.” So what else is there to do than to make bourbon?

Give me the nerdy numbers:

92 proof, $45

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: I can tell this isn’t an older bourbon because of its light color. It’s a straight bourbon, which means it’s at least two years old. So there’s that.

Kat: I can sip on this one! It’s light and subtle.

Heather: It’s the color of beer.

Tracy: It’s not memorable, but it’s OK. I mean, I’m not going to stop talking to friends and go, “Oooooh, wow!” But it’s something I could sip on all night long and not become overwhelmed.

Elizabeth: (Added a few drops of water) Water changed it for the better actually. You can actually smell something now.

Amber: Yes! I detect vanilla, and it’s sweet! It’s definitely a smooth bourbon — doesn’t burn, goes down well.

Bar Belle: That’s what she said?

Tracy: It would be good in cocktails because it’s sort of nondescript and won’t overpower.

Elizabeth: This could be the White Claw of bourbon.

Bar Belle: They also sent me a sample of the Small Batch product, and it was so delicious, I’m keeping it all to myself. Sorry not sorry.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A standard, frosted ball ornament

Heather: I think you all are describing an ornament I made in kindergarten — I made it from a used pantyhose container! I think I still have it.

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What are we drinking today?:

Knob CreekKnob Creek Quarter Oak

What the hell is it?:

This new, limited-edition release uses a secondary finishing approach, taking fully mature Knob Creek and then finishing it for a minimum of four years in a quarter cask (a smaller-sized barrel). This juice is then blended with regular Knob Creek for this product.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

100 proof, $49.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: This is a new release from Knob Creek, which is made by Jim Beam. Think “double oaked,” and you get the idea. I’m a big fan of finished whiskeys for sure.

Tracy: Wow! We’re moving up the tree with this one! It’s nice. I like it!

Kat: This isn’t bad at all! It’s well-rounded, smooth.

Heather: I like this one, too! It starts off with a little heavier vanilla and then finishes off spicy. It’s the perfect bourbon for sipping in the winter.

Amber: The nose reminds me of fruit — dark cherry.

Bar Belle: It’s definitely a cherry bomb. Wow! I could sip on this for days if I didn’t have a job.

Heather: It would make a lovely Manhattan.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A fancier ornament on the tree — possibly a snow globe featuring a bowl of cherries sprinkled with brown sugar.

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What are we drinking today?:

Heaven HillHeaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond

What the hell is it?:

This Bottled-in-Bond product was recently launched — or somewhat re-launched — by Heaven Hill, replacing the 6-year-old BIB product it had on the market for about $9.99 until 2018. The BIB label actually dates back to 1939 for Heaven Hill, when the company first released it and it shot to the No. 1 best-selling bourbon in Kentucky. Now, with a fancier bottle and label and an extra year of aging, the BIB label is a solid choice — although some longtime Heaven Hill BIB fans lament the uptick in price.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

100 proof, 7 years old, $39.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: This is Heaven Hill’s latest Bottled-in-Bond product, which replaced a cheaper version that was discontinued last year. The Bottled-in-Bond Act was passed in 1897 to kind of guarantee that what you were buying was legit.

Let me read you what Wikipedia has to say: To be labeled as bottled-in-bond or bonded, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January–June or July–December) by one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 (U.S.) proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded.

Elizabeth: Whoa! This is like a sucker punch!

Amber: It has such a sweet smell, and then it bites you when you’re not looking.

Tracy: Holy hell, Batman! This will put some hair on your chest!

Kat: Shooo!

Elizabeth: This is like one of those candles on your birthday cake that won’t blow out! It just keeps burning and burning.

Heather: I’d put it in eggnog.

Bar Belle: I like the spiciness. It’s definitely characteristic of the Heaven Hill mashbill. Not everything can be covered in caramel, you all! Embrace the spice, because it’s nice.

Tracy: This is one I’m not going to finish, if that tells you anything.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A Snoopy driving a firetruck ornament … maybe that even makes a siren noise when you push a button.

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What are we drinking today?:

291291 Colorado Rye Whiskey

What the hell is it?:

This single barrel rye whiskey was made by Distillery 291, based out of Colorado Springs, Colo. It is distilled in a copper pot still and aged in American white oak barrels for one year, and then finished with aspen staves. Distillery 291 is a small batch whiskey-making company owned by distiller Michael Myers (not the one with the creepy mask), who aims to replicate the taste, smell and folklore of the Wild West. This rye whiskey was recently named World’s Best Rye by the World Whiskies Awards and has received similar accolades from all over the world. It is now available in Kentucky.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

101.7 proof, $59.99, Mashbill: 61% malted rye, 39% corn

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: Rye whiskey from Colorado! And there is no barley in the mashbill, which is uncommon.

Amber: This smells smokey, almost like a Scotch.

Elizabeth: Or feet.

Kat: It definitely smells different. But it doesn’t bad.

Heather: It has a malty taste.

Tracy: Well, it tastes better than it smells, that’s for sure. It’s like fruitcake!

Kat: I really like this!

Bar Belle: Me, too! It’s different than a high-rye bourbon, but displays a great smoothness and finishes nice. I want to chew on it.

Elizabeth: If you can get past the nose, it’s actually quite tasty.

Heather: I’m not sure I’d put this in a cocktail, but I could sip on it.

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A pine cone with glitter on it.

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What are we drinking today?:

Larceny Barrel ProofLarceny Barrel Proof

What the hell is it?:

Although Larceny Bourbon has been out now since 2012, this is the first new line extension of the Heaven Hill product. Larceny is a wheated bourbon usually bottled at 92 proof. And now, HH is releasing it with a barrel-strength proof. In fact, the bottle we sampled was 123.2 proof, but you’d never know from its crazy smoothness and sweet finish. I’ve liked Larceny since it was launched, but I never loved Larceny — if that makes any sense. However, after tasting the Barrel Proof, I’m smitten of the brown nectar that flows from the pearly gates of Heaven’s Hills. Shoo. I guess we should see what the others say …

Give me the nerdy numbers:

123.2 proof (proof will vary from bottle to bottle), $49.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: I hope you all are ready for some heat!

Amber: Wow! I like that. It pops, and then it’s smooth.

Kat: This is my favorite so far! Tastes like candy!

Amber: I agree. Right now it’s the topper on the tree!

Tracy: This is the bomb. A caramel bomb. It would be good to sip on by the fireplace.

Heather: (Added a few drops of water) It’s actually better neat. The water increased the burn.

Bar Belle: I feel like I’m licking a pole of caramel taffy. I wouldn’t even mind if my tongue got stuck to it at this point. It’s amazing how proof can make such a difference! This Barrel Proof just exceeded my expectations of this brand and elevated it to a whole new level! I mean, I feel like I know who let the dogs out now.

Tracy: Who? Who-who-who?

Bar Belle: John E. Fitzgerald, of course. The guy this bourbon is named in honor of. He was one of the only dudes with a key to the rickhouse back in the day, and they say a few of the better-tasting barrels would always come up a little short from year to year. They’d call them the “Fitzgerald barrels” because the juice was always quality, but also, there wasn’t much of it left. Can you blame him?

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: This isn’t an ornament, it’s for when you’re watching the tree after it’s been decorated, sipping on a great bourbon while the fireplace crackles behind you.

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What are we drinking today?:

Skrewball WhiskeySkrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey

What the hell is it?:

Huh? Peanut butter whiskey? Yes, you heard that right. Peanut butter-flavored whiskey made — where else — than nutty California. There isn’t much about the distilling process on the label or website, but what we do know is it’s an invention by a married couple from Ocean Beach, Calif., who owned (or maybe still own) a bar. It’s also made with real peanuts, so if you have an allergy, this whiskey won’t cure all that ales you.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

70 proof, $26.99

What do we think?:

Tracy: (Takes a whiff) Well, I do smell the peanuts! (Takes a sip) Oh no! No no no!

Amber: It’s like drinking peanut butter.

Kat: I actually might enjoy sipping this on ice.

Bar Belle: It’s weird. Too syrupy and fake flavor-y to me. But I’d be willing to try it in a cocktail of some sort. Something with either jelly or chocolate.

Heather: Might be good in a chocolate shake — like a boozy milkshake.

Elizabeth: It would it be the popcorn ball ornament!

Amber: It’s the pickle ornament kids try to find in the tree! You know, the only one that’s different from all the others.

Heather: Come the first of the year when the diet starts, I might want to dip celery in it.

Bar Belle: That’s not a bad idea.

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: It’s actually the drink of choice on the Island of Misfit Toys.

Justin's House of Bourbon

Justins’ House of Bourbon opens in Louisville, plus Four Roses’ NuLu Cocktail Challenge starts Saturday

Did you really think I’d let the Night Before Thanksgiving — Louisville’s biggest night to go out and chug Claws/compare lives with former high school classmates — go by without a word from your tried and true Bar Belle? Hell no!

Because I’ve got some news you can use that is all about booze.

First of all, what the heck happened over at Left Field Lounge? Looks like someone crashed into the little dive bar that sits just off Bardstown Road in the Highlands. That’s one of my favorite spots, so hopefully they’ll get it patched right quick and we can get back to droppin’ dollars in the juke box and sippin’ on Old Fo Sig.

Secondly, be safe out there tonight so you can stuff your face tomorrow. Here’s a Lyft code for you to plug into your phones RIGHT NOW ($10 off a ride), courtesy of the Kentucky Distillers Association and SafeRideKY: THANKSGIVINGKY19. Don’t say I never gave you anything!

OK, now for the news …

Justins’ House of Bourbon opens Louisville location

Justin's House of Bourbon

Introducing Justins’ House of Bourbon!

If you’ve never been to Justins’ House of Bourbon in Lexington, now you don’t even have to get on a highway to visit the newest location, smack dab in the middle of downtown Louisville. It’s part liquor store, part liquor museum (with dozens of vintage bottles) and part bar — featuring both cocktails and tastings.

The guys behind this also run The Bourbon Review magazine (which I am proud to write for now, so go get those subscriptions!) and also put on The Bourbon Classic, which will be here before you know it. So they’re champions for bourbon and the bourbon industry, and they’ve been so for years.

There have been some rumblings in the bourbon community that the everyday shelf prices of some of the bottles at Justins’ House are a bit pricey. And that’s true. Just remember, not all small-business owners can charge low rates for stuff and keep the lights on. Plus, I guarantee people are willing to pay it. There’s not a big selection of liquor stores downtown, so something about supply and demand applies here — I just wouldn’t know, because I got a C in Economics.

So stop your bitchin’ and stop in for a nice pour of something special. The prices at the bar are great, and they’ve got some bottles you can’t find most places. Plus, they do lots of store picks, and those you can get for a fairly reasonable price.

Justins’ House of Bourbon is located across from the White Castle, at 101 W. Market St.

Here are some more images:

Four Roses’ NuLu Holiday Cocktail Challenge starts Saturday

Cocktail at Taj

This one looks promising: Taj’s Night at the Movies

My ears tend to perk up when I get wind of a neighborhood cocktail challenge, because while the handful of contestants duke it out over who has the best cocktail, I just sit back and guzzle them all down. Case in point: Four Roses’ fifth annual NuLu Holiday Cocktail Challenge, which starts Saturday, Nov. 30.

Five bars are competing with holiday-themed cocktails, and it’s our job to go around and sample them all, and then vote at the link above. This event always seems to produce some great cocktails, and here’s a look at all five:

  • Against The Grain: Chai Need a Holiday
  • Garage Bar: Thurman Murman
  • Nouvelle: Winter’s Heart
  • Taj: A Night At The Movies
  • Rye: There Goes Christmas

While the competition will go through Dec. 20, there is the NuLu Days Sip & Stroll this Saturday as well, from 5-9 p.m. The event is a partnership between Four Roses, Do502 and Lyft, and you can even get a 10% discount on a Lyft ride home that night with the code: SIPNSTROLL.

So I’ll see you all on Saturday, sippin’ through NuLu.

BourbonVille apparel

Let’s ditch ‘River City’ for ‘BourbonVille,’ shall we? Also, a bourbon roundup for your Friday morning

BourbonVille apparel

The staff of the KDF love showing off the BourbonVille gear!

The folks at the Kentucky Derby Festival might be on to something. A few years back, they created the BourbonVille event — which offers bourbon tastings, food pairings and more — to their lineup of actives that begin three weeks before the Kentucky Derby. It’s one of my favorite Derby Fest events, second only to the Great Steamboat Race, of course (as long as I’m riding on the Belle!).

Anyway, they’ve decided to launch a line of merchandise with the BourbonVille theme, because why limit the cool name to just one day? I believe it would make a fine nickname for Louisville, definitely better than River City. BourbonVille or Bourbon City — I’m cool with either one.

From T-shirts to glasses to bags, the line of apparel went live this morning, so check out the full array. They’d make great holiday gifts, just sayin’. Instead of a rock in my stocking, how about a BourbonVille rocks glass, Santa?

“Like the Derby Festival, bourbon is part of our city’s history and tradition, and we wanted to help celebrate that,” said Matt Gibson, KDF President and CEO, in a news release. KDF is partnering with local company 12/13 Apparel by Synergism for the products.

Check out BourbonVilleUSA for all the details. Also, notice how much fun the KDF staff is having modeling the products!

Michter’s drops a $5,000 bottle of bourbon!
Michter's Celebration bourbon

I’ll also take this in my stocking, Santa.

OK, so hopefully nobody will EVER actually drop a bottle of the new Michter’s Celebration Sour Mash Whiskey, because if they do, they’ll be out an instant $5,000!

After a three-year break, Michter’s is releasing the blended whiskey, which was carefully selected by Master Distiller Dan McKee.

“Working on my first Celebration release was a labor of love for me,” he said in a news release. “Ultimately, I chose to take whiskey from two Kentucky straight bourbon barrels and four Kentucky straight rye barrels in our stocks. Each Celebration release is special and unique, and this year’s release differs from the 2016 one, where the whiskey came from three bourbon barrels and three rye barrels.”

In other words, this is what happens when a master distiller is let loose in a rick house and challenged to pick his or her very favorite honey barrels.

So why is it so expensive? Because there are only 277 bottles of the 2019 edition. And it’s in a fancy box!

Yeah, you’re right. Me and you will never get a sip of this, but a girl can dream.

Meet the makers of Maker’s Mark … and drink with them!

It’s rare to catch both Bill Samuels Jr. and Rob Samuels in the same spot, and it’s even rarer to get a chance to drink bourbon with them — unless you’re invited to their Thanksgiving or something. But in a partnership with Liquor Barn, the father and son team behind Maker’s Mark are inviting folks to come out and learn, sip and mingle with them this holiday season.

Called a “Taste of Heritage,” the sessions will be held at both Lexington and Louisville Liquor Barns and cost $25 — but they sound well worth the money, because you’ll be sampling all sorts of Private Select bottles and even some rare vintage MM bottles.

Here’s the schedule, and here’s the link for more info.

  • Liquor Barn Beaumont (Lexington) — Friday, Nov. 22 — 5:30 & 8 p.m.
  • Liquor Barn Springhurst (Louisville) — Friday, Dec. 6 — 5:30 & 8 p.m.
  • Liquor Barn Hamburg (Lexington) — Thursday, Dec. 19 — 5 & 8 p.m.
Other end-of-year releases 

So the Pappy line should be rolling out as we speak. Good luck finding or winning one! Other new releases include the Knob Creek Quarter Oak (which I received a sample of and will be part of my next Tasteless Tastings — hint: it’s yummy!); the last Booker’s Bourbon of the year, called “Beaten Biscuits” after the small, cracker-like biscuits Booker liked to make; and another Four Gate Whiskey release that goes by the name of Foundation. That one is a nearly 10-year-old bourbon that is bottled at barrel-strength — a whopping 119.4 proof!

Stay tuned for more bourbon news today …

Heaven Hill rooftop rendering

A sneak peek of Phase 1 of Heaven Hill’s newly renovated Bourbon Heritage Center

Heaven Hill rooftop rendering

This is a rendering of what the rooftop bar and restaurant will look like. | Courtesy of Heaven Hill

Big things are ahead for the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, and Tuesday night I got to see firsthand just what they’re up to over there — and enjoy a few handfuls of cheese.

If you haven’t been in a few months, you likely didn’t realize the gift shop and tasting rooms were under construction. But because of my bottle-hunting ways, I had been by the Heritage Center a few times looking for some one-eyed whiskey unicorns. The staff always greeted me with a smile and would say, “Pardon the construction, and no, we just sold our last unicorn of the day.” Just my luck.

But Tuesday night, the plywood came down and the dust was swept up to unveil a brand spanking new expanded retail space and three quaint and cool tasting rooms that all have a different theme tied to Heaven Hill’s brands of bourbon.

You can expect the Fitzgerald Room, inspired by Old Fitzgerald Bourbon and referencing the man who often “sampled” from the barrels he was paid to protect. This is also where Larceny Bourbon got its inspiration from — Fitzgerald, larceny, stolen bourbon … you get the idea!

Another new room is The Library, a tasting room that honors the Father of Bourbon, Elijah Craig. There’s a 26-foot-long table with cozy chairs and nuanced decor that all relates back to Craig’s life and legacy.

The other rooms is The Founders Room, inspired by the Shapira family behind Heaven Hill.

These new renovations are part of Heaven Hill’s $17.5 million investment in the expanded Heritage Center, and the staff also showed us a few sneak peeks of what’s to come in Phase 2. What might that include? How about a gorgeous second-floor outdoor balcony attached to a rooftop restaurant and bar. Or a “You Do Bourbon” interactive experience where you get to choose and then fill your own bottle of bourbon. Or about about two installations: the Elijah Craig Exhibit and the Larceny Exhibit.

They promised there is much more up their sleeves, and I’m looking forward to watching these Phases roll out … like a barrel of Elijah Craig rolling into my living room come Christmas Day. Hey, a girl can dream!

All the phases should be complete by spring of 2021.

So next time you’re in Bardstown, stop by Heaven Hill and check things out! The expanded gift shop is worth the 40-minute drive from Louisville alone.

Here’s a look at some photos I took and some renderings:

Barrel Roll text

The Barrel Roll goes down Saturday, Nov. 9, in Paristown

Barrel Roll text

Expect lots of tastings!

On Saturday, Nov. 9, Paristown will be the place to be as the annual Barrel Roll rolls into the neighborhood, offering attendees with a smattering of beer, bourbon, beer aged in bourbon barrels, wine, gin, brandy, tequila, cocktails, food, local music and much more!

I haven’t been to a Barrel Roll, but that will change this year, because the lineup looks so enticing! The event is a fundraiser of sorts hosted by the folks who put on the annual Tailspin Ale Fest.

They set out to honor the humble barrel and all it does for spirits, and it sounds like everyone will have a great time getting acquainted with that concept. In fact, I may need many samples to truly learn how the barrel departs those wonderful flavors to various liquids.

This year, proceeds go to The Paristown Salon, a nonprofit influenced by the French Salons formed throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Live music includes performances by the infamous Carly Johnson and Small Batch Brass.

The Barrel Roll will take place Saturday, Nov. 9, from 2-6 p.m. at Christy’s Garden in Paristown, which is located on Brent Street near the Old Forester Paristown Hall. Tickets are now on sale, and you may even get lucky and score an early bird special! Click on this link to go grab some! They start at $65.

Also related, the Bourbon City Cruisers tuk tuk will be there, and you might spot me on the news Tuesday morning driving one around, maybe taking a reporter or two for a ride. Tune in to WLKY and WDRB! Woot!

Michter's 20 Year Bourbon

Make way for Michter’s 20!

Michter's 20 Year Bourbon

Well hello there!

You think Pappy is hard to get … try finding a Michter’s 20 Year Bourbon! It was just announced, however, that the Louisville distillery is releasing the Michter’s 20 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon in early November.

Last year, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2020 named Michter’s 20 as the winner of its 16-20-year-old bourbon category. I was lucky once — OK, maybe twice — to get to try the 20, and it is absolutely butter! Worth all the hassle trying to track one down, although most of us will never get lucky.

This year’s release was selected by Master Distiller Dan McKee and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson.

So what do they have to say about their beautiful bourbon?

McKee says (in the news release), “By paying such careful attention to maturation, we wind up with 20-year plus barrels that can be really special and complex without being overly woody.”

And Michter’s President Joseph J. Magliocco adds, “It’s an elegant bourbon with lots of depth and cascading flavors.”

The 2019 release will be bottled at 114.2 proof and will retail for a whopping $700!

If you find a bottle, invite me over, please!