Another reason why 2020 was the green Skittle of years: No beer fests or bourbon bashes and not even a tea party to be found! The horror!
Thankfully, life is returning somewhat to normal, and now the summer of festivals begins with the Jeffersontown Summer Craft Beer Fest on Saturday, July 17. Tickets are still available, and you can get them for cheap ($40) at select Cox’s Smokers Outlet and Spirit Shoppes and Evergreen Liquors, or online ($45), or at the gate ($50, if they’re not sold out).
The festivities will include beer, of course, with more than 85 beer, wine and seltzer vendors on site to share samples and swag. There will also be live music, lots of food trucks, video games courtesy of Rec Bar, and lots more. Even if beer isn’t your thing, it sounds like there will be plenty of options for you between the Truly Bubbly Bar and a winery section.
Once again, Trevor Cravens and Tisha Gainey of HB Productions are responsible for the festival, so you know it’ll be a great time. They also put on the annual Tailspin Ale Fest held each year at Bowman Field.
“We are thrilled to get back to events and connect with people through beer,” said Cravens in a news release. “The pandemic provided us with a chance to examine our business and create some new opportunities, but events are our passion and we have big plans to bring them back better than ever.”
The event will take place on Saturday, July 17, from 4-8 p.m. at the Gaslight Pavilion in Jeffersontown. Better get your tickets soon, because it’ll likely sell out.
Every time this email comes into my inbox, a shiver shoots down my spine. It’s time to announce the details of this year’s Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and I’m spillin’ all the tea!
I’m not going to waste my time or yours with anymore words — here are the damn facts. I hope you get a bottle. But I hope I get a bottle more.
• Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2021 will be released on Sept. 2, 2021.
• The bourbon is 12 years old and will be bottled at 104 proof.
• It’s the 21st edition of the Birthday Bourbon series.
• The color of this year’s label/tax stamp is an olive green.
• The batch consists of 119 barrels that were aged in Warehouse G.
• Birthday Bourbon honors the founder of Old Forester, George Garvin Brown.
• If you can find it on the shelf, it’ll retail for about $129.99.
• Master Taster Jackie Zykan says: “This year, we’ve composed a bold and compelling offering which showcases the unique fruit-forward side of Old Forester. Playful berry undertones with summery dessert notes balance out to our flagship spice finish while taking sippers on a textural journey from velvety to dry mouthfeel.”
• Tasting Notes (according to the news release): Color: Golden Citrine Aroma: A beautiful symphony of berry and dessert components. Red raspberry preserves join plump, juicy blackberries and dried strawberries to set the tone, nestled in a bed of dried herbs and balanced with vanilla creme brulee, subtle pecan, rich maple syrup, and cocoa. Taste: Rich and inviting, the velvety mouthfeel carries notes of buttery caramel, burnt sugar, and a touch of fresh baked Linzer cookie. This silky palate quickly awakens into a bright, peppery, peripheral spice. Finish: Lengthy and warm with subtle dryness. Subdued notes of chocolate, raisin and cool herbs linger in the shadow of stark oak spice.
Retail cocktail mixers can sometimes be tricky, and they’re just about always way too sticky. Sugary sweet concoctions of ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, mixers are made to help you throw a bomb-ass party without having to play bartender.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found some great Old Fashioned mixers for when I just don’t feel like shakin’ my own bitters. So I get it. We want something easy, tasty and — this is a hard box to check — somewhat healthy/natural with not much sugar, right?
Enter Modica Superfood Cocktail Mix, a creation by two Louisville guys — Eric Wentworth and JD Mitchell — who like to drink cocktails but don’t want all that junk that comes in a store-bought sour mix, for example. Have you seen the ingredients list on those? That shit also gives me heartburn, so I say to hell with it!
Anyway, the guys met in business school and decided to combine their entrepreneur knowledge to launch better-tasting, better-for-you cocktails where not much effort was required by the consumer. And they did.
Here’s a better explanation from the website:
For three years, they experimented with ingredients until they found the perfect cocktail combinations. They said “yes!” to naturally-sourced ingredients, antioxidants and B-vitamins. And they passed on preservatives, tons of sugar and anything artificial. They wanted a fantastic cocktail (or two), and they didn’t want to feel guilty about it afterwards.
I was fortunate to try all three flavors at a recent backyard hoedown I hosted. I also shared them with my guests, and people couldn’t stop raving about them. Since I bend toward bourbon, my favorite is the Tart Cherry Old Fashioned, where literally all you have to do is add bourbon. I can handle that.
The other flavors offered are Turmeric Ginger Mule (just add vodka or bourbon) and Cucumber Aloe Margarita (just add tequila). Of course there are all kinds of cocktail recipes on the website as well, so take a gander or come up with your own creation.
Each bottle of Modica retails for about $13.99, and you can find them at more than 20 locations here in Louisville — including Kroger, Liquor Barn and Total Wine.
They’re looking to expand to Lexington next, and if people latch onto these like I have, you better believe global domination isn’t too far up the road.
Raise a toast to healthy drinks. I’ll get my superfoods wherever I can!
I have two suggestions for future flavors: a Tajin Bloody Mary or a Pineapple (or Mango) Jalapeño Margarita.
During a virtual press conference yesterday, Nearest Green Distillery CEO Fawn Weaver beamed with pride as she showed off the finished pieces of Phase Two of the 270-acre, $50 million distillery in Shelbyville, Tenn. The whiskey distillery officially re-opens today, fittingly on Juneteenth, after being closed for a year due to the pandemic and construction of the immaculate, massive gift shop, tasting room, still house, rick houses, the longest bar in the world, and many more amazing features of the distillery tour.
Nearest Green was a formerly enslaved man who not only taught Jack Daniel all about making whiskey, but also worked right alongside him as he got his distillery up and running in Lynchburg, Tenn., just about 22 miles from the new Nearest Green Distillery. The distillery pays homage to “Uncle” Nearest and his dependents, many of whom still live in the area. And in fact, Victoria Eady Butler, a fifth-generation Nearest Green descendant, is master blender for the brand, which has won the most awards of any whiskey since 2019.
What’s most unique about the distillery is it goes beyond whiskey and how it’s made — it not only tells the story of Uncle Nearest, it also champions everything Tennessee, from famous snacks invented in the state (cotton candy, Goo Goo Clusters, Mountain Dew) to telling the role Tennessee played in women obtaining the right to vote and what the women of the Temperance Movement were really after.
“At Uncle Nearest, everything we do has significance beyond the product we sell — it’s why our main hashtag on social media is #MoreThanWhiskey,” Weaver said in a news release. “We could not be more honored to have the opportunity to share the history of Tennessee, and to couple that with honoring the history of one of the greatest figures in the spirits industry, Nearest Green. It’s a distillery experience unlike any other, and nothing can prepare guests for what they will see when we reopen our doors this weekend.”
Weaver also told us during the tour that limiting the Uncle Nearest Distillery just to whiskey “would have been a mistake to me.”
From Weaver’s quick virtual tour around the campus, you can tell every inch of the 270 acres was carefully thought out, planned and constructed with Uncle Nearest in mind.
Weaver joked it’s the “Malt Disney World” of Tennessee, and it’s no coincidence that the distillery not only owns a few trolleys purchased from Disney World, but the retail space was designed by the former president of Disney Stores Worldwide, James Fielding.
The grounds — which were formerly Sand Creek Farms, a Walking Horse farm and event center — also include the Welcome Center; a faux Concession Stand; Philo + Frank’s, a non-alcoholic speakeasy; Barrel House BBQ & Brew; the Family Tasting Room; Master Blender House; and a #WhatLiftsYou Angel Wings Mural by artist Kelsey Montague.
What’s also different about this distillery is that tours are self-paced and self-guided, so you won’t be led through by a tour guide and can take your time experiencing every detail. Tours can now be booked online.
Later this summer, Weaver noted, construction on the Humble Baron, an entertainment venue, restaurant and home to the world’s longest bar, will be completed, as will the Still House, featuring a still, mas cookers and more made at Louisville’s Vendome Copper & Brass Works.
Take a look at more renderings of the space below.
Just as Kentucky life is inching its way to back to (semi) normal, we have a new reason to get back out on that Kentucky Bourbon Trail for a brand new excursion: the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience. The $19 million expansion project fittingly opened on June 14, National Bourbon Day.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony held Monday morning, Gov. Andy Beshear proclaimed it National Kentucky Bourbon Day and talked about how happy he was that we could all gather and celebrate such a thrilling occasion in the bourbon industry.
“Kentucky is fully open, and we are excited,” he said. “This new expansion is going to give people one more reason to visit Kentucky.”
Heaven Hill President Max Shapira also announced a new bourbon release — called Five Brothers — that honors his father and his four brothers, who started Heaven Hill in 1935. The 90-proof bourbon is a blend of Heaven Hill’s traditional bourbon mash bill at five different ages, ranging from 5 to 9 years old. The retail on the bottles, which were available in the gift shop, is $59.99.
After the ribbon cutting, guests were free to walk around the new facility and check out all the offerings and experiences. Here’s a rundown of some of them:
“You Do Bourbon” — A fill-your-own bottle station where you can rinse, dry, fill and cork your own bourbon from one of four brands.
5 Brothers Bar — Located upstairs, this fancy yet comfy bar will offer cocktails and flights to guests waiting for tours, or somewhere to refuel after a tour. There’s also a nice balcony and an event space as well.
Brand Gallery — A huge museum-like space that provides info on all of Heaven Hill’s brands, from Elijah Craig to Larceny to its Bottled-In-Bond products and beyond.
1935 Theater — An immersive video telling the history of Heaven Hill and the Shapira family. It runs every 20 minutes.
It’s important to note that $5 from every You Do Bourbon bottle filled will go to nearby neighbor Bernheim Forest to help with its new Rites of Passage program, an initiative that opens up immersive experiences in nature to young black men and women.
The You Do Bourbon experience will open officially on July 1. And the rest of the new interactive exhibits will be open tomorrow.
Here’s a look at the sights and sips of the ribbon-cutting ceremony:
Ever since Old Forester released a rye whisky in 2019, fans of the brand (myself included, duh) have wondered if they’d one day put out a single barrel or at least barrel-strength version of the rye. Well, my friends, the wait is over.
Today, Old Forester announced it’s introducing the Rye Single Barrel to its product line, and it is not only barrel strength — at a whopping 124 proof — but also unfiltered. And that’s not all. For the first time, this Rye Single Barrel will be available nationwide, so all Old Fo fans can unite, unwind and clamor over this amazing spice ball of fire.
Here’s what I know: The Old Forester Single Barrel Rye will be sold in limited quantities at the distillery and in liquor stores across the country starting June 1. It’ll retail for $79.99 for a 750ml-sized bottle.
I don’t know if that means we need to camp out at the distillery for a bottle, or if it’ll be readily available around town. But either way, I know I’ll eventually get my hands on one of these, and that should be a goal of yours, too, if you like caramel and spice and everything nice.
“The Old Forester Rye Single Barrel delivers on the same balanced and unique flavor profile of our 100 proof expression, only amplified and in unfiltered, raw form,” said Master Taster Jackie Zykan in a news release.
The nose on this one is quite potent at that high of proof, but once you get past the zap of the alcohol vapors, you get a nice creme brûlée and a pinch of black pepper. And when you sip, wow!
Of course you get the spice right up front — bam! — it’s like every Kramer entrance on “Seinfeld” as he swings open the door and takes centerstage. But after that, the sharp pepper and cinnamon notes simmer, welcoming a slice of Grandma’s baked apple pie with a drizzle of caramel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side that play well with both the heat and the high-rye content.
I know the Old Fo Rye mash bill is 65% rye, 15% corn and 20% malted barley, so obviously this follows suit. The finish is also quite nice, leaving a slight burn on your tongue as it travels south. I’d call this one a Kentucky Bear Hug.
I’m a big fan of the Woodford Reserve Distillery Series not only because my highly coveted Double Double Oaked is part of it, but because it’s fun to watch (and taste) a brand experiment with various aspects of bourbon production.
In other words, it’s fun to see Master Distiller Chris Morris play mad scientist.
The latest release — Woodford Reserve Brandy Cask Finished Bourbon — launches today, May 26, at the distillery’s gift shop and retails for $49.99 for a 375ml bottle.
According to a news release, the product is a blend of Woodford finished in French and California brandy barrels, and it has loads of brown sugar and caramel notes, as well as — get this — “chocolate-coated vanilla wafer laced with cotton candy and citrus peel.” Now there’s a mouthful, all of which I’d like to have in my mouth.
“Each core expression of Woodford Reserve pushes the creative boundaries of whiskeys to the extreme, and I wanted this one-of-a-kind limited expression to be no exception,” said Morris in the release. “The result is a unique whiskey — the perfect addition to Woodford’s Distillery Series expressions.”
Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch gets a makeover
Evan Williams just got back from “the doctor,” and it looks like he’s beginning to experiment with Botox. But instead of poison that makes your skin puffy and temporarily removes wrinkles, Williams’ botox was filled with extra proof — and he got a facelift while he was there!
The Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch will now be released in a fancy new bottle and at a higher proof: 90 (up 4 points from 86). The new bottle features Williams’ signature blown in across the top, and it now looks like a premium spirit — but at an affordable price: $19.99.
“Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch pays homage to some of the earliest years of licensed distilling in Kentucky, and an important year for bourbon and the Commonwealth’s signature industry,” said Julie Cole, Evan Williams Senior Brand Manager, in a news release.
“With a return to the original 90 proof, the award-winning mash bill … is full-flavored and works both as a cocktail base and stand-alone sipper. We are excited to bring more focus to what is known as the ‘best kept secret’ in the Evan Williams Bourbon family.”
Around The Horn
So I haven’t been keeping up with some of these release announcements because I’m a busy girl … and there’s like a new bourbon coming out just about every day now. But I’ll try to be better by doing better.
Also, I have a bar full of new bourbons to try, and I’m gonna need some help! I’m way behind on my Tasteless Tastings, so I’ll need to schedule one of those ASAP! Holler at me if you’d like to join, and that way I’ll know you’ve read this entire post to the end.
But, a quick look at some other new releases:
E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Bourbon — 10-year-old bourbon aged in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouse C, which Col. E.H. Taylor built in 1885.
Weller Full Proof — Blue label Weller, bottled at 114 proof. Good luck, you won’t find it.
Weller C.Y.P.B. — Stands for “Craft Your Perfect Bourbon,” while label Weller, bottled at 95 proof. Good luck, you definitely won’t find it.
Angel’s Envy Finished in Madeira Casks — Part of the Cellar Collection, this new release is finished in Madeira wine casks, a type of wine made on the Portuguese Madeira Islands off the coast of Africa.
Buzzard’s Roost Peated Barrel Rye — For this release, the brand’s sixth, they actually imported peat logs from Scotland to add smoke to the process, much like peated scotch in Scotland.
I don’t know what it is about this new release, but if someone came up to me and asked me to describe Kentucky in one single pour, I would choose Square 6, the first bottled bourbon released from (and made at) Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Louisville.
The high-rye bourbon recipe sings to my tastebuds. It’s a sipper for sure — don’t be adding anything to this except maybe ice. But at 95 proof, ice isn’t really even needed.
The name Square 6 comes from the plot of land that housed Evan Williams’ first distillery in 1783, which history claims is also Kentucky’s first commercial distillery. The Evan Williams brand, as you know, is owned by Heaven Hill.
At a press conference this afternoon, Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau was eager to share his new release with us, saying, “This is one of my babies. It’s truly a labor of love, and I can’t wait to see what you think.”
Filiatreau included some tasting notes during his presentation, and he offered up some actual ingredients on a plates for us to taste and smell along with. What this bourbon oozes are notes of tobacco, fig and honey, along with a bit of cardamom and cinnamon.
The tobacco smelled absolutely amazing, but the cardamom was a bit overpowering — possibly because I put it in my mouth, and I think we were just supposed to smell it. Oops.
But back to the bourbon. The high-rye recipe is 52% corn, 35% rye and 13% malted barley, and it was distilled right at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which opened in 2013 and makes one barrel per day.
Filiatreau says this first release of Square 6 will be one of many, as they have experimented with at least 12 different mash bills since they opened. This release features bourbon that was aged five years.
For a high-rye recipe, there’s not that harsh bite you might expect. Rather, it’s a balanced potpourri of rich caramel, vanilla, white pepper and a mellow spice, which could be the sixth Spice Girl.
Even Filiatreau said it’s not so much a gut-punch Kentucky hug but rather a nice pat on the back.
About 15 barrels went into this initial release, and when it’s gone it’s gone. But alas, there will be more varieties in the near future. Square 6 retails for $89.99 at the downtown distillery and a few stores in the area.
Derby is a time of joyous celebration in Louisville and beyond. Sure, we start the party about a month out, but who’s counting?
So it startles me every time I see hate rear its ugly head and project its vitriol toward the legendary mint julep. What did a mint julep ever do to you?
It’s put smiles on millions of faces for decades, and Churchill Downs alone serves up more than 120,000 of them during Derbytime. In fact, it’s been the drink of choice at Churchill Downs since 1938, so take that and shove it down your mint-hating pie hole.
I’m not saying the mint juleps served at the racetrack are the epitome of what the cocktail can be. They’re far from it, especially since it’s usually pre-batched and made quickly for the masses.
But if you slow things down — you know, the Southern way — and make one at home using your favorite bourbon, I bet you’ll see this drink in a new light.
If you don’t feel like playing bartender, then go hit up one of our many fabulous cocktail bars for their take on the mint julep. Some that come to mind are Proof on Main, La Chasse (which just won the Four Roses Rose Julep contest), Bourbons Bistro, Taj, Meta, Martini’s Italian Bistro, Jockey Silks, and the list goes on and on.
I love introducing newbies to the mint julep, and I also like trying to convert haters, too. Let’s face it: The mint julep is the “Grey’s Anatomy” of drinks — it will never be canceled, nor should it.
One of my favorite recipes — which I’ll be making feverishly on Saturday at some friends’ Derby parties — is the chocolate mint julep. It’s as tasty and decadent as a Thin Mint, with a little bite in the back for good measure. There’s still time to gather up all the ingredients, so get to it! Your guests will thank you.
Bar Belle’s Chocolate Mint Julep
1 1/2 oz. Kentucky Bourbon (Use one that’s at least 100 proof or higher; I recommend Old Forester 100 Proof, Four Roses Single Barrel, or Henry McKenna Bottled-in-Bond)
1 oz. Simple Syrup (Just mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boom!)
Fill up a glass with crushed ice. In a separate mixing glass, throw in your bourbon, Ballotin and simple syrup with some mint and lightly muddle the mint. Swirl for 20 seconds, then pour over ice. Add a mint sprig as a garnish.
I was busy last month chatting with four talented women in the whiskey business for a series of profiles for The Bourbon Review. It was a dream assignment for me, as I got to ask the questions I’ve always wondered to women I’ve always admired — and one I met for the first time.
Some of the questions I kept the same, but mostly the focus was on each person’s journey to where she is today. I chose the Q&A style of interview so that their own voices would shine through, and I think it worked pretty well.
You tell me if it worked. Here they are in order of publication date.
In 2015, Kentucky native Alex Castle got the email of a lifetime. She was working as a production supervisor for Wild Turkey at the time, where she had landed soon after getting her chemical engineering degree from the University of Kentucky. The email posed a simple question: Would you be interested in working for a startup distillery in Memphis?
Castle had been at Wild Turkey for more than four years and had gotten a taste of the day-to-day operations of a large bourbon distillery. She loved her job there, but this new opportunity was one she couldn’t pass up. Fast-forward five years, and Castle is now the master distiller and senior vice president of Old Dominick Distillery, located in the heart of downtown Memphis.
Seven years ago this summer, Andrea Wilson made the decision to join the team of the up-and-coming Michter’s Distillery after 10+ years working for spirits giant Diageo. Michter’s was just getting ready to open its first Kentucky-based facility in Shively, and Wilson saw this as a great opportunity to further expand her distilling experience and join a crew who shared her passion and dedication to the craft.
Wilson left her job with Diageo on June 30 and started with Michter’s the very next day, on July 1 of 2014. Now, as executive vice president and master of maturation, she works endless hours in all facets of production and has helped shaped Michter’s into the premium brand it is today.
In 2007, Jane Bowie was crashing on her mother’s couch while back in Kentucky for a friend’s wedding. She had just finished a teaching job in Japan and was ready for her next adventure, which she thought might take her to New Zealand. As fate would have it, though, life rerouted her to the small town of Loretto, Ky., population 737.
Bowie’s mom had cut out a help-wanted ad from the newspaper and suggested she apply. The Maker’s Mark Distillery was looking for an event coordinator. To appease her parent, Bowie applied for the job in her own special way. The first line of her cover letter read: “I don’t want this job, but …” Bowie proceeded to outline her dream job for the company, which would send her all over the world sharing the good news about Maker’s Mark bourbon.
Of course this unique approach caught the eye of Maker’s Bill Samuels Jr. and his son Rob Samuels, and they quickly hired Bowie as a global brand ambassador. Since then, Bowie has worked her way up the ladder in — not surprisingly — some of the most unconventional ways, and now she serves as the master of maturation and director of innovation for the company.
In 2013, the Nethery family of Shelby County, Ky., was at a crossroads. Should they continue a fulfilling yet slightly stagnant life as they knew it — with husband Bruce farming the family land and wife Joyce teaching high school chemistry? Or should they bet the farm and do something much more unconventional and risky — like building a bourbon distillery from the ground up?
Kentucky is lucky the Netherys chose the latter, and while Bruce still farms the land, Joyce runs the operations at Jeptha Creed Distillery, serving as CEO and master distiller, while daughter Autumn takes the helm of co-owner and marketing manager. Even son Hunter pitches in, although he’s not 21 yet, helping out in production and farming while he learns the trade. And we hear he even has a knack for harvesting honey — just another perk of owning a farm craft distillery.