Weller Single Barrel

Summer lovin’: New Weller Single Barrel coming in June, folks!

Along with creeping out to see what all this “new normal” is about, we have something else to look forward to this summer: Weller Single Barrel. The wheated deliciousness will be bottled at 97 proof and dressed with a burnt orange label.

This makes me very happy, but also nervous, as I know it won’t be an easy bottle to find — like all Wellers.

“Many of our Weller fans have been asking for a single barrel bourbon for quite a while, and we’ve planned for this addition for a number of years, so we’re excited to be able to make this happen, said Joshua Steely, marketing manager of Buffalo Trace Distillery, in a news release. “Our rye bourbon mash bill has a variety of options, like Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Stagg Jr. George T. Stagg and E.H. Taylor, Jr. bourbons, so it’s nice to be able to offer some variety in our wheated bourbon mash bill as well.”

Weller Single Barrel bottle

Gimme!

The Single Barrel is the newest member of the Weller family, which also includes Special Reserve (green label), Antique (red), 12 (black), C.Y.P.B. (white) and Full Proof (blue). This orange label will definitely look sharp in family portraits.

Suggested retail is $49.99, but good luck even finding it on a shelf. The release says it’ll be out in June and will be released only once a year.

Let the bourbon hunting begin! I can’t wait to try this.

Hunter S. Thompson

Alcohol Professor: Pairing Classic Books With Cocktails

Without some freelancing work, I think I would have done gone crazy by now. I thank the stars that the esteemed website Alcohol Professor continues to take my submissions, because these stories have been fun to write.

This one is all about books and booze — or more specifically, what cocktails to drink while reading some classics. I turned to my Facebook family for some of these suggestions, and relied on my literature background for the others.

And I also talked with the cool ladies at Bourbon Women for their ideas as well. According to Bourbon Women President Kerri Richardson, now is as good of time as ever to revisit the classics — with a cocktail in hand.

“It’s natural during times of uncertainty, crisis or danger to seek guidance or solace from writers who have documented similar conditions, whether in novels or history books,” she told me, mentioning she was thinking about finally tackling “The Grapes of Wrath.”

READ MORE HERE.

On The Rocks Old Fashioned

Holy Toledo!: You gotta try this ready-to-drink Old Fashioned

How am I holding up, you ask? For a socially-bent barfly, not very well. It’s lonely at my basement bar, it’s not fun drinking by myself, and the music sucks! Plus, the bartender doesn’t have any of the necessary ingredients needed for the most basic of cocktails — like the Old Fashioned.

She did have some fancy Woodford Reserve cherries in the fridge, but they expired years ago. Blasphemy!

As you know, the Old Fashioned is the signature cocktail of Louisville, Ky., as proclaimed by Mayor Greg Fischer a six-pack or so years back. I scoured the city for its best Old Fashioneds a few times in the past while I wrote for the now-defunct Insider Louisville.

If you want to step back in time with me and peruse those lists, here they are. (Unfortunately, the new owners of Insider Louisville repurposed the website and discarded of most of the photos, so it’s just the text. Dumb.)

Yes, I now realize the list needs updating, and I will focus on that once things open back up, of course. That’ll be what I tackle after making sure I have a job and all.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing today is because I unearthed a shiny Old Fashioned gem while grabbing takeout last week at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen. I won’t lie to you and say I wasn’t there for the incredible bourbon sale they were (and still are) having, but I also enjoyed a filling lunch of hot chicken tenders and a side of ridiculously creamy mac-n-cheese.

While I was there spending way too much money for someone who is unemployed, Merle’s manager extraordinaire Wayne Sweeney talked me into trying a new, pre-made, ready-to-drink Old Fashioned called On The Rocks that was made with Knob Creek. At first I scoffed (secretly), because most pre-made concoctions I’ve tried just aren’t strong enough and have way too much sugar.

On The Rocks Old Fashioned

Mini but mighty.

But then he mentioned in passing that it was 70 proof.

Wait … what?? Now you have my attention.

You basically just open the little bottle and pour it over ice. You can add your own cherries if you’d like (as long as they’re not expired by more than two years), but the one thing you won’t have to worry about adding is bourbon. The first time I sipped it I was mesmerized. It actually stung my taste buds — in a good way!

The flavoring is spot-on, and it’s a prime example of a great Old Fashioned because it lets the bourbon nab the spotlight, while the simple syrup and bitters take supporting roles. And at 70 proof, this thing will sneak up on you!

My girlfriend, who prefers cider, took a tiny sip and winced like she had just downed a bottle of Tabasco. In my book, that is a successful drink!

Merle’s has them for sale for $12 a pop, or there’s a larger sized bottle that’ll pour four drinks for $40. (I also checked out the website, and it says they’re available at some Kroger liquor stores as well.)

Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen is located downtown at 122 W. Main St. They’re doing carryout, cocktail and bourbon sales Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and on Saturday from 5-9 p.m.

Please, please try the mac-n-cheese! You won’t regret it!

Who wants a bourbon mask?

Bar Belle with mask

Win a mask!

My niece is home from college — Roll tide! — and it turns out she knows her way around a sewing machine. (She did not get this from me, because at her age, I knew my way around a keg, and that’s about it.)

Anyway, she found some bourbon-themed fabric and made me a couple of masks! So I thought I’d give them away to my readers — all seven of you! Only kidding … I think.

These masks obviously are not professional-grade, or else I’d make Andy proud and donate them to healthcare workers. They’re more for everyday folks who need to make a run to Kroger or the liquor store.

I will give away two masks in a random drawing live on Facebook on Friday, April 24, at 4 p.m. All you have to do is follow these steps:

  1. Follow me on social media:
    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/barbellelou
    Twitter: @TheBarBelle
    Instagram: barbelle_lou
  2. Comment on the Facebook post about this drawing by saying “Grease 2 is better.”

That’s it! Two simple steps! I will then load all the names into an online randomizer, and the first two names at the top of the fifth “spin” will win a mask.

Chef John Castro

Alcohol Professor: Baking with Bourbon

Here’s another recent piece I wrote for Alcohol Professor about bringing bourbon into the kitchen and doing more than just sipping on it. Its rich flavors make the ideal vanilla substitute in most baked goods recipes — like cookies, brownies and cakes.

Thanks to Whisky Chicks founder and author Linda Ruffenach, Chef Bobby Benjamin of Butchertown Grocery, and Chef John Castro, formerly of Bardstown Bourbon Co., for the wise words about all things baking and bourbon! They shared the important dos and don’ts when it comes to baking with the brown spirit.

According to Chef Castro, the secret to cooking with bourbon is “a playful spirit and an ego that that will allow you to know when it’s better just to drink it.”

I love that. And Linda also concurs. She says, “You do not want the bourbon to overpower the dessert, plus the alcohol in bourbon can compromise the science in baking where the end result is not what you want.”

Also in the article is Linda’s recipe for Flourless Chocolate Brownies. Yum!

_______________________

As forced hibernation continues throughout the world because of COVID-19 lockdown measures, many people have found themselves returning to a favorite pastime that had been shelved due to, well, the simple lack of time. The art of baking is gaining momentum as the quarantine continues, offering both a goal-driven activity and a way to make more food without going to the store (and here’s what to do if you can’t find yeast, by the way). Let’s face it, there is only so much Netflix one can watch.

While following a recipe to a T is paramount to how the creation turns out, there are ways to add unique flavors and add twists to classic baked goods. We’re talking about bourbon here, folks, and if you have some on hand as a basic quarantine staple like most of us do, then don’t be afraid to bring it into the kitchen!

READ MORE HERE.

Quaffing in Quarantine: Drinks well with others

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout these quarantined times, it’s that I’m a social drinker. I enjoy imbibing with buddies — buddies who I can sit right next to or across from and rant about the week’s stressors. I love the atmosphere of a corner pub, which offers private nooks for one-on-one conversations or stools pulled up to the bar for banter with strangers.

What I do not like is drinking alone. Even with these Zoom digital happy hours, it’s just not the same. You can’t clink glasses, buy rounds or have side chats with anyone. Random friends don’t show up uninvited, you can only drink what you have stockpiled, and there is no Rusty peddling beef jerky! I miss Rusty. And his beef.

No, we are forced to stay inside, glued to our computer screens, hoping for authentic social interaction through a two-dimensional device.

When will this end? What will the new normal be like? How long is too long to hug friends for the first time in months?

When this is all over, here’s how my ideal first night will go. I will get to The Back Door by 4:30 p.m. to catch up with John, Gayle and Steve — and, of course, all my favorite bartenders. I will order a gin and tonic — or maybe the renowned Pirate Slap — because I’m tired (momentarily) of bourbon and beer.

I will then head over to Dragon King’s Daughter for dinner with friends, where we will gather at our favorite long bar table. I will slide in just before happy hour ends and order a discounted bottle of The Whole She-Bang. Over the course of edamame, tacos and lots of talk, I will consume The Whole She-Bang — of course if anyone wants to help me drink it, I’m down.

After we’ve gotten our DKD fill, we will migrate next door to Big Bar, nabbing some tables on the front patio and enjoying some fresh beer while the boys dance on the bar. We will shake hands, exchange hugs, buy rounds, dance and tuck dollars in the boys’ briefs.

It’ll be epic. It’ll be invigorating. It’ll be social. But unfortunately for now, it’ll be only in my dreams.

Let’s all do a Quaffing in Quarantine toast to the future:

May the winds of fortune sail you,
May you sail a gentle sea.
May it always be the other buddy
Who says, “This drink’s on me!”

New Riff Distillery

Alcohol Professor: Kentucky Distilleries Are Raising the Bar

Here’s a piece I just wrote for Alcohol Professor about what the Kentucky bourbon distilleries are doing to help out the service industry, health care industry and stay in touch with their customers. Special thanks to Cordell Lawrence from Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. and Jay Erisman of New Riff Distilling.

I love this quote from New Riff’s Jay Erisman:

“We have every faith and certainty that the bourbon industry will bounce back — in fact, despite the shutdown of tourism, consumers are continuing to enjoy Kentucky’s whiskey. Most of all, Kentucky’s distilleries are, for the most part, remaining in production with distilling and bottling, and that bodes well for the future (and it bodes well for older, well-aged bourbons of the future).”

_______________________

As COVID-19 continues its escalation throughout the world, this faceless, invisible enemy has caused businesses, organizations, and life as we knew it to grind to an unfortunate halt. In the spirits industry, while most distilleries worldwide are closed to visitors, some have continued operations with a skeleton crew, and some have switched gears to help make hand sanitizer for those on the frontline of combatting the virus.

In Kentucky — where there is now two barrels of bourbon aging per resident — the distilleries are doing their part, as one of the state’s leading industries, to offer up monetary relief for those in the service industry, as well as continue to reach their customers in creative ways. Many of them also have swapped out bourbon for hand sanitizer and are getting the much-needed germ fighter to area healthcare workers.

READ MORE HERE
a bored person

I am not alone, I am not alone, I am not alone …

a bored person

Hang in there, friends.

The good news in all this pathetic pandemic panic is that we are not alone. At least that is what I keep telling myself to keep a spark of hope alive.

We are quarantined. We are tired of Netflix and chilling. We want to be amongst our friends, preferably sitting around the Unstable Table at The Back Door, elbow to elbow, discussing the mundane things that happened at work.

Oh, and work. That thing I once spent 40+ hours a week of my life identifying with, giving effort to, finding a purpose in — but now it’s gone. I am one of the thousands in the local tourism industry — or any industry in general — who have been laid off, or lost their jobs, or just been told not to come back to work until all of this blows over.

But will it blow over? How long until it does? And after the dust has settled, will people have the extra income to spend on travel, bourbon tours, cocktails — hell, even a nice meal at a restaurant? That remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, I foresee rough waters ahead. And since we’re in our own tiny lifeboats instead of hunkering together aboard the USS Kentucky — or whatever a big-ass boat might be called — I hope we can paddle together, six feet apart, and all make it out unscathed on the other side. What this new side might look like, I have no idea. I don’t think anyone does.

But just remember. You are not alone. I am not alone. We are not alone.

And with bourbon and a strong wi-fi, we will make it out of this.

What’s in your glass? I’ve been sipping on the new Larceny Barrel Proof, Old Forester 1910, Four Roses Small Batch and Michter’s 10 Year Rye. And no, not all at once, of course. That was Saturday night.

Cheers.

Also, cheers to Gov. Beshear for marking liquor stores as “essential businesses.” And cheers to Gov. Beshear in general. He’s kicking ass and taking names!

Support your local liquor store! This week’s Thinking Outside the Quarantine Box winner goes to Westport Whiskey & Wine for their creative curbside packages. Below is their menu of prepared bags/boxes at affordable prices:

Beer

Stout Beer Sampler $24.99 on sale for $22.99

Two bottles each:

Still Water, Kung Pao

Dark Horse, Plead the Fifth

Against the Grain, 35k

Sour Beer Sampler $30.99 on sale for $22.99

Two bottles each:

Brouwerij Van Steenberge, Monk’s Café

Brasserie Trois Dames, Saison Vielle

New Belgium, Where I Live

 

Spirits

The Great American Bourbon Tasting Kit $150 on sale for $121.00

All 750mls

Basil Hayden, 80 proof

Maker’s Mark, 90 proof

Jim Beam, Black Extra Aged, 86 proof

Old Grand Dad, 80 proof

Knob Creek, 100 proof

6 pack Kentucky Straight Ice

Includes tasting mats and sheet for tasting notes and tasting tips for 6 people.

Let us know if you have more people.

Add on a 6 pack of Glencairn glasses for $40

The Mai Tai Bag $61.99 on sale for $45.99

One bottle each:

Marti, Estate Rum, Panama, 750ml

Italia, Lime Juice, 125ml

Pierre Ferrand, Dry Curacao, 750ml

Barsmith, Simple Syrup, 375ml

6 pack Kentucky Straight Ice

Includes recipe card.

Hot Ice $45.99 on sale for $39.99

One bottle each:

Early Times, BIB, 1 Liter

Liber & Co, Fiery Ginger Syrup, 250ml

Fee Brothers, Peach Bitters, 150ml

7lbs Bag of Home City Ice

Includes recipe card.

The TNS Sour $84.99 on sale for $72.99

One bottle each:

David Nicholson, Reserve Bourbon, 750 ml

Gran Gala Liqueur, 750ml

Barsmith Simple Syrup, 375ml

Master of Mixes, Lemon Juice, 375ml

Fee Brothers Bitters, 150ml

6 pack Kentucky Straight Ice

Includes recipe card.

Los Altos Diablo $83.99 on sale for $65.99

One each:

El Tesoro, Blanco Tequila, 750ml

Italia, Lime Juice, 125ml

Stirrings, Ginger Liqueur, 750ml

Barsmith, Simple Syrup, 375ml

Mathilde Crème de cassis, 375ml

White Rock, Club Soda, 6pk 10z bottles

6 pack Kentucky Straight Ice

Includes Recipe card.

 

Wine

Italian Bag $110 on sale for $75

One 750ml each:

Indigenous, Prosecco

Indigenous, Verdicchio

Indigenous, Primitivo

Indigenous, Nebbiolo d’Alba

Indigenous, Barbera

Indigenous, Sangiovese

Includes recipe suggestions

Life’s a Conundrum Wine Bag $120 on sale for $90

Three 750ml bottles each:

Conundrum, White Wine, California

Conundrum, Red Wine, California

Red Wine Grab Bag $74.99 on sale for $60

One 750ml each:

North by Northwest, Red Blend, Columbia Valley, Washington

Paxis, Red Blend, Portugal

Milou, Rouge, France

Farmhouse, Red Blend, California

Lapis Luna, Red, California

Leftie, Red, California

Bubbles Bag $78.99 on sale for $60

One 750ml each:

Biutiful, Cava, Spain

Gouguenheim, Malbec Bubbles, Argentina

Yulupa, Sparkling Wine, California

Veuve du Vernay, Brut, France

Maschio, Prosecco, Italy

Evolution, Sparkling Wine, Oregon

White Wine Grab Bag $66 on sale for $54

One 750ml each:

Faisao, Vinho Verde, Portugal

Froid De Canard, Sauvignon Blanc, France

Frisk, Riesling, Australia

Belcreme de Lys, Chardonnay, California

Monte Volpe, Pinot Grigio, California

Galerna, Verdejo, Spain

Barrel pick bottles

Don’t sleep on these barrel picks for your bunker

Barrel pick bottles

The current lineup for sale at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen. | Photo by Sara Havens

Yesterday, Pennsylvania called for a closing of all of its liquor stores. I’m hoping that’s just a weird Pennsylvania thing and the idea won’t spread to other states (plus, I think PA is a state-run liquor store type of deal). In any case, while you’re hoarding all that toilet paper, you might want to grab some bottles of bourbon while you’re at it.

While you’re likely to find a great supply of everyday bourbon, wine, beer and other spirits at your neighborhood grocery or mega-store, just remember that it’s important now more than ever to SHOP LOCAL. Plus, your local stores are likely to have special barrel picks, and barrel picks are the best because they are truly one-of-a-kind.

Which exact stores am I talking about? Well, it would be impossible on my Bar Belle budget to name them all off the top of my head, but here are a handful: Westport Whiskey & Wine, The Wine Rack, Old Town Liquor, Liquor Barn, Liquor World (the ones way out in the East End, like off of Old Henry Road), Prospect Wine & Liquors, and the list goes on.

Also, don’t forget about the bars with the special package license that can sell you bourbon by the bottle. These include Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, Butchertown Grocery and Butchertown Grocery Bakery, Justin’s House of Bourbon21c Museum Hotel, Taj and The Pearl.

I stopped into Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen around lunch today to check in with manager Wayne Sweeney about what bottles he’s currently selling. It’s also important to note that Merle’s offers carryout service from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and this is also when they’re open for bottle purchase. While I was there, I was happy to see business was steady — every time he hung up the phone with an order, it would ring again.

I didn’t want to bother him too much, so I just grabbed a few photos (above) and took down some notes. Here are the bottles and prices. And remember, they are all private barrel selections:

  • Elijah Craig Single Barrel — $40
  • Jefferson’s Reserve — $65
  • Jefferson’s Ocean — $105
  • Knob Creek — $48
  • Maker’s Mark — $78
  • New Riff Bourbon — $55
  • Old Forester — $44
  • Woodford Reserve — $61
  • Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit — $67

Wayne had a few minutes to mention some facts about the bottles. He said the Knob Creek is about 13-and-a-half years old, the Elijah Craig is almost 12 years old, and that Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris actually helped his team pick the blend for the barrel-pick Woodford.

There you have it. If you’re looking to beef up your bourbon, I’d go sooner rather than later.

Butchertown Grocery’s picks

I found a list online courtesy of Butchertown Grocery, and I believe these are all available now for purchase at the Butchertown Grocery Bakery on East Main Street.

  • Maker’s Mark — $70
  • Elijah Craig (9 years old) — $45
  • Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit — $65
  • Dickel 11 Year — $60
  • New Riff — $50
  • Peerless — $55
  • Peerless Rye — $75
  • Peerless “Ryediculous” — $22 (200 ml)
  • Knob Creek (15 Year) — $60
  • Knob Creek (10 Year) — $50
  • Knob Creek Rye — $45
  • Four Roses — $55
  • Eagle Rare — $75
  • Willett Rye — $150
empty bar

Bars are closed! Say it ain’t so …

empty bar

Art by Kris Tremblay (Twitter: @h00tcom)

Beginning today at 5 p.m., ALL Kentucky bars and restaurants will be shut down due to this horrendous and sinister coronavirus, which should not even be allowed to share a name with a beer! The mere idea of bars closing is something I never thought I’d have to live through, unless I time-traveled back to 1920 when Prohibition started.

And St. Patrick’s Day is Tuesday! The horror!

Carryout, drive-thrus and delivery options are still available, but how does that help me at happy hour?

Luckily, we’re Kentuckians, and our private bourbon collections are museum-worthy. Plus, I know you’ve been hoarding wine, beer and other spirits since Trump took office, so we will survive.

And hey, they didn’t shut down liquor stores, so at the moment, there’s still a supply to your demand.

The time for you to take up bartending is now. Jump in there and start mixing ingredients like a mad scientist! Trust me, when the bars open back up, you’ll have a new appreciation for our hard workers who shake, stir, strain and maintain quality and consistency with each and every drink.

In the meantime, here’s a suggestion on how to support to your favorite watering hole: Go online and buy gift certificates from them (if that’s an option). That applies to all local businesses, including your favorite local bourbon tour company named after a popular Southern cocktail (shameless plug).

I’m not a thoughts-and-prayers type of gal, but if that’s what it’s gonna take, then Amen! It’s gonna be a long week inside the Bar Belle’s Bourbon Bungalow.