I heard it through the grapevine that Diamond Pub & Billiards St. Matthews will soon be converted to The Fox Den by Louisville restauranteur Jared Fox Matthews. The target opening date is April 22, 2022.
News of Diamond Pub’s closure came earlier this morning on Facebook:
“After 15 years Diamond Pub and Billiards has decided to close our doors. We have loved serving you over the years, celebrating the good and the bad that life has to offer. One of our long time managers has decided to take over the space and to give the building a fresh, new look. Thanks for all the support over the years and we wish him the best of luck!”
Diamond Pub St. Matthews, Facebook
Matthews worked at Diamond for more than 15 years as bar manager and talent booker, and he now owns other Louisville establishments like Equus & Jacks, Black Rabbit and Lou Lou Food & Drink. He plans to give the space a much needed makeover but still keep the sports bar vibe.
So what does that mean? Well, the 11 pool tables are staying, and now there will be more darts, pinball, TVs and live music seven nights a week. There also will be chef-driven pub fare, an extensive beer menu and craft cocktails.
Matthews has been involved in the music scene, hence the emphasis on live music every night.
“Stepping away from the music scene was one of the hardest decisions, but now I get to combine my love for the music industry with my love for the service industry,” he says in a news release. “Having the opportunity to step back feet first in the same building to elevate a bar I helped brand and build 15 years ago is a dream come true.”
I asked if there would be any changes to Diamond Pub in the Highlands — aka “the old Jillian’s” — but as of press time, I haven’t heard back. Matthews did not purchase that location. I’ll keep you updated.
I’m going to admit something that I’m extremely embarrassed about. I have never visited Owensboro, Ky., and I’ve lived in the bluegrass state going on 23 years. I have no excuse, but now, I have a really good reason to head west. Green River Distilling Co. in the ‘Boro has revived a long-lost bourbon brand called Green River Bourbon.
Before Prohibition, Owensboro was actually bustling with bourbon production, and there were more than 20 distilleries in the city. In fact, the Green River Distilling Co. is the 10th oldest distillery in the state.
And while it changed names and owners several times throughout the past century — O.Z. Tyler, Old Medley, etc. — the current owners of the distillery quickly restored its original name once they learned of the site’s rich past.
The original Green River Distilling was founded in 1885 by John W. McCulloch. According to a news release, he was a traveling man who loved to tout his bourbon wherever his path took him.
Green River Bourbon was known as one of the finest Kentucky bourbons in the world, and it even won several international awards, including a gold medal and “best of show” at the Paris Exposition in 1900, and later a grand prize at the 1905 Liege Exposition in Belgium.
Green River also was known as “The Whiskey Without Regrets.”
Unfortunately the distillery eventually shut down during Prohibition, and some of the original structures were lost to a fire. The distillery sat dormant for years until 2016, and now it’s once again producing bourbon by the barrel — about 94,000 of them in 2021.
“I’m proud of our team’s great work bringing Green River back to life in Owensboro after years of dormancy — not only because of what it means to our company, but what it means for this wonderful city,” said Simon Burch, CEO of Green River Distilling, in a news release. “In its heyday, Green River’s success was intrinsically linked to Owensboro’s proud whiskey making heritage. The revival of the brand will make this true once again, and we plan to sell it far and wide, just like the original Green River.”
I met with Green River Master Distiller Jacob Call and CEO Simon Burch on Tuesday at Neat Bourbon Bar as they chatted with some local media here in Louisville. They were excited to showcase the revived Green River Bourbon, and I could tell they genuinely were thrilled to be bringing back a piece of bourbon history.
The bourbon is about 5 years old and is bottled at 90 proof. And the actual bottle is super cool, rounded to match the horseshoe on the bottom. Apparently the design took cues from the brand’s past, including key icons like horseshoes, rivets and the original Green River colors.
Best of all, the bourbon is refreshingly affordable at a suggested price of $34.99! Call said he wants his bourbon to be consumed, not collecting dust on shelves. I shared a taste of the bourbon with Call and Burch, and I will definitely be adding it to my bar as a daily drinker.
With a mash bill of 70% corn, 21% rye and 9% malted barley, the bourbon has a nice spice from the rye and packs some rich flavors of caramel, nutmeg and apricot for being 5 years old.
They’re having the official Green River Launch Party tonight at the distillery, and you should start to see this on shelves around Kentucky very soon. Or you can join me in making a pilgrimage to the distillery to check it out in person!
In 2013, Angel’s Envy came out with a rye whiskey finished in Caribbean rum casks that was — and still is — phenomenal. There truly is nothing at all like it in the marketplace today, so it’s no wonder the Hendersons didn’t mess with the rye for nine years.
Of course they know better than to tweak a product beloved by many, so instead, they’ve taken their rye whiskey surplus and experimented with a new finished product that will be the next bottle in the highly coveted Angel’s Envy Cellar Collection. For the fourth iteration of this collection, behold the Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey Finished in Ice Cider Casks.
The late Lincoln Henderson, who founded Angel’s Envy with his son Wes Henderson, was passionate about innovation, so to honor him, they started the Cellar Collection to produce one-time releases that showcase both experimentation and unique flavor profiles. Wes recently announced his retirement from Angel’s Envy, so now his sons Kyle, Andrew and Connor run the operations at the Louisville distillery.
This newest concept features 7-year-old, 95% rye whiskey that has been aged for 364 days in ice cider casks from the Vermont-based Eden Specialty Ciders. Ice cider is a dessert-style cider that is produced primarily in the northern United States and Canada.
“The flavor profile of this whiskey is very unique — the spiciness of the rye is balanced by the fruity sweetness from the ice cider casks, and there’s a crispness that is really distinct,” said Kyle Henderson, distillery production manager, in a news release. “We’ve never seen a whiskey finished in ice cider casks before, so we’re excited to introduce this finish as part of our Cellar Collection.”
Kyle explained that it was Andrew who first suggested the ice cider finish, and after they took a deep dive into the world of cider-making, “we fell in love with the product and the process and knew these special casks would be an excellent match for our rye,” he said.
The whiskey is bottled at 107 proof and will be sold for a suggested price of $249.99. There will be 6,000 bottles as part of this limited-edition release, and it’ll officially hit store shelves around Feb. 25 in Kentucky, New York, California, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois and Texas. If you’re a 500 Main member, keep an eye out for an email on Feb. 15 where you can enter to win a chance to purchase a bottle.
So how does it taste?
I was fortunate to receive an extravagant media package this week that included a sample of the finished whiskey, plus all the ingredients and tools to make cheese fondue, complete with Vermont apples, Kenny’s cheese, a cutting board, Blue Dog Bakery bread and much more. I plan on trying my hand at fondue tonight, but for now I’ll just focus on the whiskey, since that is what we’re here for.
(If you’re curious to see how the fondue unfolds, I’ll post something to my Instagram later.)
Color: Since this rye whiskey is seven years old, it’s got a decent amount of amber hue to it, but in comparison to some of the other Cellar Collection releases, like the Sherry or Tawny finish, it’s much lighter since the finishing spirit is light in color. You’re probably like, “No duh,” but whatever.
Aroma: You definitely get that apple right up front, and if I close my eyes and inhale, I feel like there’s a late-season Northern Spy apple under my nose that I’m about to sink my teeth into. OK, so I don’t know my apples that well — I pulled “late-season Northern Spy” from the news release — but you get the point. On top of the apple, I get light caramel and roasted cashew notes.
Taste: If you took an apple, cut it into pieces and sprinkled black pepper, brown sugar and cinnamon over it, as well as a light drizzle of hot caramel, that is exactly what I taste here. The rye doesn’t soften at all. You get a little of that ice cider sweetness on the tip of the tongue, and then the fury of the rye quickly warms things up as it moves to the back. The finish is quite pleasant as the spice shapeshifts back into sweet.
Thoughts: This is definitely a great experiment with rye whiskey and ice cider, and it certainly is a one-of-a-kind product. Would I swap it out permanently for the regular Angel’s Envy Rye? No. But nobody’s asking me to. Am I going to shell out $250 for a bottle? I suppose I should do my taxes first and then make that decision later. (Ahh, the benefits of freelancing.)
Bravo, Angel’s Envy, for always pushing the envelope of innovation. This is a great pairing, and I look forward to whatever else is up your sleeve.
We’ve got two chances to score a bottle of the highly sought-after annual release of Woodford Reserve Double Double Oaked, so let’s hope we’re extra lucky this year! So far I have one bottle from each year they’ve come out, so I am determined!
First up, you can head to the Woodford distillery on Tuesday, Feb. 1, where they will be for sale (limit 2 per person) starting at 10 a.m. Chances are, people will camp out/line up early, so depending on how many they have for sale, it might be a cluster-f#$k trying to score even one bottle.
The second chance is a sweepstakes lottery-style release, where you can sign up online for the chance to win a bottle (one sign-up per person). The bad news here is that anyone in the country can sign up for a chance, so winning might be just about impossible. The caveat is winners must pick their bottles up at the distillery in Versailles, Ky., so that might deter someone from, say, Oregon throwing their name in the hat. But who knows.
“Double Double Oaked has such a cult following, which makes it very difficult for consumers to get their hands,” says Woodford Master Distiller Chris Morris in a news release. “This sweepstakes will allow more of our fans to have the chance to try this special release.”
You can enter the sweepstakes anytime from now through Feb. 8. Winners will be notified by Feb. 10 and have until April 10 to purchase their bottles in person at the distillery.
So what makes Double Double so special special? Well, they take fully mature Double Oak and age it for an additional year in a second, heavily toasted, lightly charred, new oak barrel. The extra year creates a bourbon that is distinctly spicier and a little darker and richer than the original.
These bottles are also only 375ml and are sold for $49.99. The bourbon is 90.4 proof, following the standard Woodford Reserve proof of most of its products.
Good luck! And if you end up getting two, remember to reward the messenger!
If I had a nickel for every time someone said, “Oh no! Not another bourbon bar,” I’d be able to afford a decent pour of a Maker’s Mark bottled in 1972 at the newly opened Neat Bourbon Bar & Bottle Shop in the Highlands.
I don’t care what you think, Louisville does not have too many bourbon bars. Why are millions of visitors filling up our hotels year after year? Because they want the Wellerz and the Pappiez and everything else in between. They want a one-of-a-kind bourbon experience they can brag about to their buddies back in Kansas.
Besides, would you rather have another smoke shop or tattoo parlor? How about a pizza place or coffee shop? I think I’ve made my point, so let’s get on to Neat.
Neat is unlike any other bourbon bar in town because its particular niche falls firmly in vintage, dusty category. Opened by bourbon buddies Owen Powell and Danielle Elder, Neat caters to those curious about bourbon’s past.
You won’t find a wide variety of today’s releases on the shelves here, but instead you’ll find older expressions of some of your favorites — bottles that once they’re gone, they’re pretty much gone forever.
I chatted with Neat General Manager Craig Rupprecht and Powell last night while I was there to try a bottle of Yellowstone from 1941.
Rupprecht and Powell have been friends for quite some time, bonding over bourbon and even starting an online club called Louisville Bourbon Hounds a few years back.
While that has since disbanded, you can see their friendship and passion for this hobby called bourbon is evident throughout the comfy confines of Neat.
Rupprecht says of the 165 open bottles on the shelves, about 90% are vintage. That being said, the prices aren’t stiff, which allows you to truly enjoy “history by the pour” ( a phrase Rupprecht coined that is used on the front of each bourbon menu).
Neat is a throwback to a time when bars were dark and moody. Red velvet curtains keep the sunlight out, and plush 1920s-style couches and chairs dot the main bar room. The bar itself is a dark mahogany dotted with red leather bar stools. And memorabilia from bourbon’s past is scattered throughout, a nice touch for fanatics who like to geek over an Old Crow statue or a J.W. Dant serving tray.
There’s even another room toward the back with more plush seating. And in the back corner of the main room, there are some shelves of both modern and vintage bottles that can be purchased.
Neat also employs some of the city’s best bartenders who can help educate you if you’re not sure what to order. But don’t be alarmed — it’s not all neat pours and men boasting about their latest bottle score. There’s a cocktail menu with seven different options, as well as wine and beer offerings. The Old Fashioned is always a solid choice, and Neat’s is quite good.
Neat is open from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it opens at 1 p.m. There are no snacks, so eat before you bourbon. It’s located at 1139 Bardstown Road, across from where Highland Coffee used to be.
On Saturday, Jan. 8, Elvis would have turned 87, if you can believe it. I don’t know much about the man’s sordid history other than the great songs he left us, but I do know he loved to entertain. So the fact that there’s now a whiskey named after him, I think he’d kinda dig it.
It’s not cold Kentucky rain — I mean whiskey — but it is bottled in Tennessee, where Elvis began his career and where his historic mansion Graceland still resides. In fact, the company that is launching Elvis Whiskey is Grain & Barrel Spirits, which is based out of South Carolina and doesn’t indicate exactly where this whiskey was distilled or aged. There are actually two Elvis bottles: Elvis Tiger Man Whiskey and Elvis The King Straight Rye Whiskey.
My guess is if you’re buying the whiskey because Elvis is on the label, you probably don’t really care where it’s distilled. It’s cool, it’ll look cool on your bar, and that’s that.
So let’s take a look at both releases.
Tiger Man Whiskey
Bottled at 90 proof and aged for 2 years — ack! — the aroma and flavor is very mild and sweet. Since it’s quite young for a whiskey and hasn’t spent much time in the barrel, the color is a light gold that you can see straight through. I like my whiskey aged at least 4-6 years, so for me it leaves a lot to be desired.
One of Elvis’ many nicknames was “Tiger Man,” and he had a song by the same name, which he first performed in 1969 at a Las Vegas concert. The mash bill is: 80% corn, 10% rye and 10% malted barley, and the suggested retail price is $49.99.
Elvis The King Straight Rye Whiskey
This 90-proof straight rye whiskey is also 2 years old and has that standard rye whiskey mash bill of 95% rye, 5% malted barley. It’s a bit more spicier, as you would imagine from all that rye and 0 corn, and it sticks around longer — like the chorus to the Elvis hit “Hound Dog.” It’s also priced at $49.99.
Elvis first launched his career in 1954 and quickly became known as “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” With his controversial hip gyrations, his crooning voice and knack for hits, Elvis entertained millions and continues to do so. He even inspired many musicians then and now, including The Beatles. In fact, John Lennon once said, “Nothing affected me until I heard Elvis. Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles.”
Again, I’m guessing if you’re interested in one of these bottles, you’re not buying it for taste. If my mom was still alive today, I would probably get her a bottle for display purposes because she was a huge Elvis fan.
I could never get her to truly appreciate the nuances of whiskey, but I bet I could talk her into a few sips (OK, maybe just one) of this while “Love Me Tender” — her favorite Elvis song — played in the background.
Elvis Whiskey is available online and will also be available in Kentucky starting in February.
Kentucky Kroger stores are about to get busy — as if they’re not busy enough this time of year. It’s time for the annual Pappy Van Winkle lottery, where thirsty bourbon hunters and gatherers descend upon every Kroger store within a 50-mile radius to enter their name for a random drawing of five varieties of the highly sought-after bourbon.
I’m included in this badass bombastic bourbon bunch, and lucky for us, we’ve got some extra time to make it to as many stores as we can this year. Entries will be accepted at all participating Kroger liquor stores between Friday, Dec. 17, and Tuesday, Dec. 21.
If you’ve never participated, here’s a quick rundown. You walk into the Kroger liquor store, fill out a slip of paper with your name and phone number, and then do a “Gettin’ Lucky in Kentucky” rain dance while dropping the slip into the large bin filled with everyone else’s bourbon wet dreams.
If your name is selected Wednesday morning when they draw winners, you will win the chance to buy one of these five Pappy brands:
Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon 10 Year Old: $69.99
Old Rip Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon 12 Year Old: $79.99
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 15 Year Old: $119.99
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 20 Year Old: $199.99
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Bourbon 23 Year Old: $299.99
It’s as simple as that. And let’s say you win but don’t feel like spending that much money on bourbon. In that case, you message your favorite Bar Belle (email@example.com) and she will happily purchase the bottle from you, plus $20 extra for your troubles. It’s the least I can do.
Each store will have at leasts six bottles up for grabs, and you can only enter once per store (although I’m not sure that’s once, period, or once per day).
Here’s the list of participating Kroger stores in Kentucky, starting with the Louisville area. Gather up a group and go hit all the nearby Krogers while singing carols and sippin’ eggnog. Good luck!
It had been quite some time since I last visited the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ky., so when I pulled into the long driveway, I shocked to see a brand new Spanish mission-style building sitting right alongside the rest of the distillery like it had been there all this time — since 1910, that is.
Obviously that new building is the reason why I was there — it was a day of celebration as the media was invited to gather with state and local politicians and industry leaders for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the brand new 14,446-square-foot Visitor Center.
Gov. Andy Beshear was one of the first to take the podium, and spoke with both enthusiasm and optimism for the future. Despite making it through the last grueling year of COVID and crisis, Beshear said, “What is in front of us is as bright as the commonwealth has ever seen. This new Visitor Center is another exciting accomplishment for Four Roses, the Anderson County community and Kentucky’s $8.9 billion tourism industry.”
A highlight of the ceremony was a toast led by Four Roses Master Distiller Brent Elliott, which included a pour of the single barrel he hand-selected for the occasion: a 20-year-old OBSV recipe bourbon that was simply incredible. (The lucky guests at the ceremony were able to purchase a bottle of this special release, and the rest went on sale Wednesday morning when the Visitor Center opened to the public for the first time.)
After the ribbon cutting, we were ushered inside to check out all the fancy new bells and whistles. The size of the retail space alone is breathtaking and beautiful, made with white oak floors and ceilings, as well as 100-year-old reclaimed wood from a barn on site.
Off to the left is Bar 1888, named for the year Four Roses was first trademarked, where I found myself a Maple Old Fashioned — hey, they offered! Visitors will be able to get cocktails here while they wait for their tour, as well as tastings from all Four Roses expressions as well as the brand’s Limited Edition Small Batch series.
And on the right side of the retail space, you’ll find the Al Young Archive Collection featuring an interactive display showcasing the range of bottles and memorabilia from the bourbon’s 133-year history. I was lucky enough to call Al a friend, and although he is no longer with us, I know he would have absolutely loved this archive, especially since he helped unearth most of it throughout his 50+ years at Four Roses.
The Visitor Center also has four seated tasting rooms as well as a 3,850-square-foot outdoor covered patio and cocktail area.
If it’s been a while since you’ve visited Four Roses, it’s definitely time to book a tour and check this out for yourself. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday, noon-4 p.m.
December is the prime month to eat, drink, be merry and give back, and there’s no better way to do it than with an awesome bourbon event that gives back to the service industry.
Bourbon & Benevolence, which will be held Saturday, Dec. 11, from 6:30-9:30 p.m., is an annual event hosted by KOBBE (Kentucky’s Original Black Bourbon Enthusiasts), and each year they pick a different charity to raise funds for. This year it’s APRON, Inc., a local nonprofit that provides financial relief to professional food and beverage workers in the area who are experiencing financial distress due to illness, accident or emergency.
Basically, for three hours on Saturday, you get to sample bourbons from 11 different brands, enjoy food from several food trucks, bid on highly coveted bottles in a silent auction, smoke cigars in a fancy outdoor lounge, and also sip on wine, champagne or beer (if bourbon isn’t your thing — gasp!).
I’ve been to this event several times the last few years and it’s quickly become one of my favorite bourbon-centered events. Everyone is looking for a good time, whether you’re new the to spirit or an old coot like me, and appreciation for charity, bourbon, community and fellowship is felt throughout the room.
So which brands will be there, you ask? Check ’em out:
Smooth Ambler from West Virginia
Bulleit Frontier Whiskey
Rolling Fork Rum
Barrell Craft Spirits
“This year our focus is fully on fundraising,” says Jamar Mack, founder of KOBBE. “We’ve always prided ourselves on bringing people together, so we’re glad to get back to that.”
And speaking of raising funds, the silent auction is going to be insane, with a list that includes many “unicorn” bottles you only dream about owning.
These include big hitters like Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, a 19-year-old Willet Family Estate Single Barrel, Pappy, Weller, Stagg, Blanton’s, and even some vintage bottles.
Tickets to the event are $110, which includes the full tasting experience, access to the silent auction and everything mentioned above, as well as two tickets for the food trucks. A proof of COVID vaccination or negative 72-hour test is required. Bourbon & Benevolence will be held Dec. 11 at Mint on Mellwood, 1631 Mellwood Ave.
For 18 long months, the James B. Beam Distilling Co. (aka Jim Beam Distillery) in Clermont, Ky., was closed to the public. The powers-that-be decided, in essence, that while the world dealt with the ensuing global pandemic, it would be best to shut down tours and renovate and expand the campus.
After all, this was part of Beam’s five-year expansion plan, which included constructing a new distillery (Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery); expanding and renovating the visitor center, which is now called The American Outpost; and adding a full-service restaurant and cocktail bar called The Kitchen Table; among other projects.
Turns out the Beam crew was quite productive in those 18 months, and now the distillery is open again for tours — as well as delicious meals and creative cocktails.
I recently visited The Kitchen Table as part of a media experience, and I can say — with all due respect to the other distilleries in Bourbon Country — that Beam has just one-upped every other distillery in Kentucky and beyond. The restaurant is not only approachable and welcoming, but it offers gorgeous views of the distillery grounds and spectacular cocktails that highlight each Beam brand — from Booker’s and Basil Hayden to Baker’s and Knob Creek.
The restaurant was inspired by the Noe family kitchen table, where generations of Beams have shared meals and, of course, lots bourbon! Beam partnered with QED Hospitality out of New Orleans on the project, and the food as well as the vibe of the place is Southern hospitality at its finest.
Here are a few things I was able to try, which are a great representation of the menu.
Jim Beam Highball — I love a refreshing highball, and this was top-notch!
Spiced Pork Rinds — Yum! Cajun-seasoned rinds were delish!
Venison Poppers — I don’t usually eat venison, but I did, and it was pretty tasty.
Pulled Pork Empanadas — One of my favorites of the day: The pulled pork was smoked on the premises.
Lamb Ribs — A savory treat, with fall-off-the-bone meat.
Golden Hour — This cocktail was made with Basil Hayden, Aperol and fillet blanc, and it was light and crisp.
Hot Brown Pizza — Fun fact: The chefs use the same yeast for the pizza crust that is used in Jim Beam bourbon. This pizza is a best-seller so far.
Smoked Pork Pizza — My favorite pizza of the bunch!
Wild Mushroom Pizza — The smoked gouda on this one was a highlight.
Smash — A cocktail made with Old Grand-Dad 114, lemon, mint and sugar. It was kind of hybrid of a mint julep and hot toddy, served cold over crushed ice.
Burger — Wow! This was my favorite of the day, a double-decker fried burger that tasted like a Frisch’s Big Boy back when Frisch’s used quality meat.
Smothered Catfish — I don’t usually eat fish, but I made myself try this because it looked like chicken tenders. It was pretty darn good! Fluffy and fried.
Smoked Trout — I hate to say it, but I passed on this dish because of, well, fish.
Basil Hayden Caribbean Cask — A neat pour, tried and true.
Bourbon Balls —Can’t go wrong with these balls.
Spiced Apple — This as a treat: vanilla pudding with caramel, granola and baked apple pieces.
Chocolate Blackout Cake — Can I get a hell yeah!? This was my fav dessert because of the luscious hot fudge poured all over it, plus bourbon whipped cream and bourbon-soaked cherries.
As you can see, there’s a wide range of food here, and it’s all sourced locally (when possible). The table I sat at was patterned after a similar table in the Noe kitchen, and it’s reserved for VIPs, although you can request it when making reservations. Because everyone is a VIP at The Kitchen Table, right?! You better believe it.
And I also tried the Black Manhattan, which was made with Baker’s — one of my favorite Beam products.
Right now, The Kitchen Table is only open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday, and it’s recommended you just stop by and come on in. If you’re waiting for a tour or are killing time after a tour, it’s also recommended you sip on a cocktail or two from the oval-shaped center bar.
And lastly, I just love how the restaurant is all windows, showing the dazzling, serene sights of the distillery grounds. I could just sit there all day and look out onto the campus — as long as they kept my glass full, that is.
Here is a collection of photos from my experience. Enjoy!