Evan Williams Kentucky Derby Festival bottles

Evan Williams limited edition Kentucky Derby Festival bottle now available!

Evan Williams Kentucky Derby Festival bottles

The bottles are here! | Photo by Sara Havens

Forget the damn groundhog. The first sign of spring in Louisville typically comes courtesy of the Kentucky Derby Festival, and this most recent announcement makes us yearn for warmer weather, flowering dogwoods and all things Derby and bourbon, of course!

The limited-edition Evan Williams Kentucky Derby Festival Single Barrel bottles are launching today — right now, in fact — and you can even swing by the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience from noon-4 p.m. and dip your own bottle and affix the gold Pegasus Pin.

New this year is the color of the wax — a hunter green that replaces the gold wax from years before. This darker color both complements the bourbon and the label and also makes the gold pin pop!

dipping bottles at Evan Williams

Derby Festival Chair Judy Hess and President Matt Gibson watch as Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau dips a bottle. | Photo by Sara Havens

I swung by the downtown distillery to watch them dip the first few bottles, and it truly is an experience.

There are only 600 of these bottles available to the public, and each one comes with a gold pin that is part of the bottle, and also a Kentucky Derby Festival Pegasus Pin for you to wear.

The bottles retail for $74.99 and are a stout 113 proof — commemorating both the 65th Kentucky Derby Festival and the 48th year of the Pegasus Pin (64+48=113). Look, Ma, I did math!

The bourbon was distilled in 2012, making it 8 years old.

Artisanal Distiller Jodie Filiatreau started the press conference off with a toast (gotta love bourbon press conferences), saying, “Let’s raise a toast to Kentucky’s heritage and usher in the 2020 Kentucky Derby.” He said Evan Williams always is happy to partner with the Kentucky Derby Festival, and he’s looking forward to sharing the bourbon with the public.

Again, today, Wednesday, Feb. 19, you can dip your own bottle from noon-4 p.m. at no cost other than the price of the bottle. And remember, only 600 bottles are available.

More photos on the high-tech dipping experience — and cookies — below.

Woodford Reserve

New releases: Batch Proof, Barrel Proof and bourbon-battered beer

Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy your bourbon collection as it now stands, along come more damn releases — but that’s a good thing! Right?

Batch Proof
Woodford Reserve

Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

First up, Woodford Reserve is releasing another limited-edition Batch Proof, which is up slightly in proof from last year’s first-ever Batch Proof release (123.6 vs. 123.3). Hey, we’ll take what we can get, right! I thought last year’s was incredible, so I’m excited to try this one on for size.

“Most people do not get to experience Woodford Reserve at such a high-proof presentation, so we are honored to share this special bourbon with the public,” said Master Distiller Chris Morris in a news release. “The intensity and depth of flavor found in Woodford Reserve Batch proof is truly remarkable.”

Thanks, Chris. Now I really need to try it!

According to the release, some flavor notes include rich raisin, brown sugar, “spicy leather character” (huh?) and cedar wood. Sounds like Grandma’s old closet to me.

Regardless, this is going to be great stuff. It’ll retail for $129.99.

Barrel Proof
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Photo by Sara Havens

Next up, it’s the 2020 release of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (A120), at a whopping 136.6 proof! Each year, the Barrel Proof starts trickling out to thirsty bourbon fanatics, and it has garnered top accolades throughout the years, including Whisky of the Year.

This is bourbon in its purest form, you all! The only thing they do to it after dumping from the barrel is filter out the flecks of char.

It’s uncut, 12-year-old bourbon that packs a punch as well as a fascinating flavor that you just can’t put down. It’s hot, it’s sweet, it’s sticky. It’s what you’d taste if you found yourself in a rick house with a long-ass straw.

This usually retails for around $60-$70.

Bourbon-aged beer

And finally, Angel’s Envy is preparing to launch a barrel-aged beer program called “Angel’s & Ale,” and its first partner in crime is Against the Grain.

Angle's & Ales

Courtesy of Angel’s Envy

Apparently, AtG created a Belgian Quadruple Ale that was aged for three to four months in port barrels formerly used to finish Angel’s Envy core product.

While the beer will be available for the entire month of March at AtG, they’re having a kickoff party on Feb. 28 at the Angel’s Envy Distillery, just right across the street from AtG. And more good news: They’ll be announcing additional “Angel’s & Ale” collaborations throughout 2020.

Can’t wait to try this brew out, as I’m curious how much flavor resonates from a used port barrel that has aged bourbon for a few months.

Cheers!

Brent Elliott and Bar Belle

Four Roses’ annual Flower Hour is tonight at Nanz & Kraft!

Brent Elliott and Bar Belle

See, Four Roses Flower Hour is fun!

If you’ve never been to a Four Roses Flower Hour before, you’re definitely missing out — take my word for it! So what if you’re not into flowers. Are you into bourbon? Are you into meeting master distillers? Are you into cheese???

This annual event, which takes place tonight — Friday, Feb. 7 — at Nanz & Kraft Florists, includes all of that for a low, low price of $10, which benefits the American Heart Association. Basically from 5:30-8 p.m., you mingle, grab handfuls of cheese, imbibe cocktails and/or Four Roses bourbon and rub shoulders with Master Distiller Brent Elliott.

Plus, there are all sorts of other snacks and coffee tastings, live music from Swing Theory, and an array of silent auction items that includes rare Four Roses bottles!

If you want to go the fancy route, pay $20 at the door for a VIP ticket, and you’ll receive a goody bag full of all sorts of delicious stuff.

Think of it as happy hour on steroids — with flowers.

Nanz & Kraft is located at 141 Breckenridge Lane in St. Matthews.

Lamar Jackson bobblehead

Lamar rides a Raven on latest bobblehead!

Lamar Jackson bobblehead

Lamar rides a raven!

Look how cute this thing is! The Lamar Jackson bobblehead was officially released today by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum. Yes, I guess that’s a thing.

The fun decoration — or toy? — features Baltimore Ravens quarterback and NFL MVP Lamar Jackson riding a raven. As you know, Lamar played quarterback here for Louisville just a few short years ago.

Wearing a purple No. 8 jersey, the smiling Lamar bobblehead is holding a football and sitting atop a black raven on a base with the Ravens’ logo. Each bobblehead will be individually numbered to only 2,020, and they are available through the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame’s online store. The bobbleheads will cost you $40, plus $8 for shipping, and will be sent out in June.

“Lamar’s bobbleheads have been among the most popular we’ve had over the past year, and the riding series has been one of the most popular, so combining the two was an easy decision,” said National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum co-founder and CEO Phil Sklar in a news release. “We think this bobblehead turned out great and will be a fan favorite.”

The bobbleheads were created by FOCO, an official licensee and manufacturer of Baltimore Ravens and NFL merchandise. If you check out that website link, you’ll see some of the newest bobblehead creations featuring players from the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs.

Doc's Bourbon Room

2,000 bottles of bourbon on the wall … take one down, pass it around at Doc’s Bourbon Room

Doc's Bourbon Room

Doc’s Bourbon Room officially opens Wednesday, Feb. 5. | Photo by Sara Havens

I saw the bourbon bat signal shoot through the midnight sky. Word of a new bar opening spread around town like a sinus infection. Thousand bourbons, I heard. All kinds of whiskey. Cocktails galore.

After a recent visit to Doc’s Bourbon Room, I can sign my name to the long list of supporters. Doc’s is legit, and it’s exactly what Whiskey Row needed.

Prices are reasonable, and pours from the inventory of about 2,000 bottles can be enjoyed in 1-ounce or 2-ounce increments. That means if you just want to try something, like the latest Old Fitz 15 Year, you don’t have to spend an arm and a liver doing so.

The outgoing and competent staff explained that they’d like to have 3,000 bottles by Derby. It’s great to have goals!

I decided to try out their signature Old Fashioned because, after all, it is the city’s official cocktail, and I’ve been assigned by the mayor to investigate the best in the city and make sure every establishment is up to par. Doc’s certainly is. Their Seasonal Old Fashioned was made with Michter’s Bourbon, fig and sage demerara, and birch bark bitters — and it was tasty!

food at Doc's Bourbon Room

All mine! | Photo by Miriam Rodriguez

But not too tasty. A good Old Fashioned should never be masked. Meaning, if bourbon isn’t the first thing you taste, it’s a waste of sugar and calories. That one cost $13 — a typical price for cocktails at fancier bars downtown — but you could also create your own Old Fashioned using a cheaper bourbon, and I’m sure the price would come down a few bucks.

The cocktail menu included a dozen options in all and showcased some that didn’t have bourbon or whiskey at all — in case there are those people among us.

The small-bites menu features everything from pretzels and beer cheese to fried green tomatoes, spring rolls and buffalo cauliflower (Huh? And nope! I firmly believe cauliflower is the vodka of vegetables. Take that, Oprah!).

I also sampled some scrumptious dessert that I had to see (and bite) to believe: a Grilled Hershey Sandwich. It was exactly what you’d imagine: a grilled cheese sandwich with melted Hershey bars where the cheese should be. A little raspberry sauce was drizzled over to make it appear healthy — and boom, you’ve got yourself the best thing that’s been in your mouth since Grandma’s pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving!

It seems like the food is meant to be shared, making Doc’s Bourbon Room an ideal stop before a game or concert … or just a place to gather after work with friends.

It’s fun to marvel at the endless shelves of whiskey, but being the weirdo I am, I wondered what would happen if an earthquake were to hit Kentucky. All those 2,000 bottles would come crashing down, as would my own small collection in my home, and we’d all have an unfortunate situation on our hands. Let’s just hope that never happens and work on securing some insurance should an unfortunate act of god occur.

Anyway, Doc’s Bourbon Room is a welcome addition to Whiskey Row! It officially opens on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

Who wants to try and drink all 2,000 bottles with me before Derby?

Here are some more photos of the eats, drinks and all those bottles.

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.

Angel's Envy cocktail menu

Cocktails about nothin’? The Angel’s Envy winter cocktail menu is all about ‘Seinfeld’

Angel's Envy cocktail menu

A cocktail menu about nothing. | Photo by Sara Havens

You know those people. They go around quoting “Seinfeld” like the show just came out last week — and you’re supposed to understand (and laugh at) every little inside phrase from sponge worthy to close talker to no soup for you!

I get it. I respect “Seinfeld,” but I’m here to confess I never was an avid watcher. My first front-page story, however, was covering the series finale for my college newspaper The Post in Athens, Ohio. I hopped from dorm room to coffee shop reporting on people’s devastation that the nine-year show was coming to an end. That was 1998.

And this is 2020. Which is actually a quote from one of my journalism heroes, Barbara Walters, but that’s another story.

While you all with taste were engrossed in “Seinfeld,” I was more enamored with “Melrose Place,” “Friends” and “Blossom.”

But back to the show about nothing and its tremendous support group of die-hards. I stopped by Angel’s Envy Distillery Tuesday afternoon for several reasons — one of which I cannot talk about until next week*. The one I can mention is the distillery bar’s new menu for winter, which is COMPLETELY “SEINFELD”-THEMED!

Mike Bohn

Angel’s Envy Bar Manager Mike John talks “Seinfeld” and cocktails. | Photo by Sara Havens

I’ll list the names of the drinks below, which I’m sure all you nerdy fanatics will understand 100%. I was more interested in the ingredients, but that’s just me. The one we got to sample was called The Beach, which I don’t get the reference to, but it was delicious! It was made with Angel’s Envy Rye, Averna, coconut, black walnut and salt.

The talented Angel’s Envy Bar Manager Mike Bohn whipped it up for us and explained the concept behind the menu and the cocktail. And the idea is pretty simple: Everyone loves “Seinfeld,” including us. So let’s make a cocktail menu based on popular words or phrases from the show.

As a cocktail consumer, the options are both creative and appealing. So why not mix craft drinks and comedy — with a twist of skill and a wink to pop culture?

*Stay tuned for a very special episode of The Bar Belle next week, where I’ll tell you why I was really at Angel’s Envy. 

 

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the list of drinks on the Angel’s Envy winter menu:

  • The Summer of George — Angel’s Envy Bourbon, grapefruit, lime, maple, allspice
  • Serenity Now — Angel’s Envy, yellow chartreuse, St. Germain, cacao, chipotle
  • I Don’t Want to be a Pirate! — Angel’s Envy, aged rum, Velvet Falernum, cinnamon, peppercorn
  • Festivus Flip — Angel’s Envy Rye, winter spice, cream, egg, soda
  • Come Back, One Year! — Angel’s Envy, cream, spices, butter (served hot or cold)
  • Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That — Angle’s Envy, tamarind, quince, white port, citrus, gremant
  • The Beach — Angel’s Envy Rye, Averna, coconut, black walnut, salt
  • The Jr. Mint — Angle’s Envy, chocolate, mint, genepy, coconut, milk
  • No Soup For You — Featured cocktail of the day

Also new at the Angel’s Envy bar is a library of cask strength Angel’s Envy that dates back to 2013! Giddyup!