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.

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.


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:


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



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.



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.

Wash hands, be smart, support local businesses

It’s a mad, mad world, y’all. I’ve always wondered how mass hysteria would start, like in the case of a zombie apocalypse or “The Handmaid’s Tale” premise. And now we know.

I’ve never made a meme before, or whatever they’re called, and frankly I’m getting tired of them. But I learned a long time ago from Punky Brewster that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Anyway, most of you might be content to isolate yourselves and binge on Netflix and toilet paper. But some of us are social creatures, and we refuse to let fear win. Yes, we will take every precaution necessary and wash our hands 80 times a day and bathe ourselves in Purell like it’s Dundee Dip.

Truth is, our local businesses need us right now. And it just so happens that I need a drink. So Saturday afternoon, despite the St. Patrick’s Parade being postponed, I will still patronize the bars and restaurants on Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road because I believe it’s my civic duty as The Bar Belle to do so. I even thought of a name: Corona Crawl 2020.

I extend the invitation to anyone who wants to join. And I also will not judge you if you don’t, as long as you don’t judge me if I do. We all operate under free will, and if my will is craving green beer (I mean Guinness), then so be it.

Be safe, be smart, tip well and wash your damn hands!

#supportlocalbusinesses #keeplouisvillelit #barbellelou #coronacrawl2020

Bar Belle column

The Bar Belle returns to Louisville media

Bar Belle column

Don’t call it a comeback.

Unless you follow this here website, The Bar Belle column has been missing in the Louisville media landscape since Insider Louisville shut down in August 2019 — and if we’re talking print journalism, it’s been since my LEO days, which came to an end in August 2014. (What’s with the month of August?)

I’m happy to announce I am returning to local media, and you can now find my column in each issue of Food & Dining magazine, which you can get online and at various locations around town. And it’s free!

In this first piece, I include a roundup of some of my favorite new bars, plus the old-schoolers that have stood the test of time. Since this issue will be on the stands during Derby, I wanted to help point people in the right direction when it comes to my favorite things — cheap drinks, crafty cocktails and unpretentious watering holes.

In upcoming issues, I plan to continue my deep dive into neighborhood bars all around the city — from Shively to St. Matthews and every nook and cranny in between!

Cheers! It feels good to be back in the saddle!

shots of bourbon

Shots of Bourbon Classic 2020

shots of bourbon

The ultimate tasting mat. | Photo by Sara Havens

It was a wild ride — one full of bourbon, bourbon knowledge and more bourbon. But Bourbon Classic 2020 is now in the books, and all I have to show for it is a tad bit of a hangover and, thankfully, an encyclopedia full of experiences.

I tasted Pappy, I tasted William Larue Weller, I tasted bourbons not available to the public and I got a taste of what happens when the bourbon industry comes together with local chefs and bartenders for an extraordinary evening of blissful food and cocktail pairings.

I hope this doesn’t come off as, “Hey, look what I got to do and you didn’t!” I’m simply sharing my experiences here so that next year, when this event rolls around, you maybe get a ticket and try it out for yourself. In fact, I think tickets might already be on sale for 2021.

This past weekend’s event was completely sold out, and I met people from all around the country — just one one afternoon session! My table, during the “Best Whiskeys of the World” Bourbon University class, included people from Cleveland, Michigan and Florida. That’s the most fun part of it — witnessing all of these people flock to your hometown for a one-of-a-kind experience in your own backyard.

Instead of giving a laundry list of the sordid details, I thought I’d just share some shots of Bourbon Classic 2020.