I know I promised daily updates during our stay in Kentucky, but between spending the days seeing bourbon being made, learning about bourbon’s history, tracking down hard to find bourbons to bring home and then going out and drinking bourbon… well there has hardly been a moment to spare!
Our goal of visiting all the major distilleries is still (just about) on the cards, but our time here has led us to realise that we are going to have to make another trip out here. There are two more distilleries gearing themselves up for visitors and there are a few bourbon history experts who are worth sitting down and chatting with… but our time here is almost done.
What a great few days it has been for us over here in Kentucky and while we now have three days worth of bourboning to talk about, I am going to stick with day 2 on the bourbon trail for this little update.
Anytime you start your morning with a drive out to the Buffalo Trace distillery and know that you have a lunch invite from Woodford Reserve, well you know it’s not going to be a bad day!
At Buffalo Trace we took two of the three available tours and were lucky enough to have Carey as our tour guide. He is the longest serving of the guides at Buffalo and certainly knows his stuff. I tried throwing him some pretty tough questions, but he had an answer for everything I threw at him. More over he, just like the majority of people we have met at the distilleries, is passionate about the bourbon industry and it shows when he is talking about Buffalo Trace.
After a thorough look round and a quick chance to meet Angela (yet another incredibly helpful and open person from this close knit family of producers) and ask her all the geeky technical questions that would have bored the rest of the visitors, it is time to head over to Woodford Reserve.
Dave Scheurich the distillery manager had invited us down for lunch and the full tour, plus a private tasting, so we headed off into the Kentucky countryside in search of Woodford Reserve.
The distillery is set in the middle of some of the most beautiful and serene countryside you could ever wish to find, Stud farms and ranches with beautifully maintained properties line the long country roads that lead to the distillery and visitor centre. Upon arrival we drive up a long driveway and are greeted by a formal yet inviting building that sits comfortably in its grand surroundings.
For a change we found a distillery easily and arrive early so we were taken through to have lunch overlooking the distillery and warehouse. This is as highly polished an introduction to a distillery as we will see in our time in Kentucky, yet it doesn’t feel contrived in any way. As we learn later the visitor centre and distillery have been carefully designed to compliment each other, but Dave has ensured that neither one dominates the other.
After lunch, Dave comes over to join us and we talk about Woodford Reserve and how the current distillery and product has come about. Dave is a charming host who freely shares his knowledge of both his brand and the history of bourbon with us. He understandably takes pride in having set up the distillery and visitor centre, after all the site was all but a ruin when he first saw it and now it is one of the jewels in the crown of the Bourbon trail.
We are taken from the visitor centre to do a full ‘VIP’ tour of the distillery, which includes seeing pretty much every inch of the facilities from the stills to the conference centre, and the fermentors to the bottling room. Along the way we stop to taste the ‘white dog’ straight off the still, for me to hammer a bung into a newly filled cask (let’s hope that it doesn’t leak due to my amateur hammering skills) and to taste the finished bourbon at cask strength. We then go on to do a private tasting with Dave, in which we not only taste the standard Woodford Reserve, but also the limited edition bottlings from the past three years. The highlight for me is the masters collection sweet mash… a bourbon made in the old fashioned way from before the sour mash process… finding a bottle has proven somewhat tricky, but hopefully later today I will have a bottle in my hands (and yes I will be sharing the love when I get back to the UK next week).
We once again leave a distillery feeling that we have put together another piece of the puzzle of the story of Bourbon and have met yet more great characters who have been quick to share their time and knowledge. As with the last few days we are left feeling that the next distillery will have a lot to live up to if it wants to beat the experience we have had today.
Next stops Makers Mark, Four Roses and Jim Beam!