Tag Archives: american whiskey trail

Whiskey Trail: Day Three

Charles with one of their fermenters

Charles with one of Woodford’s fermenters

Day three included visits to Woodford Reserve and Wild Turkey. Out of all the distilleries we visited, these were the two that were least familiar to me. My introduction to American whiskey was through Jack and Cokes or whiskey and ginger ale highballs. Woodford wasn’t as well known within my college circles, and if we were going to buy whiskey, it would probably be Beam or Jack.

One of the coolest parts of each tour was their master distiller. At Woodford, Chris Morris showed us around and answered my (many) questions about booze, history, classifications, and boozy science. Outside of the nerdery, the campus was gorgeous. Theirs is the oldest working bourbon distillery in the country. It’s beautiful, and holds the distinction of being a National Historic Landmark.

Jimmy Russell is awesome.

Jimmy Russell is awesome.

The coolest part of visiting Wild Turkey was getting to hear from Jimmy Russell. He’s been making whiskey there for 60 years (!!!) and knows or knew every important player in the bourbon game. In fact, he’s been making bourbon for ten years longer than bourbon was legally required to be made within the U.S.

He’s also friendly. When he found out I was from Alabama, he said, “Well, War Eagles!” We were able to get him into storytelling mode, and he told anecdotes about his friends, bourbon and changes in legislation. He’s a living part of bourbon history, and I want to collect his stories.

The third day was also where the journalists started hanging out and talking less cautiously. After dinner, we came back and spent time sipping Seelbach Cocktails in the Seelbach Hotel bar. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to tour the Rathskeller speakeasy area due to time constraints.

I also realized on this day (Wednesday) that I wanted to come back. The science and history and picky details of whiskey production are amazingly interesting, and I want to learn as much as I can about them. There’s only so much you can glean from online sources, and I want more. I’ll for sure be back.

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Whiskey Trail: Day Two

Day two was our Suntory-Beam visit.* We started the day by sleepily boarding the bus at 7:30 a.m. After an uneventful (and half-asleep) drive, we reached Jim Beam. This visit was one of the most interactive tours we experienced, and started out with guests getting the chance to scoop grains into the mash cooker.

Probably the coolest part of the tour was being shown around by Fred Noe, Jim Beam’s seventh generation master distiller. He’s a character, to say the least. When your dad is Booker Noe, I think being colorful is pretty much an expectation. His stories…man, his stories. I could tell you, but it’d undermine some of the pitches I have placed or sent.

From there, we headed to the Maker’s Mark Distillery. It was rustic, picturesque and absolutely gorgeous. It’s the type of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to see a man in a frock coat running to catch a well-trimmed buggy.

And did I mention that part of the aging warehouse has a ceiling designed and created by Dale Chihuly? It’s stunning. We exited through the gift shop and it was time to depart.

One of the things that was most interesting to me was that both of these distilleries allowed visitors more access to unfinished bottles. At Jim Beam, they allowed us to rinse our own Knob Creek bottles and then to fingerprint the wax when it was still warm. At Maker’s, the gift shop has the option that allows you to dip a bottle in their red wax and let it drip down the sides.

Then it was back to the bus for the ride to Louisville. We ate out, and then caught drinks at the Seelbach Bar in the lobby of our hotel, the Seelbach Hotel. It’s. Gorgeous.

Tomorrow, we visit Woodford and Wild Turkey. I’m looking forward to visiting both, and will be sure to take enough notes to recap the day.

*Suntory bought/merged with Jim Beam (which owns Maker’s Mark) in May.

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How Not To Live Your Dreams

I’m on the American Whiskey Trail* and I’m writing. Some of the pubs of my bucket list have accepted my writing on the topic. It’s intoxicating. Literally.

But I’ve spent a lot of time not doing a damn thing to further my writing. Sometimes I spend the day as the middle of a blanket burrito wondering what I did to someone in a past life to suck so much. The experiences leading up to the crappy days have taught me how I can avoid living my dreams, and I thought I’d share:

1. Distrust your intuition. In business, it’s good to make well-reasoned decisions, but if you have a squicky feeling about a setup, follow your gut. It’s easier to walk away amicably before crap gets real than afterwards.
2. Don’t write anything down. I’m probably not going to remember what I have to get done today if it’s not logged in a to-do list. Last month, I had an idea for a novel…and didn’t bother to write it down. It was something about a woman and a dog or a unicorn, but it was bestseller-quality.
3. Let rejection dictate your day. Just stahp. What can you learn from this and do better next time? Can you reshape it to mesh with another publication’s needs? If yes, do it, then eat ice cream and binge watch Arrow. Not the other way around.
4. Procrastinate. Believe me, I’m a BOSS at putting off assignments I dread. But it also makes me a hostage to my whims rather than indulging them off the clock. Just do it, man.
5. Go at it alone. If it wasn’t for my friends, I’d be in an asylum. They’re my support group and cheering squad and wine — I mean book — club wrapped into one, and I’d be a mess without them. They’re also quite literally the only reason I started writing journalistically and have the resources to keep doing badass work.

*More on that later.

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#allthewhiskey

I found all the whiskey.

I found all the whiskey.

Two weeks ago, I was invited to go on a media trip around the American Whiskey Trail. After a few seconds of indecision, Adam convinced me that I would be crazy not to.

So far, he’s been right. Before I left, I successfully pitched six related articles. I feel more legitimate about calling myself a writer than ever before. Bonus points: three of them are in a new-to-me publication.

As a bartender, learning about whiskey making and everything that goes into it gives me personal knowledge of the subject. Touring distilleries gives will give me a sense of the place where it’s made. Talking with distillers gives me ideas for new ways to use spirits in cocktails. Traveling opens me up to new experiences and people and ideas.

During the trip, I’ve been using the travel time (other than the drive up, duh) to work. I’ve gotten a blog post and a fact-check assignment nailed down, and I’ll hopefully get to work on other things during our drive to Lexington.

If you want to follow the fun in real time, I’ll be using the tag #allthewhiskey to label my tweets and Instagram posts. Over the next few days, we’ll be visiting distilleries including Bulleit, George Dickel, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve. We’ll also be participating in a small producers dinner and touring Vendome Copper.

I’m a happy camper – I’ll be sippin’ and writin’ all week long. Bring on the whiskey, y’all.

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