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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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#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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