The rise of craft American whiskey now extends beyond the bourbon belt. Here’s the shortlist of major players nationwide.
Private barrel selection at Woodford Reserve and the drive back to Louisville
In day five of our Kentucky Bourbon Trail adventure, we soak in the last rays of Kentucky sun, watch a group pick their own single barrel of Woodford Reserve, and more.
A Video Tour of the Process from 12 Bourbon Distilleries
We toured 12 distilleries in a five-day blitz, asking everyone we met to walk us through the bourbon-making process. Here, you’ll find all of the steps that go into making America’s unique take on whiskey.
What's the right way to enjoy America's Whiskey?
Is there a proper way to drink Bourbon? We asked experts in the industry to weigh in.
Gleaning the Importance of the Family Tree
“Buffalo Trace is already making the bourbons of the future”, said our guide Freddy Johnson. It sounded bold until we stopped to think about it. Whiskey has to age before it can qualify as bourbon, so technically, every distiller is making “the bourbons of the future” today. Still, after we spent an afternoon learning about the company’s quest to make the world’s perfect bourbon, his phrasing seemed prophetic.
Admiring the Selection at Lexington's Blue Grass Tavern
Call it the Pappy effect if you want, or just plain business savvy, but most distilleries saw an opportunity in limited, premium bourbons in the early 2000s. At one of Lexington’s best bourbon bars, the Blue Grass Tavern, we laid eyes on some of the absolute best.
Demystifying World's Most Famous Bourbon
I’d say that Pappy Van Winkle is a brand that needs no introduction, except that it does. The truth is that most people don’t know anything about “Pappy”, other than that it’s supposed to be the best of its kind. So let’s set the record straight by getting a couple of basic facts out of the way.
Wilderness Trail, Four Roses, Wild Turkey and More
In day three of our Kentucky Bourbon Trail adventure, we check out small (Wilderness Trail) and big (Four Roses, Wild Turkey) distilleries on the way to Lexington — and get to taste something particularly special.
Distillery-Exclusive Bourbon Bottles
At some of the distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, there are bottles you can’t find anywhere else — rarities that can only be purchased on-site. These were the exclusive bottles we found in the dozen or so distilleries we visited.
A Night in Kentucky's Oldest Family-Operated B&B
Close your eyes. Form a picture in your head of what a historic B&B in the heart of Bluegrass country should look like. What remains though in the mind’s eye should look quite close to Harrodsburg’s Beaumont Inn owned by the Dedman family.
How a next-generation master distiller helped relight the stills
Willett Master Distiller Drew Kulsveen doesn’t have time for bullshit. It’s not something he has to tell anyone. The message shoots from his eyes like a railgun. Even at a relatively young age, it’s clear he’s heard it all before. He talks like someone who’s lost years listening to others dribble on, and worked hard to eradicate the behavior in himself; his speech is terse, verging on curt. You can’t blame him for him ignoring the noise. A lot rides on his shoulders. He and his family worked for years to rebuild the family distillery, which reopened in 2012, and now he’s determined to prove a point.
From Brunch Spot to Global Food Sensation
Hillbilly Tea sounds like an Urban Dictionary revelation — or the latest product from the minds of White and Pinkman. For all we know, both of those statements are true. It’s also one of Louisville’s hottest brunch spots, and a burgeoning international brand. And if founders Karter Louis and Chef Arpad “Arpi” Lengyel realize their ultimate vision, that’s just the beginning.
A full command of bourbon terminology is a necessity when it comes to distinguishing between distilleries and knowing what’s in your glass. We asked employees in the bourbon industry to arm us with a basic vocabulary.
A Roaming Journal of America's Spirit
Bourbon is booming, but only decades ago, it was on a path toward failure. This was most evident in the 1980s, at the height of vodka and big hair, when distilleries in the Bluegrass State were shuttering their doors. They simply couldn’t give bottles away, the same bottles that just a generation before were lining executive conference rooms and hotel bars throughout America. It was by definition an all-American drink, and it was quickly fading. But then in the mid-2000s, distillers realized the atmosphere was changing. Bourbon started coming back. Fast.
This explosion, which continues to grow to this day, raises plenty of questions. What’s fueling the bourbon boom? Is it going to burst, like tech and housing? Are some bottles really worth $5,000, and more importantly, who’s buying them? What makes a bourbon good? The best way to get to the bottom of this was to head to the Bluegrass State, where 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is made, equipped with a few cameras, some notebooks and clean livers for five days on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail — a triangle of distillery tours throughout the state with endpoints at Louisville, Lexington and Bardstown — for many early mornings and late nights drinking and talking with some of the foremost professionals in booze. We came back with five days of fear and loathing on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
Today in gear: a new entry level Logitech Harmony remote, the Nuvyyo Tablo DVR for cord cutters, Quixotic Pocket Squares, Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary Bourbon and BBQ recipes from London.
The Quest for Affordable Pappy
At night, when bourbon connoisseurs go to bed, many dream of Pappy Van Winkle, a line of three exquisite bourbons (15, 20 and 23 years old, all of them colloquially referred to as “Pappy”) distilled and bottled by the Sazerac Company at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Much of Pappy’s legend comes from its high demand: when it’s released, liquor stores dust off month-long waiting lists to decide who gets a bottle.
At the end of last year, Bourbonr Blog made headlines in the liquor community by posting a recipe for “Poor Man’s Pappy,” a mix of two mid-range W.L. Weller whiskies that they claim, while not being able to emulate Pappy Van Winkle completely, “comes close.” But does the recipe hold up? With $50, a postal scale and a mason jar, we decided to find out for ourselves.
Less Searching, More Sipping
There’s no denying that bourbon is having a moment. The pride of Kentucky wins out over other whiskies because it’s a little sweeter, a little smoother, and a whole lot easier to mix. It’s also relatively affordable — very good bottles are available at very good prices. But thanks to its newfound popularity, some of the top-tier bottles — Pappy Van Winkle’s family reserve, George T. Stagg — are now shockingly expensive and, increasingly, hard to track down. Luckily, there’s still a wide variety to bourbons at accessible prices that are readily available in nearly every state. Which one to choose? Here’s a list to help you out.
A look inside New York's first ever Bourbon
On a brisk Manhattan morning, we met with Ralph Erenzo of Hudson Whiskey for a taste test. He introduced us to Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey ($45), the first bourbon whiskey ever made in New York, and the first legal pot-distilled whiskey made in New York since prohibition. Made from 100 percent New York corn and aged in American Oak barrels, it proves that not all good bourbon needs to come from the South.
Not for pancakes
Fall is upon us, and there’s no better way to usher in the cooler months than with a spirit seemingly created in autumn’s honor: Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon ($31). To be clear, we’ve been completely satisfied with the standard Knob Creek 9 Year Straight Bourbon, but expanding whiskey horizons can’t be a bad thing. Still, adding flavoring to a solid whiskey can be a risky endeavor. Did Knob Creek gamble and lose by producing something tantamount to being whacked in the face by a maple syrup bottle, or did they win by creating a real bourbon that hums its own tune?
Small batch, big pleasures
Asking us to choose between whiskey (bourbon) and whisky (single malt scotch) is like posing the question, “Would you prefer to drive a C2 Corvette Split Window or a Jaguar E-Type?” The answer is always “both and yes.” But if you’re a single malt devotee, you’d do right to expand your taste horizons, and the best way to experiment with bourbon is to go small batch — the complexities are pleasing, and you’ll find yourself a worshiper in many different temples. There’s a lot to love. Here are tasting notes on our five favorite small batch bourbons worth warming your palate.
Woodford Reserve's Master Distiller
Talk about working your way up from the bottom. Chris Morris came to Woodford Reserve’s parent company, Brown-Foreman Corporation, in 1976 as an intern. The native Kentuckian stuck it out, rising to the position of Master Distiller as American bourbon rose, too, from a soda additive to a super-premium product on the same level as its haughtier cousins. We caught up with him as part of our summer preview to hear some drinking stories, find out what’s next and hear about his love of the Kentucky Derby.
Reload your bar
Bulleit Bourbon has long been an affordable favorite for lovers of the smokey libation. Bulleit 10 Year ($45) adds some age and flavor distinctions, at a price. The fine gentlemen over at Bourbon Blog have had the first crack at the new whiskey, and from what we can tell, it’s definitely worth a try. This…
12 gifts for the booze lover
The Mixologist’s gotten you into plenty of blissful adventures, most of which ended without real long term damage to your record or your marriage. He’s a passionate guy, and he knows his craft: beer, that is. Malts, mash, wheat, barley, rye, and oh yes, sweet sweet delicious hops — he sucks them all down, grinning…
Briefings: Tony Scott, High-Frequency Trading, Pappy Van Winkle, Mobile Phone Throwing, and the Oglala Lakota
We’re off to Ironman this week. There’s plenty to keep you occupied, though: a great director needs to be mourned, rare bourbon consumed, and mobile phones hurled. All in a days work. It’s a big and complicated world. We’re at tips [at] gearpatrol.com if you think there’s something we should know about.
Rockin' good bourbon
In the single barrel bourbon space, the Buffalo Trace Distillery is at the top of our list for their variety of well-made, accessible and just generally great bourbons. Their Blanton’s Bourbon gets most of the shelf space — and for good reason, it’s delicious — but our current single barrel favorites in the Buffalo Trace…
The Spirit of '95
Fresh on the heels of your last thought about a reason to imbibe comes
Whiskey for the common connoisseur
In addition to its flagship offering, the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY produces some of our favorite bourbons, including Eagle Rare, Rock Hill Farms and Elmer T. Lee ($28). The latter is a small batch, single barrel bourbon that’s named for the former Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace. Mr. Lee created this bourbon with…
Two barrels drink better than one
Woodford Reserve has put out a handful of interesting whiskeys of late, including the New and Aged Cask Ryes and, coming this March, its Double Oaked Bourbon ($50). While the former spirits are part of Woodford’s Master’s Collection and therefore available for a limited time, Double Oaked is an extension of the brand’s permanent lineup….
Whiskey fit for a president
Maybe it’s just our nature to root for the little guy, but man, we sure love small batch bourbons. The industry giants put out some fine products, but it’s the smaller players that take up most of the space on our home bars. Like Jefferson’s ($30), a very small batch, hand-crafted and Kentucky-bred bourbon. Jefferson’s…
New whiskey from an industry veteran
Angel’s Envy Bourbon ($43) comes courtesy of Lincoln Henderson, a former 40-year veteran of Brown-Forman who was tasked with crafting some of the world’s most popular and widely-consumed whiskeys. Henderson’s latest venture defies rules and corporate expectations as he makes the bourbon he always wanted to make. Angel’s Envy starts with Kentucky-grown corn and rye…