Maker’s Mark is a long standing favorite in the bourbon world. Its distinctive red wax seal has been copied in several different ways by multiple types of spirits. Our visit to the Maker’s Mark distillery was a lesson in history and craft. And we also had the opportunity to experience two of the brand’s newer offerings.
I lost a silly bet with my friend Rosemary and I had to serve steak dinner for six guests of her choosing. I would have had a free weekend at her beach house had I won. I would get to use her cottage anyways and the dinner was fun for me to as we had many of the same friends. My only worry was that she would invite two couples, her husband and a single gentleman for me. I had survived Rosemary’s set ups in the past and this time, I was sure to live.
Bourbon is all about the taste. But it’s also about the story behind what makes the taste. And that’s specially true with Michter’s Distillery’s bourbons. We visited Michter’s new facility in Louisville, KY on a bright day in May expecting a tour of the building and a taste of their products. Of course I’d sampled their Michter’s Small Batch US*1 Bourbon and Rye on a few occasions, so wasn’t expecting many surprises. I was terribly wrong in my assumptions.
Buffalo Trace Distillery is located in Frankfort, Kentucky and is home to more bourbons than I’m likely to ever sample. And some of those bourbons are the stuff of legend (I’m thinking about Pappy Van Winkle here). But even those that don’t have quite as much legend behind them are top picks for many of us. We were able to sample some unique and interesting spirits during our visit, but the tasting was second to our visit with master distiller Harlan Wheatley and our tour lead by Kristie Wooldridge.
I loved horses but my ’63 Lincoln Continental and I avoided the craziness of Louisville and the annual Kentucky Derby. I found myself in Shelbyville, which was 30 mile away and I was sure to find a way to bet on the ponies from afar. My job more than paid the bills but who didn’t dream of one-day dream of hitting a jackpot. I drove slowly down Main Street and as I expected, nearly every watering hole was crowded. I saw a spot on the street big enough to park my car, in front of the Brass Shoe. The windows of the establishment were foggy but there wasn’t a crowd pouring out the door, so it looked perfect. I was searching for a spot to sip a mint julep and watch the race.
I landed at Logan Airport in Boston for one of my favorite weeks of the year. I had several entertaining gigs lined up but the main purpose of my visit was to visit my close Friend Bethany Carver. She and I met when we were 18 and spending a summer in Newport R.I. We were poor; we reached between the couch cushions for coins so we could share a glass of wine and a shrimp each. When the tourist season picked up and the tips rolled in, we spent most of our cash on food and drinks.
FourRoses brand has been around since nearly the start of bourbon. It is a high volume production facility that uses a unique set of recipes to produce its bourbons. On our visit to the distillery located in Lawrenceburg, KY, brand ambassador Al Young met us at the visitor center and guided us around the facilities.
My ’63 Lincoln and I didn’t much like being landlocked so if it weren’t for work commitments I wouldn’t be making my way through the heartland. I was not only in Nebraska but also in the middle of the state, in Gladstone. It billed itself as the largest little town in the state, which was quite a claim and I decided to see how their cocktails tasted.
There are six requirements for a whiskey to be called ‘Bourbon’. One of them is that the liquor must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. This barrel aging is what gives bourbons their color and is a significant flavor component. While aging in barrels isn’t unique to bourbon, the requirement that each barrel is NEW is. And when you consider how much bourbon is consumed each year it becomes obvious that barrels can become a scarce commodity even faster than the main ingredient in bourbon - corn.
Every year I looked forward to my invite to Cash and Lynne’s summer home in Maine. It was a standing invitation but things changed from year to year so I waited to be invited. They had young-adult children and I had to fit my visit in among graduations and birthdays. I had gone from Ms. Sterling to Aunt Sylvia and finally I was just plain Sylvia to their three kids. Their oldest boy was Richard, who had crept into the close-knit lobster boat community. He provided the fresh crustaceans for our annual lobster feed. At 14, he started hanging out on the docks and now at 22, he was like a son to the old salts. As their guest, I provided the wine to be paired with the lobster and this year I chose a Chardonnay (Talbott Sleepy Hollow 2012).
Driving my ’63 Lincoln Continental through California was arduous because of all the states; this is where the most of my clients were headquartered. I rolled into my favorite strip mall next to yet another motel for no other reason than my fondness of the bartender, Abel. He and his family had been in the area for two generations and his father owned Cortez. Everything about the place was authentic and the food so good it could set up shop in mid-town Manhattan and be a success. I had said this to Abel who was aware of what he had but would never leave Modesto. His roots ran deep within the community.