by Jeff Ames –
I’m by no means a writer, but I love bourbon and learning as much as possible about the fine amber spirit. With me actively seeking to taste as many new bourbons as possible (wow do I sound like an alcoholic), I like to pass along my experiences. Being born and raised in the amazing city of Louisville, KY (AKA the Bourbon Capital of the World) has allowed me to gain access to many established and influential people in the bourbon industry.
As I interview master distillers, bourbon historians, Coopers, etc, I enjoy passing along my experiences in an entertaining and light hearted fashion. Are some Bourbons worth considering:
o In the Fall of every year (typically in early October), an award winning bourbon called George T Stagg is released. Stagg is a limited production bourbon distilled and distributed by Buffalo Trace. By award winning, I mean Award Winning. Just check out the “George T Stagg” Wikipedia page to learn more about how many awards this amber delight has accumulated. Now in full disclosure, I have never tasted Stagg, but as I mentioned, I have already reached out to my liquor store connections for them to notify me the minute it hits the shelves. The price point is a very respectable $55-$65 for a 750 ML.
o Makers Mark is one helluva bourbon. Not only is their product incredible, but as we all know from their patented red wax seal, creative T-Shirts, Ambassador program, and entertaining billboards around town, they have some of the best marketing of any spirit company on the planet. In that regard, a perk of living an hour north of the Makers distillery is that we get limited addition bottles of Makers Mark with local celebrities on the bottle. One of the more recent bottles is the Charlie Strong bottle. If you are a fan of the University of Louisville, which I’m…a die-hard one at that, Charlie is a God.
o My favorite bourbon of all time is Pappy Van Winkle 23 year. This stuff is incredibly rare. Even when it is available, most liquor stores hold it behind the counter and only sell it to customers that request it specifically. Due to this rarity, Pappy Van Winkle has possibly the largest cult following in the Bourbon industry. Even with this enormous cult following, the company still runs a low-key operation. For example, if you call their phone number that is listed on their website (www.OldRipVanWinkle.com), one of the owners (Julian or Preston) generally answers the phone. To take it one step further, their answering machine provides their cell phone numbers! What other multi-national corporation operates with that level of personalization? Only in Kentucky!
Anyways, back to the lecture at hand, Pappy is generally made available around September, the time of The Bourbon Festival (in Bardstown where 50,000 bourbon lovers from around the world make their annual pilgrimage to celebrate the awesomeness that is Brown Water). Now Pappy will set you back some serious cash (between $200 – $400 for a 750 ML….ouch!!!!) depending on the number of years aged. But the funny part about that is they sell-out every year regardless of the premium price point. Last year, when I spoke with Julian Van Winkle, I asked if he was going to go to the Owensboro Bourbon Festival. His answer was simple. He said, “why would I go to a festival when I have no supply to sell?” Fair point Mr. Van Winkle, fair point.
o The last exciting bourbon that recently launched is Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon. When I said that Pappy is rare, well this is even rarer. Only 246 bottles are made available at around $200 per bottle. Trey Zoeller, founder of Jefferson’s Bourbon, had the vision to put three barrels of bourbon on the bow of a ship and have it sail around the world for 3.5 years. I have seen pictures of the bourbon and the color appears almost black, as opposed to the normal amber color of bourbon. This is apparently due to the extreme temperature fluctuations from being at sea. Jefferson’s Reserve is a high-quality “extreme” small batch company, so if they are releasing it, I am confident that it will live up to the premium price-point.
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Chet Zoeller, Trey Zoeller’s father and Jefferson’s co-founder. He relayed how Jefferson’s Reserve got started and how they were one of the first companies to market longer aged-bourbon as a premium product. He stated that in the 1980’s, large distilleries were actually taking bourbon that did not sell (you have to remember that in the 1980’s, bourbon was not as popular as it is now) and selling the “old” bourbon (possibly up to 15 years) in bottles that were being marketed as 7 year bourbon. Wow how times have changed.
Well, there you have it. Check our blog posts for other items on Bourbon and spirits and drink recipes for our Bluegrass Barrels at http://www.bluegrassbarrels.com/blog/
About Jeff Ames:
Jeff is President of Blue Grass Barrels. the barrels allow spirit enthusiasts to take existing spirits and pour them into well designed Oak barrels to age and shape the spirits taste.