Bourbon School

Bourbon School

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

Being a Kentucky-bred, it’s only natural that I would have an affinity to two things – horses (and those of you who have read my blog over the years know that this is true of me) and bourbon. I’ve said before that I suspect that the first inoculation given at birth in Kentucky involves the development of love for horses and bourbon. While it seems that the love of the equine was immediate, the appreciation of bourbon took some time to acquire.

My heritage (as I have recently learned) is Scottish, and Scotch whiskey was the first brown liquor I developed a taste for. Part of my college education was in London, England where I learned to drink Scotch. It was an integral part of my education.

 displayBlanton’s Stoppers

It wasn’t until I was in my very early thirties that I decided it was time to learn more about bourbon. I was so incredibly lucky that my first foray into bourbon was on a recently-introduced, single-barrel bourbon called Blanton’s. Why was I drawn to this particular bourbon? Take a look at the bottle. Seriously! It was the horse and jockey.

Since both my husband and I have ties to Kentucky, we became very interested in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. For those who haven’t previously heard of it, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a program of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association to promote the bourbon industry in Kentucky. (More about the Bourbon Trail – but keep it brief as it will be in a later post.)

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In early April, Woodford Reserve in Versailles, Kentucky held its “Bourbon Academy.”

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The Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby

Master distiller, Chris Morris, was the professor and there were roughly 30 eager pupils.

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Master Distiller Chris Morris

First, we learned a little about the history of Woodford Reserve. It was originally known as Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, but they began distilling whiskey in 1780 on the banks of a glorious stream. The water is so clear and so pure due to the limestone, it was a natural location to start distilling. The distillery building was erected on site in 1838. It is actually the oldest of all the distilleries in the area, although it was closed for quite a while. Brown-Forman bought the property in 1993 and refurbished it to bring it back into operation. The Woodford Reserve brand was introduced to the market in 1996.

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THIS is the water that makes Kentucky Bourbon GREAT!

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Oldest Building on Woodford grounds – with the barrel delivery system

We started out, by learning about charring the barrels. The amount of char on the inside of new, American white oak barrels is critical to the taste and quality of the bourbon which comes out. We did our own “char” by building a fire inside a barrel. It was a little too windy, but the visual was sufficient to give a greater understanding of how many different levels there are in making a really top-notch bourbon.

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Young Mash – Tastes like Breakfast Cereal

We got to stick our fingers into the developing sour mash. It was amazing the difference in the tastes between the new mash (like a bland breakfast cereal) and the final vat (seriously getting sour and looking on top like someone’s pizza). We saw the gorgeous copper stills and learned about how the process of successive distillations makes the clearest, highest quality distillate. Notice, I didn’t call it bourbon yet. At the point where it comes out of the still, it is just alcohol – or “white dog.” It’s the aging in the oak barrels that turns pure alcohol into bourbon and gives it all those marvelous flavor notes.

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Aged Mash (almost ready for distillation)

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One of Woodford Reserve’s Famous Copper Stills

We learned all about the flavor wheel in an exercise, led by resident chef, Ouita Michel (a James Beard Award nominee). Who knew there were so many different flavors to discern in bourbon? We got to taste different nibbles of food paired with bourbon to see how the flavors changed. I had never thought about considering pairing food with bourbon and how different bourbons would go better with certain food items, but I sure learned a thing or two about that. I’m absolutely rethinking Thanksgiving dinner pairings. I think a good bourbon would pair beautifully with all the flavors in turkey and dressing. I absolutely know that bourbon and pecan pie are made for each other.

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The Woodford Reserve Flavor Wheel (Who knew?)

There was also an exercise about being able to recognize different scents in bourbon as well as taste. It was really nose-opening to smell a cotton ball in a glass with different esters on it and to try and discern what the smell was. One of the funniest responses was “my grandmother’s couch.”

We had an outstanding lunch and got to sample several different bourbons and Woodford’s bottled version of “white dog.” All of the bourbons were from Brown and Foreman’s stable of bourbons. Jim and I both favored Woodford’s Double Oaked – a relative newcomer to their offerings.

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All Related – Yet SO Different

Upon graduation, we each got our own bottles of Woodford’s flagship Reserve. These were very special bottles as they have our names and graduation dates etched right into the bottles. What a nice touch!

If you ever consider taking the one-day course, I would emphatically tell you to go for it.

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Such a Beautiful Place to Go to Class

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Getting “Social” in Lexington

Getting “Social” in Lexington

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

Most of y’all know that I’m a born Kentuckian. I like to say that I was inoculated at birth with a love of horses and bourbon. I think that may be a requisite vaccination for all newborns in the Commonwealth, at least it appears that way. All I can tell you is that I have loved horses as long as I can remember, and acquiring a taste for brown, corn liquor came mighty easy.

Every year for my birthday, if at all possible, I sweet-talk my dear husband into a trip to the Bluegrass. That’s not a difficult task as he spent many, many summers in the state visiting his grandmother. Some of his happiest times were spent in my birth-state.

Earlier this year, we had visited and completed the Bourbon Trail (which I will write about in an upcoming blog), so this time it was totally about visiting horses, eating and drinking excellent food and bourbon, and visiting Wallins Creek (where Jim spent his summers) to take photos and gather information for his upcoming model train layout. (Can you see that there will be many different posts on all kinds of subjects in the offing?)

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Sunset in the Bluegrass

Our base of operations was Lexington. I never tire of Lexington. The area around Lexington is some of the most beautiful country anywhere in the world. Yes, I may be more than a bit biased, but I have been lucky to travel quite a bit and this is where I choose to come as often as humanly possible. Lexington is surrounded by farms housing the finest thoroughbred horses in the world and the very best distilleries are within a very short drive.

We arrived on my birthday, so we had made dinner reservations at Tonys of Lexington. We had lots of time before our reservation, so we wanted to enjoy a bourbon (or two) in a local bourbon bar. We’d heard about Bluegrass Tavern (with their 450 bourbons), and decided that we’d join the locals and see what 450 different bourbons even looked like. We arrived around 4:30 p.m., but they were inexplicably closed. Hmmm! What to do? Then we turned around and found Parlay Social on the corner right behind us. We decided to go in and cool off and see if they could fill the bourbon bill. (August is more than a little warm in Kentucky.)

“Social” is a great name for this place. We were greeted and made to feel right at home by the cutest bartender. Her name is Kristin, and she’s as nice, social, and informative as she is sweet. We had landed in just the exact right place to try out some bourbons that are, quite frankly, impossible to get in Michigan bars or restaurants.

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Kristin – Bartender Extraordinaire – Parlay Social (Check the bottle in foreground!)

Kristin handed us a list of all the options available and it just about made my head swim. There weren’t 450 listed, but there were enough fine options that we didn’t feel as though we missed a thing. They had options to try one or two ounces of some of the best and most sought-after bourbons in the world. Prices (as you can see) were anywhere from $5 all the way up to $112 for one single ounce of liquor. Extravagant? Darn tootin’! It was my birthday, though, so we decided to taste some of them. We shared, so each ounce became half-ounces each. (Wouldn’t want y’all to think we overdid it or anything!)

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Side #1 – Parlay Social Bourbon List

Our favorites were Eagle Rare 17-year and Pappy Van Winkle 15-year. I have to say, that if I had to choose one bourbon to drink (and cost was no factor) it would be the Pappy 15-year. It was, without a doubt, the best, most palatable, smoothest sipping bourbon I’ve ever had. Lord knows if the 20- and 23-year are any better, because we sure don’t. One day, I plan to save up so I can find out; but the leap between the 10-year (Old RIP Van Winkle) and the 15-year (Pappy Van Winkle) was like jumping to light speed in the Millennium Falcon.

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Side #2 – Parlay Social Bourbon List

As we were tasting some of these beautiful, brown liquors, the shift manager, Oliver, came out to see how we were doing. Again, we were made to feel right at home. Both he and Kristin gave us some suggestions as to places to visit in Lexington. When we told them we had reservations at Tonys, they both nodded and told us we would really enjoy our meals. In a later post, I’ll tell you more about Tonys and the wonderful dinner we enjoyed.

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Oliver – Shift Manager at Parlay Social

We actually went back to Parlay Social a couple of afternoons later to tell them what a wonderful meal we’d had, and to try out a couple more bourbons. It was like visiting with old friends. Funny, I know that they get all kinds of visitors and regulars on a daily basis, but we were remembered. That goes a very long way in making one feel welcome.

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Back bar at Parlay Social – Check out just SOME of the Bourbons

It’s a given that we will be back to Lexington in the very near future. It’s also a given that we will be visiting Parlay Social again, too.

 

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For My Snowed-In Friends

For My Snowed-In Friends

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

All my posts aren’t about dogs, horses or travel (well, except for about 99.9% which are). I was thinking about all my friends in the mid-Atlantic, East coast, and deep south who are still struggling with the effects of this last super-storm.

Several years ago, I shared this blog with y’all when we were being inundated by a big snow. I thought some of you might feel the need for a nice, hot toddy. Here’s one I heartily endorse! (No this isn’t a political post!)

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We Can Get Some Serious Snow, too

So what does a Kentucky-bred, Florida-raised, FSU (Florida State University) alum, who now lives in Michigan do when the snow keeps falling and there’s a minimum of a foot of the fluffy stuff on the ground? Well, I try to figure out a new bourbon recipe (hot of course).

This is what I call …

Hot Bourbon Ball

Put the kettle on!

cocoa mug

Put the Cocoa into a Mug

Put dry hot chocolate (your favorite kind) into a mug

Devil's Cut

Add the Bourbon (I use Devi’s Cut)

Measure in 1.5 oz. Devil’s Cut bourbon (I prefer this bourbon for this recipe as it has an assertive flavor that doesn’t get hidden with the other ingredients.)
1 oz Dark Creme de Cocoa
1 oz Amaretto

stir

STIR!

Stir!
Stir all together to fully incorporate

cream

Heavy Cream

Add 1 oz Heavy Cream

stir2

Stir Again!

Stir

hot water

Add Hot Water

YUMMY!!!
Top with whipped cream (you could also add chocolate curls if you wished)

yummy

Voila!

Enjoy!

I’d remiss without warning that these may become habit-forming. Also, do not toddy and drive!

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Hot Bourbon Ball

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my  blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

This post is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from me. Yes, there will be more about our boy Nitro in the very near future, but I thought that I’d share another side of who I am and what makes me tick.

A Foot of Snow on the Grill

A Foot of Snow on the Grill

So what does a Kentucky-bred, Florida-raised, FSU (Florida State University) alum, who now lives in Michigan do when the snow keeps falling and there’s a minimum of a foot of the fluffy stuff on the ground? Well, I try to figure out a new bourbon recipe (hot of course).

Snowing - STILL!

Snowing – STILL!

This is what I call …

 

Hot Bourbon Ball

 

Put the kettle on

Get the Cocoa into the Mug

Get the Cocoa into the Mug


Put dry hot chocolate (your favorite kind) into a mug

Add the bourbon

Add the bourbon

Measure in 1.5 oz. Devil’s Cut bourbon (I prefer this bourbon for this recipe as it has an assertive flavor that doesn’t get hidden with the other ingredients.)

1 oz Dark Creme de Cocoa

1 oz Amaretto

Stir!

Stir!

Stir all together to fully incorporate

Add the Cream

Add the Cream

Add 1 oz Heavy Cream

006 Stir

 

Add the Hot Water

Add the Hot Water

Add the hot water

YUMMY!!!

YUMMY!!!

Top with whipped cream (you could also add chocolate curls if you wished)

 

Enjoy!

         

Up Next: Nitro Update

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Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

 

Our Fantastic Journey – May 29 – June 5, 2010

Fantastic is was! We travelled to Enterprise, AL for our adorable niece Caitlin’s high school graduation. We made several stops along the way and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

 Day 1: Brighton to Nashville, TN

 We left early in the morning. Instead of taking I-75 through Ohio, we decided to take I-94 west to I-69 and head south past Indianapolis. This might have backfired on us terribly as it was the weekend of the Indy 500, but we lucked out and traffic wasn’t bad at all.

Our first real stop was at the Joe Huber Vineyard in extreme south Indiana (just across from the KY state line). We had intended to eat at the Joe Huber Restaurant, but the crowds were outrageous. Instead, we made a quick trip to the Vineyard to pick up a bottle of sparkling wine and a bottle of Huber brandy and high-tailed it out of there. I must say, though, that I had not remembered how beautiful that part of Indiana was. The Huber compound is in a very hilly part of the state. I hadn’t remembered that from the last time we were there (I think it was in 1987). The Hubers are doing very well for themselves as they have a little empire now. Back in ’87, it was just the vineyard and some pick your own vegetables and fruit. We found out the reason for all the crowds was that it was Strawberry Festival, and that is apparently a huge deal for the surrounding area.

 So, how many are asking why on earth we went through all this? Why was it so important to get “HUBER” wine. No, it’s not one of the top wines of the world (although it’s quite good – much improved over 22 years). Well, my maiden name is Huber and it’s Caitlin Huber (my brother’s daughter) whose graduation we were traveling to attend. I also had an Uncle Joe Huber (and within my family of cousins there are at least 4 or 5 other Joe Hubers).

Our next stop was at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, KY. We took the tour of the home. While our guide was going over the family history and pointing out some of the interesting items in the front room, there was a loud knock on the front door. She went to tell whoever was there that they’d have to take the next tour. Funny thing, there was no one there. So, our guide went back into her talk. Once again, there was a knocking on the front door. Again, no one there. This time, the guide had a rather pale appearance and was visibly shaken. She told us that she had been told that there was a <whisper> “ghost,” but she had never had any experience. We all said – almost in unison – “until NOW.” I’d been feeling that there was something a little “off” ever since we’d been ushered into the other parlor for the movie. I kept feeling as though someone was standing over my shoulder. I was sitting in the back of the room, so there really couldn’t have been anyone (of this world) standing there without me seeing them. It wasn’t a scary or bad feeling at all. It was just that there was someone else there. None of us (that I know of) ever saw anything, but there was no mistaking the knocking on the door. Sure didn’t stop us from getting our free tastings of Red Stag and Bookers over in the tasting/sales room.

 Red Stag is the newest rollout from Beam. It’s got black cherry in it. Neither Jim or I much cared for it, but I thought of the kid that I’d been communicating with on Fat Freddy’s Blog who wondered which bourbon he should try but he mixes everything with Dr. Pepper (sorry – YUCK!) Bookers, on the other hand, is at least 127 proof (68.5% alcohol) and is as easy to drink as one could possibly imagine. Of course, it’s to be sipped very prudently. Jim and I both decided that we are going to have to invest in some (but decided to wait until after the trip as it’s pretty pricey and we wanted to make certain we didn’t overspend). So, we purchased a bottle of Basil Haydens, some cool glassware, a couple of hats, and various gifty-type things. There are those on blogs who have said that Red Stag is good in baking. Probably is! I think I might use it as a baste for pork or venison on the grill.

 Our next stop was Elizabethtown, KY. Again, this isn’t the normal-type stop for most people on their way to Nashville, TN. Elizabethtown is only really important to those in the Army (Ft. Knox is nearby), those who are fans of the movie (Orlando Bloom, Paula Dean, etc.), or to those who spent the first days of their lives there – like me. The last time I was in E’town I think I was 16 and the family was only there for a short time. We had visited Ft. Knox and the Patton museum. I hadn’t remembered that the area around E’town was as beautiful as it is. Of course, it’s Kentucky, so it follows that it’s pretty.

 We stopped in town to finally get something to eat. The restaurant was a converted old building. The décor was great and the people were wonderful. The food – not so much. I will say that the fried green tomatoes and the frickles were pretty darned good, though. Then we were off again.

Our final stop <PHEW!> on a busy day was the hotel in Nashville. The hotel (Alexa) was adequate. The location was excellent – easy access to everywhere. The only drawback was that the room was rather tattered and exceedingly small for a king room. It was clean, mind you, just needed refurbishing. The seat of the desk chair was losing its “leather,” and the rug had been ironed on several times (melting the rug in the shape of an iron). It had one very slow elevator (and, naturally, we were on the top floor) and no interior stairs.

After a quick, light dinner at the Mexican restaurant just up the street (was tickled to see the waiters feeding stale tortilla chips out the back door to the local mallard duck population), we headed for the room for the night. We took a few minutes to plan our next day, and then were asleep at the flick of the switch (think I was out before the light left the bulb).

Let me take a moment to praise “Betty” our GPS. I would never have known how incredibly valuable one is until this trip. Anywhere we wanted to go, she took us there with no problems. As long as we programmed the right address into her, we were directed quite easily. I know it would have been a much more difficult trip without “her.”