Becoming Old Grand Dad

Easter is always a reminder of the good news that “He is risen”.  This Easter we received the bonus good news that our oldest son and his wife are having a baby.  The Wife and I are going to be grandparents! 

We love our daughter-in-law and, of course, we love our son, too.  We are extremely proud of all they have done and who they are becoming in their marriage.  Our excitement level for them has gone from “fairly stoked” to the “totally stoked” level now that they are having a child…our grandchild…did you hear that I’m going to be a grandfather?

One of the beautiful things about their relationship is that I was friends with the DIL’s father, Bill, for several years before they started dating.  (Bill is actually a Bourbon Fellowshipper, too!)  The friendship that The Wife and I share with Bill and his wife has been remarkably smooth.  It’s remained steady and true through several years of our kids dating, an engagement and a wedding!  It will be wonderful to share the grandparent experience with a couple who are already our friends, too.

So, the first thing I did when I learned of the grandchild was…well, the first thing I did, actually, was cry like a Michael Jordan meme and hug everybody like Roger Goodell on draft day.

So, the second thing I did when I learned of the grandchild was (did you hear that I’m going to be a grandfather?) to buy a new bottle of Old Grand Dad for Bill and me to share when the baby is born.  It is not an expensive Bourbon, by any means, but it is still very good and it was a logical choice for the occasion (from drinking Old Grand Dad to becoming Old Grand Dad).  It is just be another example of Bourbon being a great way to celebrate a special event with friends and family.

I don’t look as old as this guy, right? Right?! You took a little too long to answer that.

I chose to go with the bottled in bond version of Old Grand Dad.  It has more room on the bottle than the OGD 114 for writing dates, height, weight (of the baby…not me or Bill).  There is also an 80 proof Old Grand Dad but it is just too lightweight.  It might be suitable for the grandbaby’s sippy cup, however. 

Several friends have asked what I want our grandchild to call me.  One had even suggested “Old Grand Dad”.  I don’t really care what he or she calls me but if it is that, can we drop the “Old” and just go with “Grand Dad”.  Maybe I should rename this post simply “Becoming Grand Dad”? By the way, did you hear that I’m going to be a grandfather?

Thanks for indulging me on this brief celebration. When the baby arrives in an estimated 186 days (but who’s counting) I’ll be sure to post the news and let you know what we celebrate with…other than Old Grand Dad, of course.

Kevin Rose

Bourbon Good Guys (Vol. II)

We all have that friend who it feels like we’ve known all our life, even though we haven’t.  Well…I hope you do, anyway.  It’s the kind of friend who has free reign to your refrigerator, your pantry and even your liquor cabinet.  The guy I’m writing about today may not be somebody you know, but if you were to meet him you would instantly have a new friend. 

Hanging out in Vegas. Probably just left a speak-easy.

Tom is the brother I never had.  Our families have traveled together, played games together and eaten more meals together than I can remember.  Our kids were baptized in their swimming pool. We’ve walked through rough times together and celebrated good times together.  Thankfully, we are blessed enough that the celebrations far outnumber the rough times.

I caught the Bourbon Fever a year or so before Tom. About the time I started The Bourbon Fellowship, Tom got infected in a big way.  As Tom has built up his Bourbon collection he has always been quick to share what he finds during his hunts with the rest of our group.  He also recently became a Certified Bourbon Steward.  He even showed up at a Bourbon Fellowship on his wedding anniversary.  That’s commitment.  Or maybe he just needs to be committed?

Tom was so excited to meet Fred Noe, he forgot to open his eyes.

Tom was with me when I opened a Pappy 15 to celebrate my son’s wedding.  Tom and I finished off a bottle of Old Fitzgerald bottled-in-bond at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen one night because at $7 a pour it would have been rude to have done otherwise.

It is a true blessing to have a friend with whom you can share so much of life. To be able to share Bourbon with that friend just makes it all that much sweeter.  Kind of like those wheated bourbons you like, Tom.

Happy birthday, Tom.  Cheers!

Raise a glass in honor of the friends you share your life and your Bourbon with. Better yet…raise a glass with those friends.

Kevin Rose

Fortune Favors the Bold

Did my car just harness 1.21 gigawatts of power while reaching 88 mph?  Or did I somehow drive through Bill & Ted’s excellent phone booth (I wasn’t anywhere near a Circle K)?

About six or seven years ago I was lost.  I must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque or, more likely, Frankfort.  I found myself in front of a dilapidated, over-grown castle on a narrow, winding road.  It was like I had warped backwards in time about 800 years. 

It turns out I had not misread the map at Albuquerque.  And I would not need the help of Doc Brown to find my way back in time.  I had simply stumbled upon the historic Old Taylor Distillery. As I stopped to take it in I had two thoughts.  One, how could something that was clearly once so majestic be a victim of such obvious neglect? And, two, was a knight going to come out from the castle and say “Ni” at me?

Will Arvin and Wes Murry are the two businessmen who made the bold decision in 2014 to purchase the Old Taylor property, renovate it and start producing whiskey out of it again.  That’s not “put a man on the moon” or “Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall” level of bold…but it’s up there. 

In another bold move, Arvin and Murry recruited a highly-regarded, up-and-comer of the bourbon world, Marianne Eaves, to be their master distiller.  Not shying away from any risk herself, Eaves agreed to take on the job making her Kentucky’s first female master distiller since prohibition. Four years and a reported $30 million investment later, the Old Taylor Distillery (renamed “Castle & Key”) was revived to its architectural glory and it was serving its God-given purpose once again: distilling bourbon.

Everything appeared to be going perfectly to plan for the team at Castle & Key.  The distillery and grounds had been renovated and received nothing but praise. While there was no bourbon or rye being sold yet, the vodka and gin coming out of Castle & Key got high marks.  The buzz around the new brand and what the team of Arvin, Murry and Eaves was doing seemed to do nothing but grow. 

Then, seemingly out of nowhere…strange things were afoot at the C & K.  Continuing the trend of bold choices in this saga, Eaves abruptly resigned last week from her position at Castle & Key drawing from the bourbon public one loud collective “whoa!”   Predictably, the announcement drew lively speculation and criticism on social media.

Through her popular public appearances and Instagram presence, Marianne had rightly and effectively established herself as the leader and face of the Castle & Key brand. Why would someone leave what appeared to be an opportunity of a whiskey lifetime before the first release of bourbon hit the market?  The only accurate answer here is: I don’t know and neither do you.

Even if Eaves had not decided to leave, the grades for Castle & Key in May of 2019 would be the same.  There are A’s and A+’s for the renovations, for the contribution to tourism and for the gin and vodka.  Since the bourbon and rye have not been released the only grade possible for the whiskey is an incomplete. A very hopeful and enthusiastic incomplete.

While Castle & Key may have lost the “face” of its brand, the original leaders are still running the show.  If you praised Arvin and Murry for their leadership in renovating the Old Taylor Distillery and hiring Marianne Eaves in the first place, then you should have confidence as they make their next move: hiring Eaves’ replacement.

Despite the recent uproar my central thought surrounding Castle & Key remains the same: thankfulness.  I am very thankful that Arvin and Murry had the vision to revive the crown jewel of a bourbon pioneer and the commitment (financial and otherwise) to see it through.   I am also thankful to Marianne for her obvious passion for the project and all she has given to bring it so far so quickly.

On the “People” section of the Castle & Key website it says “We don’t take shortcuts.  We don’t follow the status quo”.  The coming weeks and months will require many decisions for Arvin and Murry at Castle & Key and from Eaves, too, as she charts her new course.  While we don’t know what those decisions will be for Arvin and Murry or Eaves, I am fairly certain we can expect them to be bold ones.

Inspired for a selfie at Castle & Key. No one will prefer this to anything Marianne ever did. My apologies.

If you have not visited Castle & Key yet, it is well worth your time. The team has done an amazing job there and the people there are tremendous hosts. If you have thoughts on Castle & Key or the recent changes there, please leave a comment here or on twitter @brbnfellowship. Thanks!

Kevin Rose

The One That Almost Wasn’t

“You have seven months”.  That’s what Jim Rutledge was told in 1994 when he took over as Master Distiller for Four Roses. If the quality of the bourbon produced at Four Roses wasn’t significantly improved in seven months then the distillery would be shut down and the brand would continue using only sourced whiskey.  Fortunately for all of us, Jim and his team was up to the task.  They took a brand infamous for low-quality product to a brand famous for its high quality bourbon.

Four Roses Night

The Bourbon Fellowship enjoyed the accomplishments of Jim and Brent Elliott, current Master Distiller, during our recent Four Roses Night.  This gathering was extra special because it was the first time all eleven “core” members of The Bourbon Fellowship were actually together.  We also had a couple of guests with us making this the highest attended Fellowship in our short time as a group.

All ten of the Four Roses recipes were represented (several of them by more than one bottle).  We also had traditional small batch, yellow label (momma called it “yellow label”, I’m gonna call it “yellow label”), the 2017 limited edition, the 130th anniversary, and the Japanese-only release Super Premium.  With timing being everything we were also able to include the new Four Roses Small Batch Select which was released just a week before our Four Roses Night (review coming soon).  We appreciate Brent being considerate of our schedule when making that release.

Fortunately, nobody tried to be a hero that night and sample all ten recipes.  We did set up several blind tastings for the guys both to see what they really liked and test their skills at identifying the recipes they were drinking.  The OBSK recipe was most frequently selected as a favorite.  Nobody was really great at naming the recipes blind.  Everybody got to share some laughs while enjoying some of the best Bourbon on the planet.

The ABCs of Four Roses

When we talk Four Roses it can sound much more complicated than it really is.  People start spouting off letters like they are trying to win the world’s worst spelling bee. 

OESF.
Word origin, please.
Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
Can you use it in a sentence?
Pass me that bottle of Four Roses OESF.
O-E-S-F.
Correct!

The four letter combinations associated with Four Roses are the codes that tell us the recipe of the Bourbon. The first letter is easy.  It represents the production facility.  The production facility is always Four Roses and the letter is always O.

The second letter is the mash bill.  Four Roses uses two mash bills.    One is at 35% rye and the other at 20% rye.  The first uses 60% corn and 5% barley.  The second uses 75% corn and 5% barley. The higher rye mash bill is code letter B.  The lower rye mash bill is code letter E.  To remember this, I always think: “B is bold.  More rye is bolder”. 

The third letter is for the whiskey distillation.  This one is also easy.  It is always S for “straight”. As in “go straight to the liquor store and buy another bottle of Four Roses”. Or maybe it’s for straight whiskey. It’s tough to say with certainty.

The fourth and final letter is for the yeast strain.  Four Roses uses five proprietary yeast strains: delicate fruit (V), rich fruit (O), herbal (F), spice (K), and floral (Q).  What’s the key to remembering which code matches which yeast strain?  Practice.


I created this Four Roses Cheat Sheet for our Bourbon Fellowship Four Roses Night.  There are even spots arranged to set up your tastings. If you’d like a copy, shoot me a DM or leave an e-mail address in the comments section.

Bourbon and Relationships

We started The Bourbon Fellowship to focus on the friendship side of Bourbon.  The Bourbon was the really great excuse to bring friends together.  I’ve had the opportunity to ask Jim Rutledge (now with his own J.W. Rutledge Distillery) and Brent Elliott their thoughts on the connection between Bourbon and friendships.  I hope you enjoy their responses.

Jim Rutledge’s answer was forged from his experience of taking over Four Roses.  The relationship side of Bourbon was with the people working at the distillery.  He knew everyone’s job was on the line, but they didn’t.  He was passionate not so much about the bourbon, but about the people.  Digging out of that hole and making the huge improvements that they did in such a short amount of time created a great bond among the team.

I sent Brent Elliott an invitation to our Four Roses Night.  What else could he possibly have to do the week before the Kentucky Derby and a week after his distillery released its first new brand in twelve years? Brent was very gracious in sending his very polite regrets, but he also included his thoughts on the Bourbon – friendship connection:  “I get asked all the time what I feel is responsible for the rise in Bourbon’s popularity in recent years. I believe there are many contributing reasons, but I feel there are two that stand out – One, It tastes great and new consumers are learning this. Two, Bourbon is more about the bonds and friendships that form around it. No one I meet talks about Bourbon in a “vacuum”. It’s always about sharing Bourbon and moments with friends or family. And, as you probably have noticed, people in the Bourbon community are universally great people who enjoy sharing and the company of others.”

I ran into Brent at a bottle signing last week. He remembered who I was and actually apologized that he couldn’t attend our Four Roses Night. He asked about our group and how the Four Roses Night went. We talked for a while about the many things going on at Four Roses. He could not have been nicer.

I appreciate the personal responses from both of these Bourbon legends.   I know I’ve toasted many friendships with several Bourbon expressions distilled and bottled by Jim and Brent.  Thanks to Jim for saving Four Roses. Without him, our Four Roses Night would not have been possible (the one that almost wasn’t).  Thanks to Brent for continuing and expanding on the traditions of quality and excellence that are now synonymous with Four Roses.

I had been collecting Four Roses single barrel recipes for a few years. There was one that I was missing and I needed to find it before The Bourbon Fellowship could have the Four Roses Night. Three of the guys in the group got together and found that elusive OBSK and gave it to me for my birthday.
Thanks Drew, Mark & Jared for the bottle and all the stupid bourbon things. Further evidence that it is more about the people than it is about the bourbon.

Kevin Rose

Bourbon Unto Others…

There have been many noteworthy clubs throughout modern history.  Ed Norton and Brad Pitt invited us to “Fight Club”.  Then there is Bushwood Country Club from the movie “Caddyshack”.  While calling it a club may be a bit of a stretch, but Chazz Reinhold founded “Wedding Crashers” and passed on that legacy to all of us. 

Each of these clubs has rules, too.  Fight Club has eight rules, but the first one (two, actually) are the most remembered: “you do not talk about fight club”. And, of course, gambling is illegal at Bushwood, sir (and I never slice).  Wedding Crashers has lots of rules, such as rule #76: “No excuses.  Play like a champion”.

So, when starting a bourbon club what kind of rules should we have?  Should we pattern the rules of Bourbon Fellowship after any of the clubs I’ve mentioned?  What if we follow the lead of Fight Club?  “The first rule of The Bourbon Fellowship is you don’t talk about The Bourbon Fellowship” – that doesn’t really work.  Even though this blog is not enjoyed by millions (yet) you can’t really blog about a secret club.   Other Fight Club rules don’t work very well either.  The sixth rule is “no shoes and no shirt”.  I love these guys but I don’t care to see any of them without a shirt on and I know they don’t want to see me without one, either.  There. Is. Not. Enough.  Bourbon.

George Garvin Brown, founder of Old Forester and author of “The Holy Bible Repudiates Prohibition”

Ultimately, for inspiration on the rules of Bourbon Fellowship I turn to where I should have looked in the first place: The Bible!  If you ask, “What could the Bible have to tell us about Bourbon? “, then you clearly don’t know your George Garvin Brown. 

Debunking Prohibition aside, the Bible is also source for the simple rules (or should I say “rule”) of Bourbon Fellowship.  Specifically, out of Matthew 7:12 which we all know better as The Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.   I’ll make a slight tweak for our purposes: “Bourbon unto others as you would have them Bourbon unto you”.

When I previewed the one simple rule blog topic on twitter I got a couple of responses like “don’t be a jerk” or “don’t be a d*ck”.  While those are pretty simple rules, they also set a pretty low bar.  I can’t imagine any of us being excited by the prospects of “you are barely not a jerk, so I am happy to share my favorite bottle of whiskey with you”.  I think we can and should aim a bit higher than that.

The Old Fitz bottles flank the I.W. Harper

Bourbon unto others means if you want people to be generous with you then you be generous with them.  In our group, whether it’s Shannon sharing a special bottle of Japanese whiskey or Tom bringing homemade bourbon balls or Bill connecting us with a Bourbon legend (more on that in a future post)…everyone is in the spirit of sharing.  At a bottle share last December, Jared brought two 1970s era Old Fitzgerald bottles.  He broke the seal on those with us like he was twisting the cap on a bottle of Dasani.   

Being “bourbon tolerant” is another example of this “Bourbon Unto Others” rule.  If you want to drink what you want and how you want, then you should respect others’ decisions to do the same.  I’ve been known to drink Jack Daniels with orange soda (it’s not close to my daily drinker, but it happens).  If I’m going to drink that…on purpose…even just once…then I’m in no position to mock anything someone else may choose to drink.  At least not in a mean-spirited way.

Bourboning unto others also means being Bourbon Wise – maybe you can picture yourself as being the label on a bottle of Kentucky Owl for this one.  Use your Bourbon powers for good and not evil.  Sharing your knowledge in a humble way helps others learn and be willing to ask questions.  That is a good thing for the dynamics of any group.  Plus, when the conversation turns to a topic you don’t know as much about (home repair, insurance, fatherhood, ridding yourself of a stage five clinger) then the guys in the group with more experience in those areas will gladly help you out.  If you find you need career advice from the guy you laughed at for putting Fresca in his Woodford, don’t be surprised if you get “the world needs ditch diggers, too” as a response.

If all else fails and you can’t rise to Bourbon Unto Others (or maybe Bourbon like a champion), at the very least follow Wheaton’s Law.  It may not get you invited back to a Bourbon group, but it may keep you from getting kicked out.

If you have any suggestions on how to Bourbon Unto Others (or how to Bourbon Like a Champion), I’d be glad to hear them. I hope you’ll share this blog with your friends (maybe that is a way you could be “Bourbon Wise”). Enjoy the Derby! Cheers!

Kevin Rose

Bourbon Draft Night

Happy Draft Night! Tonight begins the annual NFL Draft. You can cheer your team’s selections (or boo if you’re a Jet’s fan because that’s what Jets fans do). So as you watch Commissioner Goodell bro-hug massive linemen and pity that sad last player sitting alone in the green room, consider your own bourbon draft.

What do I mean by “bourbon draft”? What is that bottle (or bottles) that aren’t on your shelf (or shelves) that you’d like to have (or draft)? The rules are: 1. Be realistic: you can’t draft Pappy 23 because it is not realistically available.

2. No duplicates: if you already have Aaron Rodgers, you can’t draft Aaron Rodgers again. So, if you have Elmer T. Lee, you can’t draft Elmer T. Lee again (although I hear he has a heck of 40-yard dash time). Also, differentiating between different single barrel picks of the same brand doesn’t count. If you have a Russell’s Reserve single barrel already but you want the one with the big stupid sticker on it (or the other one with the big stupid sticker on it) that can’t be in the draft.

A glimpse inside my bourbon shelf (one of them). What do I need to draft?

3. Be current: The Cardinals can’t draft 2013 Peyton Manning. You can’t draft Cheesy Gold Foil Wild Turkey.

What is missing in my collection might be something completely different than what is missing in yours. So, a whiskey missing from my draft board doesn’t mean it’s something I don’t like. Maybe I already have it. Or…maybe I really don’t like it. Enough of the preliminaries. If you don’t understand just have another drink and enjoy the rest of the blog post anyway.

Round One: Old Forester 1920

The 1920 Prohibition Style was the third of four offerings in the Old Fo Whiskey Row Series and it is my favorite. I like that 115 proof. I had a bottle, but finished it off a few months ago. I need to find bench depth in this draft.

Round Two: Wilderness Trail Wheated Bourbon

I have never owned a bottle of the Wilderness Trail, but I’ve sampled it in a tasting room. I thought it was pretty interesting. I like that it is bottled in bond and being wheated adds more to the interest. On a side note, Wilderness Trail is having their Taste of Danville festival on Saturday, April 27. If you are in the area you should check it out. More information is included here.

Round Three: Wild Turkey 101 Rye

I am a big fan of Wild Turkey products. Full disclosure: Jimmy Russell thinks of me as a son. Fuller disclosure: That is not at all true. What is true is that I really enjoy Wild Turkey whiskey. As much of it as I drink I have never had the 101 Rye. That is a position of need that I hope to fill in the upcoming draft.

Round Four: Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond

This is one that I love to keep around. I think it is a wonderful bourbon and has that signature Willett flavor. Sadly, my last bottle of OBBiB retired after I threw the empty bottle in the trash. I think I can find a value pick to replace it in the draft.

Round Five: A Midwinter’s Night Dram

This is a bit of a reach on the rules as it can be difficult to find. It is a seasonal release, but if you invest in your scouting department you can find a bottle. I’ve only tasted it once or twice (and I don’t remember which Act or Scene expression I’ve had) but I really like this rye blend from High West. I’d like it to be on my special teams, which, in this case would be a Christmastime whiskey.

I hope you enjoy the NFL Draft tonight and this weekend. Even if you don’t if you have any ideas what would be in your Bourbon Draft be sure to let me know. Share this blog and get opinions from your friends, too.

Kevin Rose

Bourbon Good Guys (Vol. I)

Within every group, there are a small percentage of people who ruin it for everybody else in the group.  A few ne’er-do-wells give the group as a whole a bad name. Heisman Trophy winners have OJ.  Olympic Figure Skaters have Tonya Harding.  Child actors have…well, child actors have a lot of cute-kid-turned-degenerate ruining it for them (Dana Plato, Lindsay Lohan, Corey Haim, Screech (I never remember his real name), Macauly Culkin).  Something really goes off the trail for child actors when they go from being an Eagle Rare to being a Pappy 23. 

Bourbon enthusiasts deal with the same issues.  A few guys give the rest of us a bad rep.  You know the ones: They leave chairs in line at bottle releases and disappear for hours.  They rant about people leaving chairs in line at bottle releases then disappearing for hours. They insult people who don’t like what the “sophisticated” bourbon drinker likes.  They get in virtual fist fights over whether Jack Daniels is a bourbon or not. They tick off your liquor store managers by constantly asking if they have any Pappy, then get mad when they don’t get Pappy even though they’ve never bought a thing in the store before.  These are the people that give bourbon lovers a bad name. 

Most of the people we know in the bourbon community are good people, however.  They are the Tim Tebows, Dorothy Hamills and Ron Howards of bourbon.  So from time to time in this blog I’ll highlight one of the good guys (or gals) that help give bourbon a good name.

That Wild Turkey Guy

David Jennings loves Wild Turkey.  I don’t know if David has kids, but if he does I expect they are named “Jimmy” and “Russell” (whether they be boys or girls).  What I do know is that David is a self-proclaimed “Wild Turkey super fan” and has amassed a great deal of knowledge about the history of the distillery, its products and its people. 

David is better known in bourbon circles as “that Wild Turkey guy” (a moniker I’m sure he wears with pride).  Unless your last name is “Russell”, he is the go-to resource when it comes to anything Wild Turkey.  Much of his insights can be found at his website (www.rarebird101.com) and he can be followed on twitter (@RBird101) and instagram (@rarebird101). 

What I’ve found in David is someone who is very generous with his time and knowledge.  When I ask him questions about Wild Turkey he could very easily just tell me to search his website (because the answer surely lies there if it is anywhere) but he always responds with thorough answers and sends me links to appropriate posts from his site). Even though I don’t know him personally, he has also been a big encouragement to me in launching The Bourbon Fellowship blog.

Jimmy Russell and me. This was taken on a very hot day and Jimmy was having a much better hair day than I was.

David’s latest endeavor is to publish a book on (you guessed it) Wild Turkey.  A goal David has for the book is to have a completed copy of it in Jimmy Russell’s hands by September 10.  That day will mark Jimmy’s 65th anniversary at Wild Turkey.  This would be a fitting way to honor Jimmy as he means so much to bourbon enthusiasts everywhere.  Jimmy is bourbon’s rock star.  He is Bourbon Elvis.  (Now I’m picturing Jimmy Russell in a white jump suit.  I’ve cracked myself up).

There is a lot of work to do to get this project completed before September 10 and David is using Kickstarter to raise funds to get that work done as he will self publish the book.  You can see more information on that campaign on his website here or you can go directly to the Kickstarter page here.  You can hear David describe the project in his own words in a recent episode of the Bourbon Pursuit podcast (this is one of my favorite episodes in awhile, by the way).  If you can help in any way (even just spreading the word) I am sure David would appreciate it.

I would encourage you to follow David on twitter and instagram and subscribe to his blog.  You can learn a lot from him and I know he would love to hear from you. He really is one of bourbon’s good guys. 

Kevin Rose