Opinions Are Like Bung Holes

If you’ve been following the posts in The Bourbon Fellowship blog lately…thank you…you’ve read about our Bottled in Bond Bracket Challenge.  If you need to catch up, you can do so here.

In the previous posts, I’ve shared the results as selected by our group.  (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t already read the previous posts, New Riff defeated Henry McKenna in the finals).  Today, I’ll review the outcome of my own personal bracket, which is just one man’s opinion.  Or is it?

For full disclosure, my first round tastings were not done blind.  I’m still interviewing for an intern, so I had to set up the first tastings myself.  The Final Four and the Finals were done blind with assistance from The Wife.

In the first round, there was only one that was close for me and that was McKenna over Old Bardstown.  I confess to have a thing for that signature Willett profile, but McKenna was, overall, a better, more balanced bourbon.  In the other three, E.H. Taylor trumped 1792.  McKenzie mashed Jim Beam.  New Riff rolled Early Times.

The bracket match-ups for the Bottled in Bond Challenge

This Final Four was an interesting collection.  On one side were two classic, universally-beloved bourbons: E.H. Taylor vs. Henry McKenna.  On the other side of the bracket were two relative unknown newcomers: McKenzie vs. New Riff.  (If you aren’t familiar with New Riff, you can find a review of it here.  If you haven’t heard about McKenzie, I have my full review of it at the bottom of this post).  Both matchups were very difficult decisions for me.  Ultimately, McKenna measured a bit better than EHT and McKenzie made it past New Riff. 

So we come to my Finals: McKenna vs. McKenzie.  How did the Scots get invited to a bourbon contest anyway?  A full review of Henry McKenna was posted in a previous blog post here.  I’ll share my own review of McKenzie Bottled in Bond Bourbon now:

McKenzie Bottled in Bond Bourbon

McKenzie Bottled in Bond was released in late 2018 by Finger Lakes Distillery in New York.  The bourbon is named after the family of Finger Lakes owner and founder, Brian McKenzie.  McKenzie had the distinction of being the only non-Kentucky bourbon in The Bourbon Fellowship bracket challenge.  It is also unique as it is the only wheated bourbon in this contest and the only wheated bottled in bond that I could find other than Old Fitgerald, which is now only available in limited releases.

The mash bill for McKenzie is 70% corn, 20% red wheat and 10% malted barley.  The 20% wheat matches the highest wheat component of any bourbon on the market (Heaven Hill’s wheated mash bill is also 20%). 

Color: This McKenzie is a beautiful, light copper color in the glass with a slightly darker appearance in the bottle.

Nose: There is an expected sweetness to this bourbon given the mash bill.  To me the sweetness presents itself in fresh apple and caramel.  I also note some oak on the nose.

Palate: The apple and the oak are still there.  Some honey comes through with the caramel.  Perhaps a little like a Bit o-Honey candy. 

Finish: The finish on McKenzie Bottled in Bond is pretty unique to me.  I get a bit of spice on the tip of the tongue and then a second wave of sweetness and spice throughout the mouth that stays around for awhile.

Overall, I really enjoy this McKenzie.  I am admittedly a Kentucky bourbon snob, but I’ll look forward to what Finger Lakes has to offer in the future. 

One Man’s Opinion

Ultimately, I picked Henry McKenna over McKenzie although I’ll make room for both on my shelf and in my glass.  However, opinions are like bung holes.  Every barrel has one and some of them leak.  (I may not be getting that expression quite right).

What are opinions like?

I may have botched that expression, but it is true: everybody does have an opinion.  Mine happens to line up with the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and Fred Minnick as they selected Henry McKenna as Best Whiskey for 2019.  Or you could say their opinions line up with mine, but that’s not important.  Their opinions may be read by tens of thousands.  Mine may be read by tens.  However, if we distill this down to what is most important, there is one opinion on bourbon that should really matter to you: yours.

If you don’t like Henry McKenna, that’s alright.  The Heaven Hill Distillery will probably survive and you won’t hurt my feelings or Fred’s (as long as you don’t tell him you like vodka).  It is a great help to find people you trust to give you suggestions, but some of the people I highly respect in this industry don’t like some bourbon that I love.  And that is just fine. Find what YOU like.

So, if you are new to bourbon be adventurous and be willing to try different things.  Find some buddies and do blind tastings together.  You may be surprised by what you really like.  This holds true for those who have been around bourbon for awhile.  You may be missing out on something good simply because of biases that you have developed over time. Also, if you are a whiskey veteran be an encouragement to the new guys and stop mocking people who don’t like what you think they should. Because, ultimately, no matter how important you think your opinion is, it may be as empty as a bung hole to everybody but you.

Thanks for reading this post. If you have an opinion on it, please share it in the comments. I promise it will mean more to me than a bung hole. If you do like what you’re reading in this blog, please share it with your friends. It is appreciated.

Kevin Rose

Any Given Thursday

Last week I shared the results of The Bourbon Fellowship Bottled in Bond Blind Tasting Bracket Challenge (or TBFBiBBTBC).  The beauty of a blind tasting is that label bias and our deeply rooted opinions about what we like (or think we like) take a back seat to what we actually taste at that time.  As the saying goes: any given Sunday any NFL team can be upset.  In this case, any given Thursday any bourbon can come out on top. 

As a reminder, the results found New Riff defeating Henry McKenna in the finals.  To add a little more depth to the results, a couple of our guys have offered up reviews of the runner-up and the champion.  Drew Crawley will cover Henry McKenna for us and Mark Krebs will share about New Riff.

Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled in Bond

Henry McKenna bottled in bond was once a somewhat hidden gem of the bourbon geek community. Long touted for its accessible price and availability, it was historically a consistent recommendation for those looking to make the transition towards the finer side of the bourbon spectrum. The 2018 Edition of “The Minnick Effect,” made McKenna one of the most sought after expressions today and has lead to widespread shortages even here in Louisville.  2019 will likely see more of the same as Henry McKenna was named Whiskey of the Year at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Nose:
Notes of dried cherry, Bartlett pear, and candied apples. Somewhat one-dimensional even after 20 minutes in the glass.
 
Palate:
Enters with standard notes of vanilla and dark caramel, slowly dissolved into more complexity with notes of dark chocolate and black pepper.
 
Finish:
The fruit makes a return appearance with the pear notes, some cedar and dry spice reminiscent of clove.
 
All in all, as with all single barrels, there will be some variance from barrel to barrel. While this particular barrel was not my personal favorite, I have had barrels in the past that were absolutely outstanding. Additionally, the fact that Heaven Hill is able to consistently put out 10yr single barrels, within the restrictions of the bottled in bond act I might add, encourages me to keep buying McKenna in the years to come. If you can find this product for less than $40, I highly recommend you pick one up for yourself.

Bio: Drew lives and works in Louisville Ky with his wife Kaylee. During the day, he works for Old Forester focusing on VIP experiences and single barrel selections. Nights and weekends are dedicated to leading worship at his church. When not working, he enjoys bourbon as a hobby, reading, playing music with friends, and the occasional cigar! 

New Riff Bottled in Bond

New Riff bottled in bond, unlike Henry McKenna, is a relative new kid on the block in the bourbon community. The New Riff Distillery, founded by Ken Lewis in 2014, released its first distilled bourbon, New Riff bottled in bond, in the fall of 2018 with a commitment to bottled in bond and non-chill filtration. At 4 years old, it’s based on a mash bill of non-GMO grains of 65% corn, 30% rye, 5% malted barley, and with an MSRP of around $40, it has quickly found a place as a daily drinker for many bourbon enthusiasts.

Nose: Butterscotch, baking spices, dark fruit, and undertones of spearmint.

Palate: Cinnamon, caramel, vanilla, young oak, and rye spice.

Finish: Medium finish, slightly tannic (likely due to the young age), with caramel, vanilla, and pepper.

Although the New Riff was personally my third favorite bourbon of the bracket behind Old Bardstown bottled in bond and 1792 bottled in bond respectively, it managed some impressive wins over Early Times bottled in bond (6-1), Jim Beam Bonded (6-1), and Henry McKenna bottled in bond (5-2) en route to becoming the bracket’s overall winner. With an MSRP of around $40 it’s definitely worth picking up a bottle of the bottled in bond or even a single barrel. This ‘New Riff on an old tradition’ will be sure to impress bourbon drinkers of various experience levels.

Bio: Mark Krebs is an IT professional, husband to one wife, father to three children, drummer, Louisville Cardinal fan, and all around slightly above average guy. He’s not much for long walks on the beach, but does enjoy a hike every now and then. Mostly he just prefers drinking bourbon and smoking cigars with good friends.

Thanks to Drew and Mark for sharing their thoughts on the finalists in our challenge. Next week the NCAA tournament will wrap up and I’ll wrap up this blog series when I discuss my own personal bracket results and provide a review of one of the other bourbons we tasted. As always, thanks for reading and please share with your friends and leave feedback if you have something to say.

Kevin Rose

Elite in Louisville

What is elite?  If you’re a football fan you’ve heard the debates of is Joe Flacco elite? Is Matt Ryan elite? Is Eli Manning elite?

The answers are: No. Maybe.  And only against the Patriots.

The South Regional of the NCAA Basketball Tournament is in Louisville this weekend.  Fans from Tennessee (go Vols!), Virginia, Purdue and Oregon (editor’s note: Oregon is not located anywhere near the “south”) will soon be descending on Louisville. The Regional is made up of Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight matchups to determine who goes to the Final Four.  That’s a lot of numbers and I was told there would be no math.

The Bourbon Fellowship had a great time during our group tour at Old Forester.

I live in Louisville and as a public service to any that may be visiting this weekend for the South Regional (or maybe you’re just here to visit your great-Aunt Edna) here are the Elite 8 restaurants and the Elite 8 things to do while you’re visiting.

Elite 8 Restaurants

Some of these will be downtown and near the arena.  Some may be a short drive away.  These are all great restaurants in all aspects.  However, all will also have wonderful bourbon offerings (except one because nothing is perfect).

Doc Crows: At Doc Crows you’ll find everything from barbecue sandwiches to top of the line steak.  So you can eat on a budget or you can splurge a bit.  The bourbon list is extensive and don’t forget to save room for the bread pudding.

Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen: Merle’s is recently expanded and features live music.  Tacos and hot chicken are the top features on the menu.  Any pour of whiskey can be made a double for $2 (whether it’s a Jim Beam or a Pappy’s).

Down One Bourbon Bar: Here you’ll find salads, unique sandwiches and smothered biscuits (you’ll need to see it).  The bourbon list is solid at prices that won’t cause sticker shock.

Jeff Ruby’s: This is THE place for a special night out.  The steaks are the best in town and the service is unparalleled.  These things do come at a price, however, but this place is worth it.  They offer an impressive whiskey list and the prices are reasonable given the upscale nature of the restaurant. 

Feast: What’s the best barbecue in Louisville?  That’s a tough question.  What’s the best barbecue in the downtown area?  That’s easy: Feast.  Pulled pork, brisket or ribs…you cannot go wrong.  Be sure to order the tots and the bourbon slushie!

Silver Dollar: This is a bourbon bar’s bourbon bar located just a short drive from downtown.  I can just sit and endlessly turn through the whiskey menu.  It is has so many unique offerings.  They really know their stuff here.  The food is outstanding, too.  You’ll find everything from burgers to catfish to chicken and waffles.  You won’t be disappointed.

River House: My favorite restaurant in Louisville is River House.  It is a short five minute drive from downtown, but the Uber there will be worth it.  Seafood and the raw bar are features of River House, but the steaks, chicken and pasta are making me drool right now thinking about it.  If the weather is nice they have a beautiful patio with views of the river.  Bourbon isn’t the main thing here, but you’ll easily find something you’ll love to sip on as you watch the river flow.

Mmmm…donuts.

North Lime Donuts: What do you need for breakfast after having one or ten too many the night before? Well, donuts, of course!  The best donut place in town is North Lime.  They’ve only been in town for a short time and it is a few minutes from downtown, but for the love of a funnel cake donut…it is worth it. Sorry, no bourbon served here.  Hopefully, that is in the business plan.

Elite 8 Things to Do

Four bourbon things:

The heart of Whiskey Row

Old Forester Distillery: The opening of the Old Forester Distillery was an important piece to the revival of Whiskey Row.  The tour of this traditional brand’s ultra-modern distillery is very impressive.  If you go, tell Drew I said “hey”.

Peerless Distillery: Technically, Peerless isn’t selling bourbon yet.  They do have some award winning rye, however.  The tour is a lot of fun, too.  Try to go on Saturday and hear the introduction to the tour delivered by Peerless owner, Corky Taylor.

Michter’s Distillery: This is the newest addition to Louisville’s downtown distillery lineup.  To be honest, I haven’t taken the tour, but I’ve been in the gift shop and it looks great (and they occasionally stock the shelves with some difficult to find bottles of bourbon and rye).   A friend told me the tour was “kinda boozy”, so that’s a strong recommendation.

Other distilleries: This is cheating a bit to group all of these and count them as one but, again…I was told there would be no math.  Any iconic bourbon distillery is going to be within an hour drive of Louisville.  If it’s a pretty day, the drive will be pleasant and the distilleries are beautiful properties in their own right.  Go here for more info on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Four non-bourbon things:

Kentucky Science Center: You brought the kids with you to the Sweet Sixteen?  What were you thinking! I mean that is seriously dumb.  If you made this mistake you can make the best of it by going to the Kentucky Science Center.  They have lots of great activities to keep your little crumb cruncher entertained.

Louisville Slugger Museum: Everybody needs a personalized bat.  This is where you get one.  The tour is a lot of fun, too.

Kentucky Derby Museum: There isn’t any racing going on at Churchill right now, but you can relive the Kentucky Derby here.  “The Greatest Race” exhibit is worth the price of admission by itself.

Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar: This downtown blues bar is a great way to spend an evening. The music is always good. The service is friendly. The bourbon is cheap. Count me in!

If you have any questions or need other suggestions, just tweet at me.  I hope you have a good time, especially if you’re a Vols fan!

Hopefully, this helps visitors for the South Regional or anytime. Maybe it will remind a local of a place to visit that they had forgotten. We’ll be back to the regularly scheduled program tomorrow. Cheers!

Kevin

2019 NCAA Tournament Drinking Game (and why you may not have friends)

You’ve been plotting this all week. The scratchy throat on Monday. The well-timed sneezes as your boss walked by your desk on Tuesday. The talking with a fake stuffy nose on Wednesday. All of this building up to the call-in sick on Thursday (and Friday isn’t looking too good for you, either).

THIS…this is Awesome, Baby!

It’s the NCAA Tournament and you’ve got some basketball to watch and some money to lose on your brackets. Rather than give you tips on which 12-seed will beat a 5-seed (Oregon over Wisconsin, by the way) I present to you the NCAA Tournament Drinking Game. This game is, of course, an exhibition and not a competition so please no wagering (and drink responsibly).

  • You find Tru TV on your first try…drink.
  • The announcers mention Zion during a game Zion is not playing in…drink.
  • You hear someone proclaim “My bracket is busted” before halftime of the first game…hit him with the bottle.
  • YOU proclaim “My bracket is busted” before halftime of the first game…turn off the TV and take a long walk allowing the answers to the question “why don’t I have friends?” to just flow into you.
  • There is a long delay while the refs review a play (that is obvious to everyone else) and you wonder just how badly your team is about to get screwed…drink, slowly.
  • You hear Dick Vitale scream “It’s awesome, baby!”…stop drinking.  You are already hallucinating.  Vitale, thankfully, doesn’t call any of these games.
  • Some stranger goes into painful detail about his selection strategy on all 47 of his brackets…drink. A lot.
  • YOU go into painful detail with a stranger about your selection strategy on all 47 of your brackets…now you’ve got one more answer to the question “why don’t I have friends?”

I hope you enjoy the tournament, but don’t over-do it. If you missed the blog on The Bourbon Fellowship Bottled in Bond Bracket Challenge, you can find that here. The outcome was a bit of a surprise (Duke didn’t win).

Kevin

The Riff Stuff

It only seems fitting to honor the anniversary of the passage of the Bottled in Bond Act (March 3, 1897) and the NCAA Basketball Tournament (occurring every March since I can remember…too lazy to look up the exact year it started). So, last week The Bourbon Fellowship held its First Annual Bottled in Bond Blind Tasting Bracket or FABIBBTB for short (or not so short, as it turned out). If you are unfamiliar with “Bottled in Bond” you can follow this link for more information.

The bracket was composed of 8 randomly selected bottled in bond (BiB) brands.  I put the names of 14 different BiBs in a box (a Booker’s box to be exact) and drew out 8 names.  Those 8 went back in the box and as I drew them out, I wrote their name on the bracket for pairings.  Each was assigned a letter (A through H) to identify them individually during the blind tastings.  The participants and the 1st Round pairings were:

These made the Big Dance!

A – 1792 Bottled in Bond (Barton)

B – E.H. Taylor Small Batch (Buffalo Trace)

C – Henry McKenna (Heaven Hill)

D – Old Bardstown (Willett)

E – Jim Beam Bonded (Jim Beam)

F – McKenzie Bottled in Bond (Finger Lakes)

G – Early Times (Brown-Forman)

H – New Riff Bottled in Bond (New Riff)

I poured the samples and counted votes as seven of our Fellowship made some tough decisions…and drank some outstanding bourbon.  As a group, they sampled one pairing at a time and voted on which bourbon moved on to the next round.  (For example, sample A and B then vote on which one they liked better.) We would proceed through each remaining pairing to complete the first round.  The semi-finals and finals followed the same pattern.

Quarter Finals

By a slim 4-3 margin, E.H. Taylor advanced over 1792.  It would be a shame if Colonel Taylor got bounced in the first round given that the Bottled in Bond Act wouldn’t have been passed without him.

In a somewhat surprising close match-up, Henry McKenna narrowly moved on over Old Bardstown by a 4-3 count.  An even greater surprise to me as I moderated the tasting was that a couple of long-devoted McKenna fans voted for Old Bardstown.  That is the beauty of a blind tasting!

Jim Beam Bonded also gained a 4-3 victory over McKenzie Bottled in Bond, but it wouldn’t be March and it wouldn’t be Madness without a buzzer beater and some hullabaloo.  After a first count of 4-3 in favor of McKenzie, Tom (known lovable trouble-maker of the group) abruptly changed his vote from F (McKenzie) to E (Beam).  Beam would move on, but in controversial fashion.

The last pairing of the Quarter Finals saw New Riff dominate 6-1 over Early Times.  Most of the guys said it was a close decision for them personally, but an overwhelming majority chose the newcomer.

Final Four

In a battle of the bottled in bond bourbon behemoths (say that five times fast), E.H. Taylor took on Henry McKenna for a right to punch a ticket to the finals.  Again, the vote was 4-3.  Again, known McKenna lovers voted against it. Again, McKenna still claimed a win and a chance at the title.

Maybe the youngster just doesn’t know it isn’t supposed to be this easy, but New Riff claims another 6-1 victory.  This time the freshman bests Beam and carries a lot of momentum into the finals.

The Bottled in Bond Finals

From one side of the bracket is Henry McKenna.  A 10-year single barrel bottled in bond that has been a daily drinker for many a bourbon enthusiast and has also been hailed as 2018 Whiskey of the Year.  McKenna is a true PTP-er (“prime time player” for those not fluent in speaking “Vitale”). Emerging from the other side is the upstart freshman, New Riff.  A four-year bottled in bond that is the very first bourbon distilled by New Riff Distillery.  This bourbon just hit the market in the fall of 2018.  It’s a diaper dandy and it’s awesome, baby!

Congratulations to New Riff.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa-oh…The Riff Stuff!

One would think that based on résumé alone Henry McKenna would be the heavy favorite.  But…the last time I checked: we don’t drink a résumé! New Riff (the New Kid on the Block) had the “right stuff” and took down the traditional favorite, Henry McKenna, by a 5-2 vote. 

Congratulations to New Riff on claiming the title of The Bourbon Fellowship 2019 Bottled in Bond Champion.  While it may not fall in the category of “coveted title” just yet, it will always be the first one ever.  And they can never take that away from you, New Riff (look for your certificate in the mail, soon)!

The results…

The blind tasting aspect of this was fascinating to watch unfold. In a day or two, I’ll blog about that and what my personal bracket looked like. I’ll also post reviews from our Bourbon Fellowship of the two finalists.

Kevin

It Isn’t Brain Surgery

It isn’t brain surgery.

That’s what people like to say when they want to define a certain task as being simple to perform.  Not just simple to perform, mind you, but simple to perform expertly.  You don’t want your neurosurgeon patting himself on the back because he did a slightly better than average job fixing what’s wrong with your medulla oblongata. You want that doc getting an award for the work he did on you.  After all…it is, in fact, brain surgery. 

What isn’t brain surgery is hosting a new bourbon group.  However, if you’ve never led a bourbon group before (or even BEEN to one before) then getting it right can feel a little more intimidating than it really is.  I made notes on several different ideas for that first Bourbon Fellowship going back and forth on what would be an appropriate way to launch this group.  In the process, I developed a few “Do’s and Don’ts” that may come in handy for your own bourbon group:

  • Do…offer pours of interesting bourbon in traditional whiskey glassware.
  • Don’t…open a bottle of Benchmark telling guests to “take a swig and pass it around”.
  • Do…ask your friends to share their thoughts on the bourbon they taste.
  • Don’t…scream at them they are WRONG! (a la John McGloughlin) and then subject them to lengthy personal tasting notes.
  • Do…provide light snacks such as pretzels, crackers, cheese, etc.
  • Don’t…dump leftover Halloween candy on the table and say “Trick or Treat, suckers”.

Fortunately, on that first night I think we were closer to the “Do” end of the Do-Don’t Spectrum.  I decided I wanted each Fellowship to have a few distinctions.  One was to have a theme.  Something more memorable than just filling a table with as many different bottles as possible every time you meet. In future blog posts I’ll go into more detail on some of the themes, but some examples are a specific brand (Knob Creek, Blanton’s, Booker’s) or a different style (rye, bottled in bond, barrel proof) or…well you get the idea.  The theme for Meeting One was Ten Year Whiskey.  The lineup consisted of Michter’s, Rebel Yell, Henry McKenna, Eagle Rare and Whistle Pig Rye.  Most people wouldn’t turn down a pour of any of those, so it seemed like a safe and successful way to start and everyone seemed to like it (they’ve kept coming back, at least).

A re-enactment of the Ten Year lineup. Doesn’t it look Wonderful Tonight.

I also thought having a specific playlist as background music during the evening would be another distinction for the group.  That first night the soundtrack was live versions of Eric Clapton songs.  Why Eric Clapton? Probably because I had just been listening to a lot of Clapton at that time.  Why live?  Why not? It’s in the way that you use it, anyway.

The final and most important question was: who to invite?
The short answer is “Friends you didn’t mind drinking some of your best bourbon”.  Also, guys that you wouldn’t mind if they stayed After Midnight. It didn’t really concern me how “into bourbon” someone was.  In the first e-mail invitation I sent out I actually said: “I want to start hosting, on a semi-regular basis, a bourbon fellowship.  Where a few guys come over, slow down for an hour or two and sip some bourbon (or rye or rum or Kool Aid or whatever you prefer).”  Nobody had any Kool-Aid, but I don’t think everyone drank bourbon that night.  I think my oldest son (who is of legal drinking age and yes I am old) just drank a Dr. Pepper and joined in the conversation. He’s come a long way in his bourbon journey since then, by the way.

We’ve got eleven of us in The Bourbon Fellowship now.  The rules for membership were simple:

1. No Knuckleheads.

2. Membership is limited to how many people I can fit in my basement.

While we are currently at capacity, we try to have a guest in from time to time if a “regular” can’t make it.  A couple of the guys are very knowledgeable about bourbon, a couple are relative novices and the rest of us are somewhere in between.  We are all, however, learning more and more as we go.  Nobody has ever said you have to be an expert about bourbon in order to enjoy bourbon.  After all…bourbon, in fact, is not brain surgery. 

This week, we are having the First Annual Bourbon Fellowship Bottled-in-Bond Bracket Challenge. It will be a blind tasting of eight different bottled-in-bond bourbons. Next week, I’ll let you know how it went and we’ll have some reviews of the Final Four by a few of the guys in the group.

Kevin

In the beginning…

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty…

Genesis (the book of the Bible not the rock band)

In the beginning?  Well, there are numerous legends, tall tales and far-fetched fables about who (in the beginning) created bourbon. Regardless of who started it, my beginnings in bourbon can only be traced back to six or seven years ago.  Before then my bourbon cabinet was “formless and empty”.  It’s only been in the past three or four years that my bourbon stash has been fruitful and multiplied. 

A year ago in February I decided the best way to celebrate my birthday was to invite a few friends over and open a newly-acquired bottle of Elijah Craig 18.  I don’t know where an EC18 ranks in your collection, but it was pretty near the top of mine and I couldn’t think of a better time to open it than with the best of company. 

This Elijah Craig 18 was outstanding. The Reverend Craig would be proud.

As we talked of legends, tall tales and far-fetched fables about each other, we sipped away about half of the delicious whiskey in that bottle. Before calling it a night, we might have sampled a bit of Blanton’s and a splash of Booker’s, too.  The guys enjoyed and appreciated the bourbon, but everyone seemed to also enjoy just being together.  Even though we didn’t have Birthday Bourbon, this birthday bourbon tasting was a great way to celebrate.

For a group of guys, however, what else would you do? Have your buddies over for birthday cake?  Most normal people like cake, but are we drinking Capri Sun and playing pin-the-tail on the donkey, too?  Probably not.  Getting together to watch a ball game is always fun, but the focus is always on the game and not the fellowship.  You could go watch a movie, but unless it’s “Die Hard 8” or “Rocky 47” or the highly-anticipated “Die Hard vs. Rocky”, then going to the movies just seems a little too date night-ish. Now you could talk me into a steakhouse and a really nice, medium-rare rib eye but, other than that, getting together to share some bourbon with friends is tough to beat.  Of course, any rib eye would likely be paired with a double pour of Kentucky Spirit anyway.

After everyone left and I was putting away glasses and bottles, I thought about how well the evening went.  It wasn’t just drinking good bourbon.  It was a few hours of laughs and conversation with friends that I just haven’t seen as often as I should. 

So, the very obvious thought occurred to me: we should do this more often.  And so, we did.

The next blog post will be about the first meeting of The Bourbon Fellowship. Many of the future posts will be about our group which will, hopefully, give you some ideas on what to do in your own group.

Kevin

When It’s Not All About the Bourbon

A wise man once told me for every situation there is a Seinfeld quote, an 80’s rock lyric and a Bible verse.  Challenge accepted.

If you love bourbon (and you likely do or else you wouldn’t be reading this) you may have a favorite way to drink it.  You may like it neat.  You may like it on the rocks.  You may like it in a cocktail.  You may even like it mixed with Coke…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

All of those are great ways to enjoy bourbon.  OK.  Almost all of those are great ways to enjoy bourbon.  Personally, my favorite way to drink bourbon is with friends.  George Thorogood may sing “when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself”, but even he had the Delaware Destroyers.  Plus, it is a terrible song anyway.

Booker’s Kathleen’s Batch is a Bourbon Fellowship favorite.

I’d bet a Michter’s 20 to your Kentucky Gentleman that most every bourbon story you have is one you’ve enjoyed with friends.  Maybe it’s the time you celebrated a son’s wedding with friends by opening that elusive bottle of Pappy.  Or it could be the time you shared an Elijah Craig 18 with the guys on your birthday.  Or the time you had a pour of a newly acquired George T. Stagg with a friend simply because you hadn’t seen each other for a long time.  I am blessed to have done all of these (and more).  These were truly great times with great bourbon.

Not every story, mind you, may be with friends. I’ve got a Booker’s story between me and a bartender named Randy with cameo appearances by former NFL quarterback Marc Bulger and pro golfer J.B. Holmes. We’ll leave the details of that tale for another day, however.

However, the point of life isn’t the stories or (gasp!) even the bourbon.  The point is the relationships.  What I’ll explore in this blog is that relationship side of bourbon.  In future posts I’ll share the formation of my own bourbon group, The Bourbon Fellowship.  I’ll give you some ideas you can use to start your own group, including some of the themes we’ve had for our meetings.   There’ll be some of the traditional bourbon blog fare: reviews, tasting notes, commentary on bourbon news, etc.   The main focus, however, will be the goings-on of The Bourbon Fellowship and how bourbon is the “connector”.  It is the excuse to gather with friends as a respite from the stresses of life and share a few good pours and a few good times.  Because it is true: “a friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).  The best friends I have in this world – the guys I share my life with – are the same guys I get to share my bourbon with.