Friday, April 18, 2014

Kentucky Craft Spirits Trail - Day 3

We awoke early at the Bardstown Hampton Inn and went to the lobby for a nice breakfast. There were eggs, biscuits, bacon and a good selection of fresh fruit. We took a drive around Bardstown as we left enjoying the beautiful small historic town. It is impressive that the buildings there are mostly original but all are now occupied by interesting small local shops that attract locals and tourists to the restaurants, coffee shops and antique stores. There is an area just outside of town with strip malls and chain restaurants but the downtown area of Bardstown has remained a vibrant historic community. People in Bardstown are very friendly, knowing the importance of tourism to their economy. Even the air in Bardstown smells great. As the wind direction changes, the aroma of fermenting grain wafts through the town adding to the atmosphere of the town.
As we left town, we stopped at the Subway near the Hampton Inn and bought two 6” Black Forest Ham subs for lunch.  Since Subway has the buy one, get one free deal this month, we had our lunch for both of us for $3.75.
We arrived at Barton's 1792 Distillery before they opened at 9 am. We like the 1792 bourbon even though it has more rye in the mashbill than we typically like. It is reasonably priced and is very good for sipping or mixing in juleps or old fashioneds. A group of about 10 people had assembled in time for the first tour by 10 am. We opted to not take a tour this time since we had a private tour when we visited Barton's in March 2011. When we were at Barton's three years ago, Mary, Emily and I were the only ones there for a tour so we had a private walk through the plant. At that time, we were impressed with the variety of products that are produced or bottled in Bardstown thanks to Barton's role in their parent company, Sazarac. This year, we walked around the gift shot, took some snapshots and left for the Willett Distillery nearby.
The Willett Distillery is on Loretto Road just a mile or so from Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center.  When we arrived a little before 10 am, there were a number of people gathering in the parking lot.  We learned that a group of officials from the bourbon industry were meeting at Willett on Friday.  We browsed the gift shop at Willett and arranged for our tour of the distillery.  Two other couples were on the tour with us. 
We started by seeing where the grain comes in and is stored.  We learned that the corn and wheat used at Willett are Kentucky grown but the rye is shipped in.  The ground grains are mixed in the proper proportion for the spirit they are making then the mash is cooked to begin the process to convert the grain starches into fermentable sugars.  After about three days in the stainless steel fermentation tubs the alcohol content of the mash reaches about 10%.  The grain solids are filtered out and are sold to area farmers and the liquids are sent to the stills for alcohol extraction.  We tasted mash at one, two and three days of fermentation and noticed a distinct difference in the appearance and taste of each.  While the mash that is newly fermenting had a taste like cornbread, the three day old mash has a distinct flavor of sour mash.  The copper pot still used at Willett is a thing of beauty.  In fact, the bottle for Willett’s signature product, Willett Pot Still Reserve is made to resemble the distillery’s copper pot still.
While we were admiring the still, the master distiller came out to meet us.  He got each of us a glass and drew a generous sample of “white dog” from the still’s try box.  We were very hesitant to sample the unaged fresh whiskey since we have had white dog in the past and found it to be rough and unpleasant causing an intense burn in the mouth, through and stomach.  
We were surprised, however, that the white dog from Willett was actually very pleasant despite being about 130 proof.  When asked why the Willett white dog was so much easier to drink than other distilleries’ raw product, the distiller said that the water, mashbill and the slow distillation process all contribute to the pleasant nature of the unaged white dog.
We looked out at the small lake at Willett where the limestone water used to make the bourbon and rye whiskey is stored.  In addition, water from this lake cools the condensing spirits in the final stages of distillation. 
After leaving the still area, we saw where new white oak barrels are filled with over 50 gallons of white dog that will age in one of Willett’s rickhouses.  Willett uses barrels made by Independent Stave Company.  We learned that barrels made in Lebanon, Kentucky have band rivets stamped with a K or Y.  Those barrels made by Independent Stave Company’s Lebanon, Missouri factory have rivets marked with an M or O.   Our guide told us that spirits are taxed based on the quantity of liquid added to the barrels at the beginning of the aging process.  This is significant since spirits given a long aging may lose half of the quantity by the time the barrel is emptied and bottled.  Over 60% of the cost of a bottle of bourbon is tax.
Once filled, the barrels have a popular bung hammered into place to seal the cask.  If the barrel will be stored in the rickhouse adjacent to the filling it is rolled to the rickhouse on a set of steel rails.  Otherwise it is trucked to one of Willett’s nearby rickhouses for aging.
Willett’s rickhouses have barrels with a variety of logos depending on the DBA that the company was using at the time the spirit was casked.  Some barrels are identified as Willett but others were labeled as Kentucky Bourbon Distillers.  Until somewhat recently, spirits marketed by Willett were made by other distilleries.  Now the family owned distillery makes all of their spirits at the Bardstown distillery.
After leaving the rickhouses, we returned to the visitor center for a sampling of Willett’s products.  The first thing we tried was Johnny Drum Bourbon.  This is a great value bourbon selling at retail for less than $15 for a 750 ml bottle.  However, the bourbon is quite good although a little too high in rye for our tastes. It would be an excellent mixer where the rye would come through the tastes of the mixers well.  We also tasted the Noah’s Mill and Rowen’s Creek Bourbons, both of which were very good.  Willett’s signature product, the Willett Pot Still Reserve was excellent in our opinion.  This is a wheated bourbon and lacked the peppery taste of high rye mashbills.  Like other Willett products, the Pot Still Reserve is attractively priced and is a good value.  Willett also makes a few rye whiskeys that are each well reviewed.
The drive to Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky was only about a 20 minute drive from Willett.  We took advantage of the drive to eat our sub sandwiches that we purchased that morning.  When we arrived at the distillery we were shocked to learn that the parking lot was filled.  Tour groups of 25-30 people were leaving the visitor center every 15 minutes.  We learned that the wait for a tour was over an hour so we decided to not tour on this trip.  I suppose the recent increase in the popularity of bourbon, the holiday weekend and the beautiful weather all combined for bringing large crowds to the large distillery.
We had toured Marker’s Mark several time in the past so we didn’t feel that we would miss anything by not taking the tour this time.  We enjoy Maker’s Mark since, as a wheated whiskey, it has a sweet flavor with no burn.  Maker’s Mark also mixes as well as it goes as a sipping whiskey.  They also make a double aged product, Maker’s Mark 46 that, after aging several years in a new white oak barrel, is recasked in a French oak barrel where it goes through a second again.  We actually prefer the regular Maker’s Mark but both are quality bourbons.  Emily and I are both registered as Maker’s Mark Ambassadors.  As such, we receive cards, offers and gifts from the distillery several times a year.  In addition, our names have been placed on a barrel of aging Maker’s Mark.  We can monitor our barrel’s aging process with our ambassador log in and will be invited to the distillery to participate in opening our barrel and will be able to purchase bottles for bourbon from our barrel.
Upon leaving Maker’s Mark, we took the short drive to Lebanon, Kentucky.  We drove along a beautiful small stream that flowed down riffles over limestone shelves.  When we arrived at Limestone Branch Distillery, we were met by owner and distiller, Steve Beam. 
Steve comes from a long line of bourbon royalty on both sides of his family.  His mother was a Dant, descended from J. W. Dant who settled in Kentucky’s Cumberland Gap area in the 1830s making whiskey in a log still with a copper pipe.  The Dant Distillery made a number of whiskey brands including J. W. Dant and Yellowstone.  The Dant Distillery even produced and sold whiskey during prohibition for “medicinal purposes” only.  Steve’s bourbon ancestry on his father’s side goes back to Jacob Boehm, great grandfather of Jim Beam.  Jacob started distilling operations in Kentucky in 1795 after immigrating from Germany.  In that time, members of the Beam family have been represented in nearly every Kentucky distillery.
Steve could not have given us a warmer reception.  He greeted us as if we were family and made us feel welcome at Limestone Branch.  Steve took us through his small but efficient operations where he produces excellent moonshine whiskey.  Steve’s basic recipe, T. J. Pottinger Sugar Shine is a 100 proof spirit that is made from 50% corn and 50% sugar to yield a moonshine that is 50% alcohol.  Unlike some distillers, Steve doesn’t cook the corn mash, telling us that the sugar contributes to all of the alcohol production in his moonshine and that the corn only provides flavor and complexity.  He showed us the mash fermenting in the oak barrels in his distillery some of which had a portion of blue corn in the mash to explore other possibilities for the spirits.
Steve showed us his stills including the copper pot still where he makes the basic moonshine recipes that have been passed down for generations of moonshiners in Kentucky and the surrounding states.  He also showed us the still where Tim Smith makes his Climax Moonshine.  Steve has mentored Tim in his conversion from an illegal moonshiner to a legal distiller of corn whiskey.  Tim and Steve were featured in several episodes of the Discovery Channel television show, Moonshiners.  Steve took great pains to help Tim negotiate the complex laws, regulations and procedures surrounding liquor production.  Tim named his moonshine for his home community of Climax, Virginia.
After a demonstration of the stills, Steve showed us how he blends fruits into the moonshine for his strawberry, cherry and blackberry moonshine.  He also ages some of the moonshine in used bourbon barrels to give the moonshine a hint of bourbon flavor and color.  We were anxious to go to the tasting room where Steve treated us to a sample of the T. J. Pottinger Sugar Shine.  Like other moonshine we sampled on the trip, we expected it to be harsh and rough.  My previous experience with drinking moonshine could be likened to swallowing a porcupine.  However, the T. J. Pottinger’s Sugar Shine was easy to drink and had a pleasing corn taste.  The shine tingled the tongue and warmed all the way down.  We liked the apple pie and blackberry flavors but were intrigued with the Moon Pie Moonshines.  We were skeptical of a moonshine flavored like Moon Pie, especially since chocolate, vanilla and banana options were available.  Steve uses natural flavors like cacao and Madagascar Vanilla to give the moonshine a great Moon Pie taste.  We were convinced that Moon Pie Moonshine was a hit.
We went to the gift shop and purchased a bottle of T. J. Pottinger’s Sugar Shine and a Mason jar of Chocolate Moon Pie Moonshine.  Steve signed both of our purchases for us as we chatted.  It was obvious that Steve Beam’s connection to the bourbon industry is not just from his family heritage in Kentucky bourbon.  He obviously has a love of what he does and a desire to produce the highest quality product he can make.  Being a craft distiller, he is very connected to his customer base and knows the importance of putting the hard work into his spirits.  As we were leaving, Steve wished us well and gave us directions to Independent Stave Company nearby.
As we walked from the parking lot of Independent Stave Company, we saw a sign that the factory was closed this afternoon for the Easter weekend.  However, we were still able to take a tour of the plant.  In fact, the tour of the factory was probably better with production stopped since we were better able to see the machinery used to produce the barrels that store bourbon and many other products.  We were prohibited from taking photos or videos in the factory since the company didn’t want overseas manufacturers to obtain information on the mechanisms to produce water tight oak barrels.
Most barrels made by Independent Stave Company are the typical 53 gallon white oak barrels that are used by the bourbon distillers in the area.  ISC barrels from their Lebanon, Kentucky or Lebanon, Missouri factories are used by nearly every US bourbon and whiskey maker.  One notable exception are the Brown-Forman companies (Jack Daniels, Canadian Club, Woodford Reserve) who use barrels from the Brown-Forman cooperage.  Bourbon isn’t the only thing stored in ISC barrels.  Used bourbon barrels often go to Scotland for aging Scotch or to Tennessee for whiskey.  Used bourbon barrels are even used on Avery Island, Louisiana to age Tabasco Sauce.
Independent Stave Company receives white oak logs which are quarter sawn and cut to length for barrel staves.  The rough staves are placed to the radius of the barrel and tapered to the correct profile.  The staves are arranged in temporary hoops by expert coopers who then send the barrels to a steaming area for about 40 minutes to soften the staves in preparation for bending.  After coming out of the steam chamber, powerful hydraulics are used to pull the staves together tightly.  The temporary hoops are replaced by six steel hoops that will hold the staves tightly.  Rivets connect the hoops at the stave where the bung will be located. 
The barrel heads are assembled from white oak planks and held only by the friction of tongue and groove joints.  No glues or adhesives are used in making a barrel.  The heads are cut to the circular shape to fit in the barrel to make a watertight seal.
Once assembled, the barrels are passed through a natural gas flame to char the inside of the barrels.  Each bourbon manufacturer has unique specifications for their barrels but most want a number 3 or number 4 char which are the deepest burn levels available in the barrels.  The barrel heads are charred with a wood fire fueled by scraps of wood from other processes at the factory.
A bung is drilled into the barrels so product can be added then the barrels are pressure tested to assure that there are no leaks and that the casks are watertight.  Since bourbon is taxed when it enters the barrel, distillers want to make certain that the precious spirits do not leak from the barrel.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the production at Independent Stave Company is the full utilization of everything that enters the factory.  Waste bark from the logs and sawdust from cutting and shaping goes to make hardwood mulch that is sold by the factory.  Scraps of wood fuels the charring of the barrel heads.  Excess wood scrap is given to employees for kindling in their wood stoves at home.  End users of the barrels often return damaging or leaking barrels to ISC for repair.
We had an excellent visit to Independent Stave Company and will plan to come by again when we are in the area to see the plant in operation.
We headed to Danville, Kentucky to tour Wilderness Trace Distillery there.  Danville is another interesting little Kentucky town, in some part because of Centre College.  As a small liberal arts college, Centre College has an excellent academic and service reputation.  The presence of the college in the town gives it a literate and youthful feel.  Like Bardstown, Danville has any small shops and eateries in the historic old buildings for students and the community to enjoy.
We were met at Wilderness Trace Distillery by master distiller, Shane Baker who gave us a tour of the facility.  The parent company is a biotech company that has been a producer of industrial ethanol as well as Neutral Grain Spirits for other distilleries.  In addition, they produce, store and archive yeast strains for many distilleries.  Wilderness Trace has been making their own brands only a short time. 
Shane showed us the fermentation areas and the production stills.  Unlike many distillers who use natural gas flame or steam to power their stills, the stills at Wilderness Trace are powered by hot water.  Shane says that this gives a more controlled heat that produces a more consistent spirit.  Since the company’s roots are in biotechnology, the atmosphere at Wilderness Trace seemed to have a more scientific feel than the production at other craft distilleries.
After touring the facilities, Shane took us to the tasting room where we sampled their Blue Heron Vodka.  They make the vodka from locally grown wheat and distil the spirits to 190 proof before diluting down to 80 proof.  Unlike other rums which are made from fermented cane sugar, Wilderness Trace Harvest Rum is made by fermenting molasses made in Winchester, Kentucky from locally grown sorghum.  Following distillation, the rum is briefly aged in used bourbon barrels for color and flavor.  Wilderness Trace has started making their Settler’s Select Bourbon by the sweet mash process.  Most bourbon is made with the sour mash process in which a small quantity of mash from a nearly mature mash is added to a newly started mash.  This “set back” gives a sour flavor to the mash and creates an environment that is favorable to certain fermenting microbes.  No set back is added to the mash for Settler’s Select Bourbon making the mash less sour and a higher pH that permits different fermentation microbes.
Although it will be some time before Settler’s Select Bourbon will be available, Shane promised to reserve a bottle from one of the first barrels for us.  It will be interesting to compare the sweet mash bourbon to the traditional sour mash bourbons.
We had originally planned to spend Friday night in Danville then to go to Wild Turkey and Four Roses on Saturday.  Since it was only 3 pm, we considered our options.  We kept thinking about how crowded Maker’s Mark was at 11 am and how the pretty the holiday weekend was.  We figured that the two large distilleries we had planned to visit would be very crowded on Saturday.  The decision to come back home on Friday night was an easy one.  We thought we would visit Barrel House Distillery in Lexington then meet up with Emily and Ian for dinner before coming home.
We made the mistake of attempting to come into Lexington on Nicholasville Road.  What a nightmare.  Traffic on Nicholasville Road at rush hour is crazy.  It took us forever to get from Nicholasville to Barrel House Distillery.  We were certain that we would not make it by the 5 pm closing time at the distillery but we eventually pulled into the parking lot at 4:50 pm.
Barrel House Distillery is located just off Old Frankfort Pike near the McConnell Springs Historic Site.  Although the front door was closed, we were beckoned inside by operations manager, Noah Brown.  Noah was manipulating the temperature of the copper pot still as he monitored the alcohol level of the spirits coming out of the condenser.  As he worked the still, he told us about Barrel House’s spirits and plans for the distillery’s future.  As with other startup distillers, unaged spirits are being produced and sold while the aged products are being stored.  
Noah looked like a moonshiner of generations ago as he turned the gas flame up and down under the still and took a tiny sip of the moonshine as the still operated.  Once the still was running to his satisfaction, Noah took us into the visitor center for a sample of their products.  Oak Rum is aged in used bourbon barrels to impart a woody flavor and an amber color to the rum.  The Pure Blue Vodka is a nice sweet clear vodka made from Kentucky corn and water.  Barrel House’s Devil John Moonshine is named for one of the owner’s relatives who was a Civil War veteran and moonshiner.  The bourbon being made by Barrel House is aging and isn’t yet ready to be bottled and sold.
The vodka and rum were very nice and had a pleasant flavor.  Neither of us cared much for the Devil John Moonshine.  It was very reminiscent of moonshine whiskey made in the hills and hollows of Appalachia generations ago.  It was a little rough for our tastes.  Mary purchased a jar of cherries preserved in Devil John Moonshine to put in Emily’s Easter basket.
We got back on New Circle Road after leaving Barrel House and drove to Harrodsburg Road where we went to the Liquor Barn.  We bought a bottle of Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream for Gran and some Johnny Drum for one of Mary’s work friends.
As we were leaving the parking lot of Liquor Barn, Emily called to tell us that Butt Rubb’In Barbecue was closed.  We really like the brisket there and hope that they are closed for the weekend and that they will be back open again soon.  Since traffic was bad and Emily & Ian were already out, they suggested German food at Marikka’s Restaurant across Southland Drive from Butt Rubb’In.  We started with appetizers of Kartoffelpuffer which are excellent potato pancakes.  Mary and Ian had large servings of goulash.  Emily had Rahmschnitzel which is a breaded veal cutlet covered in a creamy sauce and served with fried potatoes and green beans.  I had Jaegerschnitzel which is a pork cutlet with mushrooms served with red kraut.  Everyone enjoyed the meal.
We enjoyed seeing Ian & Emily for the meal and look forward to them coming home for Easter in a couple of days.  We left Lexington at 7 pm and arrived back at home by 9:30.  We were both tired and turned in to rest.  Today, like the other days of the trip, was beautiful, sunny and warm.  We were very fortunate to have had such great spring weather for our trip.
Although we were unable to visit all of the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the Craft Spirits Trail, we were able to stop by most of them.  We will plan another trip to the area soon to visit the ones we were unable to visit this week.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kentucky Craft Spirits Trail - Day 2

Since we went to sleep early on Wednesday night, we awoke early on Thursday morning.  It was especially early since we were in the Central Time Zone.  We watched the Weather Channel for a while then left the Bowling Green Microtel before 8 am.  We had breakfast at Subway since they have a buy one – get one free special this month.  Mary had a ham, egg and cheese breakfast sub and I had a bacon, egg and cheese sub.  We both had spinach and tomato on the sandwich.  With the special, we got both breakfasts and a cup of tea for $5 which we thought was a much better choice than the stale doughnuts at the motel.
We started driving to the MB Roland Distillery which was a little over an hour from Bowling Green located near Pembroke, Kentucky.  Along the way, we saw a structure near Fairview, Kentucky that resembled the Washington Monument.  Turns out that Confederate President, Jefferson Davis was born and raised here at Jefferson Davis State Park. There is a 381 foot obelisk here in honor of the Confederacy’s first and only President. We stopped at the museum and chatted with the guides there for a bit before continuing on toward Pembroke.
We arrived at MB Roland Distillery a little before 10 am and went in for a tasting of their products.  Most of what MB Roland makes is white spirits that are blended with fruit or botanical flavorings.  We both really enjoyed the blackberry and apple moonshine.  I liked the St. Elmo’s Fire, named for the nearby town of St. Elmo, Kentucky.  This is basically high proof moonshine generously flavored with cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  It was spicy!  They have a few aged spirits, but they specialize in the fruit flavors.  Mary purchased a bottle of blackberry moonshine, and I bought a bottle of regular moonshine corn whiskey.  Both are excellent.
From MB Roland, we drove west to the Land Between the Lakes area where we visited the Silver Trail Distillery near Hardin, Kentucky.  We first stopped at the Silver Trail Visitor Center along the highway that is currently under construction.  They have an old car on display that would be like one that would have been used to deliver moonshine a couple of generations ago.  There are also some old stills on display that were used in making illegal moonshine in the 1940s and 50s.  The owners are still painting and decorating the old bank that will be their visitor center, but it will be nice.  
The bank’s vault is being converted into a replica jail cell where one of the owner’s uncles was sent after being arrested for making moonshine.
We drove to the distillery where LBL Moonshine is made by Silver Trail which is adjacent to the owner, Spencer Ballentine’s home.  Spencer was very generous with his time, showing us the stills where he hand makes the LBL Moonshine using recipes handed down to him from generations of moonshiners in his family.  He has a modern still that is constructed using techniques from past generations of moonshiners.  
Spencer wants to take the best of old school recipes and modern tools and technology to make the best white whiskey available.  He takes a lot of pride in his techniques, tools and products.  He uses only non-GMO corn that comes from a farm in Kentucky along with the mineral rich water in the area.  Since Callaway County, Kentucky is dry, Spencer was unable to give us a sample taste or sell us a bottle of product.  However, he is proud that his LBL Moonshine and other products are becoming widely distributed and available in many states.
From Hardin, we started the long drive back toward Bardstown.  We had hoped to visit Willet Distillery on Thursday but it was after 4:30 by the time we got back to Bardstown.  We neglected to consider the one hour time difference between Hardin in Central Time and Bardstown back in the Eastern Time Zone.  We knew that the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center was open until 5:30, so we decided to hold Barton and Willet Distilleries until Friday and go to Heaven Hill this evening.  Without a doubt, this is the best visitor center of any distillery.  There are many interpretative displays describing the history of bourbon as well as of the Heaven Hill brands like Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Henry McKenna, Old Fitzgerald and others.  The tasting room in the center of the visitor area is also excellent, resembling the inside of a bourbon barrel.  The staff do an excellent job of explaining differences and similarities in bourbons as well as how bourbon can be tasted.  I have modeled our family bourbon tasting party on the tasting room at Heaven Hill.  We picked up a pretty mug with a photo of the old Heaven Hill Distillery on it for our friend, Rex, then made our way to the Bardstown Hampton Inn.

We really enjoy visiting Bardstown since it is such a beautiful and historic town.  When we were here last we ate at the Talbott Tavern that has been in business as an inn and tavern since 1779.  This evening, we ate at Kreso’s Restaurant, which is operated by a Bosnian restaurateur.  We both had the jaeger schnitzel which is an unbreaded pork cutlet covered in melted cheese and mushrooms.  Mary had potatoes, and I had steamed broccoli on the side.  We both enjoyed the meal very much.  The restaurant is in an old theater and is decorated with photos of stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age. 
We came back to the Bardstown Hampton Inn to crash and prepare for a busy day of distillery visits on Friday.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kentucky Craft Spirits Trail - Day 1

Although we had visited each of the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail a couple of years ago, we had not been to any of the stops on the new Craft Spirits Trail so we decided that this was the week.
Leaving home a little after 6 am, we wanted to get an early start for get to some of the places in Western Kentucky that we planned to visit.  The temperatures were in the upper 20s when we left Milton, WV, which was a shock to us after the upper 80s on Sunday.  We had no trouble making our way through Lexington to Louisville, arriving a little after 9 am.  We were able to find street parking at a meter that was less than a block from our first destination.
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience has only been open five months, so this was our first visit here to the refurbished building on Louisville’s historic “Whiskey Row” where a great deal of bourbon and other whiskey was made and sold in pre-prohibition Louisville.  We were pleased that Sarah could get away to join us for the tour.  She was able to get a couple of vacation days and to do the tour with us.  Two fellows, presumably a father and son, were also there from Annapolis, Maryland.  Our guide, Pat, was well informed about the history of whiskey making in the area, as well as Evan Williams, who started distilling in Louisville in 1773.  He was instrumental not only in pioneering bourbon making techniques but in settling the frontier town of Louisville.  We learned that Heaven Hill is the world’s second largest bourbon distiller with only Jim Beam being larger.  
At the end of the tour we did a tasting of Evan Williams Single Barrel and Larceny bourbons with Pat.  She gave us a chance to have the two bourbons “neat” or “straight up” as well as the “bourbon & branch” that has a few drops of spring water added to open up the complex flavors of the bourbon.  After the tasting, we walked through the gift shop were several Heaven Hill products are sold.  Heaven Hill is the parent company of Evan Williams and Larceny.  The lady working the gift shop gave us a sample taste of Henry McKenna Single Barrel, aged 10 years which was also very drinkable but not suited to my taste as much as Larceny.  We saw some nice small water pitchers that will be perfect for adding a few drops of water to bourbon glasses for our bourbon tastings.
We left the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience around 11:30 and had a little trouble getting out of Louisville with all of the construction downtown.  We drove the short distance to Clermont where we visited the Jim Beam Distillery.  We had been on their tour before but hadn’t been to their new visitor center, which is very nice.  We walked up to the barbecue place beside the visitor center for lunch.  Mary and I had a brisket sandwich, and Sarah had pulled pork.  We all enjoyed our lunch.
Sarah left for Cincinnati but may rejoin us on Thursday in Bardstown.  As we drove down I-65 toward Bowling Green, KY, we noticed a number of dead coyotes on the highway.  Near the town of Munfordville, Kentucky, a huge coyote ran right in front of us.  We nearly hit it.  The size of the coyote supports a theory that we have been hearing about, eastern coyotes interbreeding with northeastern wolves.  In the American Southwest, coyotes are small scraggly canines that always look mangy and malnourished.  In the Southwest, coyotes are often attacked by the grey wolves in the area.  However, when coyotes migrated back to the Northeast, they encountered wolves of Eastern Canada that do not prey on the coyotes and are reputed to interbreed with them.  The premise of the coywolf theory is that most eastern coyotes are actually hybrids of coyotes and wolves that are genetically larger and benefit from the more abundant food supplies of the Eastern US.  The coyote we saw today certain didn’t appear to have missed any meals.  Had we been a little slower on the brakes, however, he could have had his last meal.
We drove the 90 minutes on I-65 to Bowling Green to Corsair Artisan Distillery near the Fountain Square at the town’s center.  Unlike some of the other distillers, Corsair produces only a few gallons a day.  However, being a small operation, they are able to make a variety of spirits, some of which have infusions from botanicals and spices.  Corsair stores their barreled spirits in barrels that are 3, 5 or 15 gallons, which speeds the aging process faster than in the traditional 53 gallon casks.  We were interested in the way that Corsair infuses flavors into the spirits as they are distilled.  Following our tour we did a tasting of Corsair’s gin, rum, quinoa whiskey, rye whiskey, triple smoked whiskey and absinthe.  
We enjoyed the tasting and enjoyed the varieties of spirits they have to offer.  I didn’t expect to like some of the infused flavors but was surprised that they were very good.  We both liked the triple smoked whiskey made with malted barley that has been smoked by peat and multiple wood fires.
We spent a few minutes walking around the historic areas of Bowling Green and liked the nice small town feel of the beautiful area.  There was a restored old filling station from the 1920s that included some restored gas pumps and air supply.
From there we drove over to the National Corvette Museum nearby hoping to see the giant sinkhole that swallowed several vintage Corvettes a few months back.  Unfortunately, visitors were unable to see the sinkhole, but some of the cars damaged by the floor collapse were on display. 
We drove over to our lodging at the Microtel where we will spend the night before driving west to visit a few other artisan distilleries on Thursday.  We ran out for dinner to Garcia’s Grill which was well rated on Trip Advisor.  We both enjoyed our meals.  Mary had roasted pork with mole sauce and I had pork enchiladas with a creamy verde sauce. 

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