Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Kentucky Bourbon Trail with Greg - Day 2

 As the morning before, we woke early and chatted in the kitchen of the Finnell Pike house as the sun came up. Sunrise and sunset are really pretty at the house. We packed our things and prepared the house for being empty for a few days. Since I would be back on Saturday I didn’t leave the furnace on. Our first distillery visit was at Barrel House which didn’t open until 11 am. We decided to make a stop at Liquor Barn to shop for gifts and to restock our bourbon shelves. I bought a few bottles of Buffalo Trace Bourbon as well as Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream as gifts. I picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels as a gift for a friend and a bottle of Old Granddad 114 for me. Greg got a 1.75 L bottle of 1792 at a great price. We still had a little time before our 11 am tour at Barrel House Distillery so Greg suggested that we find a bakery. We drove on Southland Drive and spotted Donut Days Bakery. Greg had another cream filled donut and I had an apple fritter. We both enjoyed our selections. 
We arrived at Barrel House a little before their 11 am opening. We were met by two of the distillery’s operators and Snuggie, the distillery cat. I had been there a couple of times before but the tour is interesting every time. The distillery is operating in the barrel house of the old Pepper Distillery in Lexington. The building was constructed in 1936 as used as a distillery until the late 1970s. The Barrel House distillery currently makes Devil John Moonshine, corn based vodka, rum, aged Oak Rum and Rockcastle Bourbon. They also sell a good selection of bitters, moonshine cherries and other gift items. The facility is small but the passion of the distillers is evident. We stopped at Zaxby’s for lunch since we were in the mood for chicken and we had never been to Zaxby’s. The chicken was fine and the restaurant was busy. The pop machine made a terrible racket that we feared would explode. After a while the machine settled down and conversation in the restaurant could resume. 
It wasn’t far to the Bluegrass Distillers facility in Lexington. We had purchased a Groupon for the tour which gave us both a tour for $9 which is less than half price. The distiller took us through the grain area where the ground blue corn is stored then to the mash tubs with IBCs of fermenting grain and water. The nearby cooker steamed with stewing ground blue corn that would be cooled and set to ferment with yeast. The fermentation room smelled great. The single copper still produces all of the distilled spirits made by Bluegrass Distillers. 
 We tasted some of the 160 proof distillate coming off the still and found it to be surprisingly drinkable. This smooth white dog would sneak up on you. Since it was not rough at all it would be tempting to drink more than advisable. We saw small five gallon barrels of aging whiskey some of which was made from blue corn. Bluegrass Distillers makes several mash bills including one with rye, one with wheat and one with blue corn. They also experiment with malted barley spirits and other recipes that may appeal to whiskey drinkers. 
After having a tasting of generous samples of each of Bluegrass Distiller’s products we were treated to a small bourbon cake to take home to our wives. We left Bluegrass Distiller’s around 1 pm and headed home. The return trip was far easier and faster than the drive to Central Kentucky. We arrived at Greg’s home around 3:30 pm. I went into work for a couple of hours including a meeting to revise the assessment tool for student teaching and other clinical experiences. We were both tired but pleased to have had another great trip.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Kentucky Bourbon Trail with Greg - Day 1

After teaching my evening class on Monday night, I picked up my pal, Greg, and got on the road by 7 pm to head for Georgetown for our fall distillery visits in Central Kentucky.  We were stopped on I-64 at exit 181 westbound because of an accident around mile marker 177 that had all westbound lane blocked.  We wound around US 60 for 12 miles at around 10 miles per hour for nearly two hours behind semi-trucks before getting back on the interstate at Grayson.  The rest of the drive through steady rain was uneventful.  We stopped for a late dinner in Morehead and arrived at the Finnell Pike house a little after 10 pm.  We took advantage of an abatement in the rain to unload a few items from the van.  We didn’t turn in until nearly 11 pm.
Because he was fighting bronchitis, Greg didn’t sleep well and had to sip Nyquil throughout the night.  The air mattresses were comfortable and we arose around 6 am.  Because of the cold morning air, I got up around 4 am to turn the heat on.  This was the first time that we tried the geothermal heat from the Water Furnace.  We were pleased that the central heat worked fine and warmed us up nicely.  However, the dust in the air ducts caused the smoke detector to go off around 5 am.  That was our cue to get out of bed and get dressed.
We ran out to McDonald’s at the Cherry Blossom exit for a quick breakfast.  After a quick stop by the house, we drove to Paris to visit the Hartfield & Co. Distillery.  The distiller, Andrew Buchanan, met us at the door and shared his love of the spirits that are being made at his small facility in an old Paris building.  Although Paris is the county seat of Bourbon County, Kentucky, no legal whiskey has been made in Bourbon County since prohibition.  Andrew wanted to change that.  Unlike most craft distillers, Andrew did not attend Moonshine University or understudy with another master distiller.  Rather, he read up on every distilling resource he could find.  He watched and learned from countless online videos to find best practices in distilling.  Andrew wanted to have the ability to experiment and be responsible for his products.  He and his wife, Larissa, didn’t want to make distilled spirits like anyone else, he wanted the freedom to make the mistakes and to have the successes on his own terms. 
Because a movie was being filmed at the Hartfield & Co. distillery, we were unable to tour the complete distillery.  However, Andrew was very generous with his time and explained a great deal of his philosophies on making the very best spirits he can make.  At this time Hartfield & Co. makes high rye bourbon, wheated bourbon, American whiskey, white whiskey, rum and aged rum.  Because of the disruption from the filmmakers we were unable to have a tasting.  Besides, I don’t know if we would be too interested in sipping whiskey at 9 am.  We left Andrew to his work and drove back through the beautiful horse farms of Bourbon County to the Finnell Pike property.
I walked Greg around the property lines and checked on our work clearing the brush from the tree line on the north end of the property.  The burn pile on the back field is starting to dry and should be ready to burn in a couple of weeks.  The field looks much better since the vines and brush have been cleared away and the debris has been loaded for the Scott County landfill.
Our afternoon distillery appointment wasn’t until 1 pm so we had a little time.  We drove to the Royal Spring in Georgetown where Rev. Elijah Craig built the first distillery in the area.  Rev. Craig, a Baptist minister, is reputed to have made the first bourbon and shipped it to New Orleans for sale.  Most historians have disputed that he was the first person to make bourbon but there is no debate that Rev. Craig was instrumental in the history of bourbon and in the founding of Georgetown, Kentucky which he maned for then president, George Washington.  
Royal Spring which now supplies drinking water for residents of Georgetown was flowing well, no doubt due to the recent rains in the area.  Because of the cool rainy weekday weather there were few people out that morning so we were free to walk about the small park surrounding the historical spring.  We walked across the street to the Bourbon 30 distillery.  We learning that there was a problem with the distillery’s license that prohibited them from conducting tours and visits for a few weeks.  The distillery looked interesting from the outside and we plan to visit on another trip to the area.  Because the late October morning was unseasonably cool in the mid 30s, I ran to the nearby Walmart to buy a knit cap.  I was a lot more comfortable with the additional warmth.  We stopped at Frank’s Donuts for a mid-morning snack.  I had my usual bear claw and Greg enjoyed the cream filled donut.  We were both pleased with our choices.
The drive to our next distillery visit near Shelbyville was a little over an hour drive from Georgetown.  The Jeptha Creed Distillery is a beautiful new facility just off the Taylorsville exit of Interstate 64.  Since we were a little early for our tour, we walked around the building and admired the owner’s displays of antique cars.  The cars are beautifully restored and many of them run.  The visitor center is well stocked with glasses, flasks, clothing and spirits with Jeptha Creed advertising.  We had to laugh at one of the men’s shirts with “Bourbon Badass” on the front.  We wondered just where that would be an appropriate shirt.  The visitor center and gift shop are among the most attractive we have ever seen.  A nice bar features snacks and a number of mixed drinks made with Jeptha Creed spirits.  
The distillery is on a large tract of land that was settled by Squire Boone, brother of famed frontiersman, Daniel Boone.  He named the area Jeptha Knob after the Israeli judge in the Old Testament book of Judges.  Most of the grains and fruits used in making the products used in Jeptha Creed spirits originate on or near property in Shelbyville owned by the Nethery family.
We met our tour guide, Brittany, who was a former professional wrestling ring girl.  She was very knowledgeable about the whiskey made by Jeptha Creed.  The family owned distillery makes bourbon and American whiskey from a four grain mash bill of corn, wheat, rye and malted barley featuring locally grown Bloody Butcher red corn.  They also make vodka from Bloody Butcher corn that is available straight as well as infused with a variety of flavors.  At the end of the tour, Brittany treated us to five samples each of the products of the distillery.  Greg and I both enjoyed our samples before walking around the grounds and seeing the event center where parties and weddings are held and a venue for concerts and entertainment.
We left Jeptha Creed and drove to Millville to drive past the Castle & Key Distillery at the site of the Old Taylor Distillery.  The structure, built in 1887, was designed by Col. E. H. Taylor inspired by historical castles that he saw on his travels through Europe.  The distillery has been shuttered and in a continued state of decay since ceasing production in 1972.  However, a group of investors bought the property in 2014 to turn into a state of the art distillery and event center.  The first female master distiller of a major distillery was found in Marianne Barnes and preparations were made to resume production.  The grounds are being given a major facelift to prepare the parklike distillery campus for hosting parties, weddings and corporate events.  We were pleased to see that the gardens are taking shape and much of the masonry is being repaired.  It was also exciting to see smoke coming from the distillery and to smell the scent of mash in the air.  We understand that the distillery is making white spirits to sell until bourbon can begin the long aging process.  The huge rickhouse appeared to be in good shape at least from the outside giving hope that bourbon will be again aging there.
After taking photos at Castle & Key, we drove the short distance to the former Old Crow Distillery.  The distillery and most buildings are in disrepair with weeds and vines growing on the limestone exterior walls.  One of the Old Crow rickhouses is being used to age Jim Beam bourbon.  We stopped briefly and savored the smell of the again whiskey coming from the barrels in the rickhouse.
We drove from the distilleries in Millville, Kentucky to Georgetown where we met Ian for dinner at Mi Casita, a Mexican restaurant across Rt. 25 from Ian and Emily’s home.  Since Emily was in Atlanta for a conference with the CDC, Ian was happy to have company for dinner. I had a pollo poblano which is strips of grilled chicken and poblano peppers covered in cheese sauce.  Ian had a chimichanga and Greg had a vegetarian platter.  We all enjoyed our meals.  We returned to the Finnell Pike house and chatted while Greg scanned for interesting channels on the shortwave radio.  Because we were so tired, we went to bed around 9 pm.