Friday, December 8, 2017

Kentucky Bourbon Trail with Rex

I had some vacation days that I needed to use before the end of 2017 so I took off on the afternoon of Thursday, December 7 to drive to Central Kentucky to visit some nearby distilleries.  It was especially great that my friend of 40 years, Rex Dillinger, was able to make the visits with me. 

I picked up Rex at noon and we made the drive to Georgetown, Kentucky in a little over two hours.  Once there, we unloaded a few items at the house and walked around the property.  The weather was windy and cool but not uncomfortable in the sun.  We took a drive around the Georgetown area and stopped at the Royal Spring Park that was the site of Rev. Elijah Craig’s distillery.  The spring is now the source of city water for Georgetown residents.  The Bourbon 30 Distillery is across the street from the spring but since we were there after business hours, we were unable to visit and only looked into the windows. 
We drove around a bit more then met Emily at New Thai Garden in Georgetown.  Emily had her usual drunken noodle, I had my usual Pad Thai and Rex had yellow curry.  We all enjoyed our meals.  After dinner, Rex and I drove back to the Finnell Road house and chatted until around 9 pm before turning in.  Since there is no television or Internet at the house, we enjoyed talking and reading until we fell asleep.
We awoke early around 4 am and had a couple cups of tea and did a few things around the house.  Once the sun came up and we got hungry we grabbed a quick McDonald’s breakfast then stopped at Frank’s Donuts for a treat.  We drove south on I-75 then west on I-64 to the Four Roses Distillery.  Since the distillery was still under construction, we were unable to visit the operation but had a nice talk from a guide who shared the history of Four Roses with us and explained the 10 recipes that make up Four Roses bourbon.  We thought that it was especially interesting that Four Roses was one of the most popular bourbons in the 1930s and 1940s.  In fact, the iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on VJ Day shows a billboard for Four Roses in the background.  Because of the preference for Four Roses by American military personnel, the Japanese are a major market for Four Roses.
Since we didn’t take a full tour at Four Roses, we had some extra time so we drove the short distance to the Wild Turkey Distillery.  We were thrilled that Master Distiller, Jimmy Russell, in the visitor center.  I was able to chat with him for a good while and even took a few snapshots.  Jimmy is a legend in the bourbon industry and is such a great ambassador for bourbon.  We had been on a tour with his son, Eddie, in March 2015 but meeting Jimmy was a special treat.  We did the tour of the operations with our guide, Edwina, then came back to the visitor center for a tasting of several of Wild Turkey’s spirits.  The room with dozens of stainless steel fermentation tanks, each of which holds 30,000 gallons, was especially impressive.
From Wild Turkey we drove to the Old Taylor Distillery that was built in 1887.  The distillery is being refurbished to reopen as Castle and Key Distillery.  The building is an attractive structure modeled on castles that Col. Taylor saw while traveling in Europe.  We look forward to visiting the new distillery soon.  We also drove past the now closed Old Crow Distillery where Jim Beam Bourbon is now stored.  The historic rickhouses are still in good shape but the distillery building appears to be in ruins.
We made the short drive from Old Taylor to the Woodford Reserve Distillery.  We had scheduled a 1 pm tour but since we were running early, we were able to get a tour at 12:40.  The copper Scottish pot stills used at Woodford make a much lower volume of bourbon than the giant column stills at Wild Turkey.  We especially enjoyed the beautiful limestone rickhouses that date back to the 1830s.  Our guide took us through the fermentation room where cypress tanks holding 7,500 gallons convert corn, rye and malted barley into alcohol.  We visited the room with three copper pot stills that were imported from Scotland.  After our tour we sampled Woodford Distiller’s Select, Woodford Double Oaked and Woodford Rye.
After leaving Woodford, we drove to Town Branch Distillery and walked around the visitor center that is modeled on a street scene from Dublin, Ireland which was the home of Town Branch’s founder, Pearse Lyons.  We especially liked the highly lacquered finish on the storefronts.  We didn’t take a tour or do a tasting but chatted with a few people in the visitor center.
From Town Branch we drove to the Liquor Barn in Hamburg where we bought a few things including some Christmas presents.  We continued on to the nearby Woodcraft Store where Rex bought some screws for Kreg joints.  By then we were hungry and went to Zaxby’s for lunch.  We both had the 5 piece chicken meal which we both enjoyed.  After finishing our meal we make the two hour drive home.