Bros & Bourbon

Memorial Day weekend loomed, and sitting for an extra day in the couch wasn’t the desired use of the time off. In a rare instance of forward-looking, proactive behavior I convinced a few buddies into doing something. We mapped out potential destinations within a reasonable drive of Chicago and ultimately decided on Lexington, KY to enjoy a few bourbon tours and whatever else.We rented a 2016 chariot with a bit more room to better accomodate us five men – things were still a bit tight in the back. On Saturday morning my roommate Jason and I scooped up Hope College gents Abe, Andrew, and Paul. Music and games passed the time and soon enough we were pulling into a Kroger to procure our weekend rations. We then checked into an AirBnB abode on the more historical side of town. We each snagged a choice bourbon to taste test through our stay.That first night we tried the McKenna 10 year, and then wandered out to explore the local nightlife. It was a residential street, but there was one little bar on the nearest corner well worth swinging into. Their beer glasses were disappointingly small, but they had a Japanese chef visiting whose Chicken Katsu Sandwich made up for it. On another corner nearby we made a late stop into the Blue Stallion Brewing Company. I went with a sampler, and it was the dragon/passion fruit flavored Tropical Gose that intrigued me the most. Paul was disappointed to learn that his Sour Scottish Ale was in fact…sour. After watching OKC blow game 6, we returned home to attempt eating a ‘comicly large’ pizza before finally calling it a night. That next morning Abe and Andrew whipped up some pancakes before we rolled out. Wild Turkey was the first distillery of the day, and it sat in a pretty, rural spot along a river. The tour took us through the production process – the biggest shock to me was the mordant odor that pooled just above the yeast mash. We were shown into one of the 7 story cask warehouses to learn about the aging process. There are numerous laws which dictate how Bourbon must be made – all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. The barrel must be charred and made of unused oak, for example. Storage typically lasts 5 years and up, and during this time much of the bourbon evaporates into the air. After 20 years, there may only be a fourth of the cask remaining. A few specimens.After sampling a few of them, we rolled on over to the Buffalo Trace Distillery. The Bourbon Trail has 9 stops on it, though we only had an interesting in hitting enough to compare and contrast. This one was much larger, and had a more historical look to it. While many distilleries were wiped out due to prohibition, this one remained open to provide medicinal bourbon, in just the same way that we have medicinal marijuana. Buffalo Trace also produces the Pappy Van Winkle line, which can retail at $2,500 a bottle.The crew returned home and a few of us settled into a much needed nap. We walked over to Grey Goose to enjoy a mediocre dinner, complete with slow service and subpar food. Its saving grace was the blueberry muffin cheesecake they brought out to honor Jason’s birthday. Back at the home front we sipped a few beers whilst playing card games, and eventually made it to sleep.That next morning was our last, so with another good meal eaten and the estate tidied up, we packed and rolled out. On the way towards home, we stopped into our third and final distillery – Woodford Reserve – which was nestled right into the quintessential KY countryside. Along with Buffalo, Woodford is long-standing distillery and National Historic Site. This one had more of a country club feel, and was easily the best of three tours. The three copper stills below are used to arrive at the barrel-ready ‘white dog’.Sampling their Distillers Select was fantastic – we were walked through the flavor profile and I actually managed to distinguish a few of them.That was pretty much it for the weekend, but company was fantastic and certainly the sort of getaway that I would hope to replicate again somewhere else.

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