Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kentucky Bourbon Trail

We took off for a few days and went on a little trip down to Kentucky. It was a nice break. First order of business on the drive was a stop at the Jim Beam Distillery outside of Louisville (one of the six bourbon distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail) for a little tour and tasting. I've been on a lot of tours of breweries and wineries over the years, but this was my first time to a distillery. The combination of chemistry, cooking and art fascinates me with regards to beer, wine and spirits...with the added bonus that you get to drink the results. (I like things where you get to eat the results too :)

Jim Beam is the largest producer of bourbon in the world (by far). The tour currently does not include a stop by their working stills, but we did go through one of their barns (aging warehouse) for storing the barrels while the aging occurs. It was fascinating. Six stories of white oak barrels all stacked up and rolled on beams. The warehouse essentially consisted of some kind of corrugated material for the roof and sides to keep out the rain (and probably little else) along with beams of wood to roll the barrels along. Jim Beam does not climate control their aging warehouses. After spending years in these barns, some of the barrels look a little worse for wear. The barrels are used for bourbon only once, then the lucky ones get an all expenses paid trip to Scotland to be used in the aging of Scotch.

Besides the namesake bourbons (Jim Beam 4yr, 7yr, Green-5yr, Black-8yr and Yellow-Rye whiskey), Beam also produces what they call their "Small Batch Collection" of premium bourbons. I think Knob Creek is probably the best known, but also Baker's, Basil Hayden's and Booker's. Also a newer product, Red Stag. The tasting consisted of Booker's and Red Stag. Booker's is their super duper premium bourbon. It is uncut, straight from the barrel so each barrel will be slightly different. The particular bottle we tasted from was 127 1/2 Proof and I found it quite tasty with a little higher viscosity than other spirits I've had. Red Stag a flavored bourbon infused with black cherry and a bit sweet. I liked it too, but more as a cordial type drink I think. Here are a few photos from of the aging.

Barrel of Aging Bourbon - Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont KY




Barrels of Aging Bourbon Stamped with Lot # etc.




Corrugated Wall of Aging Warehouse


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