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2019-05-07 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Toyota Tour – Day #13

We carpooled together to the Toyota Manufacturing Plant in nearby Georgetown, KY.  We were given very specific directions:  Long pants, closed toed shoes, no camera or mobile devices of any kind…

So here is all you get:

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It’s a massive plant, over 8,000,000 sq. ft., producing over 550,000 cars per year, with over 10,000 employees.

The tour took us through the three assembly lines.  Hundreds of robots are taking a roll of sheet steel and turning it into a car.  There are self-driving carts which drive through the aisles, delivering extra parts to the robots on demand.  It is the future of manufacturing!  It was a fun tour!

We then went to downtown Georgetown, which is also the site of Georgetown College.  The town is filled with stately houses…

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The town is filled with delightful storefronts…

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Georgetown is where Elijah Craig first ran a bourbon distillery in 1789; we tasted Elijah Craig bourbon at Heaven Hill a few days ago…

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No idea what this building is, but I was intrigued by its form and location next to the river……

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Great old Baptist church on the corner…

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We had lunch at Fava’s…

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We returned to the Villa.  There were tours of another museum and the old Capitol building, but we needed to relax and catch up on a few things… Lynda caught up on her reading…

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We had another drivers meeting in the evening.  I hope one day the drivers meeting takes less time than it does to drive to our next destination…

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We returned to the Villa for a nice supper of pulled pork sliders;  and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-06 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Frankfurt, KY – Day #12

We carpooled together this morning to Frankfort – the capital of Kentucky.  I’m always surprised when I see a state capital that is such a small town.  The population of Frankfort is only about 28,000… It is so small you could hardly see it because of the trees…

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But before we could park at the capitol building we found:  The Zeigler Residence!

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It is not open to the public… Sad…

So we moved on to a perfect example of Beaux-Arts/Greek Revival Architecture…

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Statue of Abe Lincoln…

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The rotunda dome… LED lights subtly change colors…

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EVERYTHING in this building follows the golden rule – what you do to one side you must do to the other.  True in algebra and true in the symmetry of classical buildings…

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The other president born in Kentucky – Jefferson Davis…

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The State Supreme Court…

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The legislative floor…

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The Assembly Chamber…

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The Senate chamber…

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I’m not a fan of these neo-classical building.  I do appreciate the attention to detail, beautifully executed by the stone masons…

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What annoys me is when designers, who often do not know how materials and buildings go together, try to duplicate these details in a studs and stucco construction… Sorry – you can’t do these details in stucco!

All in all it was a nicely detailed building but a little over-scaled.  It seemed too heavy for my taste, and the proportions seemed a little “off”…

We had a great tour, then we moved on to the Kentucky VietNam Veterans Memorial…

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The design is unique in that it is a sundial with the names of the dead located on the granite floor such that the shadow of the point of the sundial falls on the name on the day of the year that he or she died…

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It is a little confusing, but a moving memorial in any case…

Time for a break.  We drove into downtown Frankfort; we walked the (small) town and  enjoyed a nice lunch at Serafini…

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During lunch we saw a commotion of people gathering just outside the restaurant and across the street, on the lawn of the “old” state capitol building…

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Today was an all-state peace officers memorial ceremony for officers killed in the line of duty…

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Bagpipes were playing…

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It looked like a nice, small town parade and gathering of like-minded people.  Very nice…

After lunch we walked around the town; we especially liked the buildings overhanging the Kentucky River…

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We soon arrived at our next tour:

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Rebecca Ruth was in business making candy for over 60 years; as a women this was unheard of… In Kentucky in the 19th and early 20th century women without a father or a husband simply didn’t exist – they could not own property, have a bank  account, or do much of anything… She confounded all these ideas…

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Rebecca Ruth is credited with inventing the famous bourbon balls, although the claim is disputed…  There was a nice tour and many folks bought lots of chocolate…

But we were moving on to our final tour of the day:  Buffalo Trace!

Buffalo Trace is one of my favorite “go to” daily drinking bourbons, along with Makers Mark.  But I knew little about it; I was looking forward to this tour!  Boy! Was I surprised!

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The distillery is very old, and is listed on the National Listing of Historic Places…

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Here is the buffalo… I’m not sure what they are trying to tell us about the water they use here…

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We had the standard tour, seeing the barrel houses, the fermentation tanks, and the bottling line…

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Wait!  This is Buffalo Trace?

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When we toured Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, and others, we heard all about the original family’s dedication to making a high quality whiskey (or whisky), how they developed their brand, their distinction in the marketplace, and their unique flavor profile.  And, yes, we learned that the family eventually sold out to one of the multinational conglomerates that own the vast majority of makers of wine, beer, and spirits…  Here at Buffalo Trace I learned something different.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a corporate “made up” brand, and is part of a corporate conglomerate that buys up smaller brands and farms out their services and distilleries to brands owned by others.  Buffalo Trace is owned by the Sazerac Company, which is privately owned by a billionaire (William Goldring and his family) in New Orleans.  The corporate office is in Louisville, Kentucky.  As of 2017, it operated nine distilleries, had 2,000 employees, and operated in 112 countries.  It is one of the two largest spirits companies in the U.S., with annual revenue of about $1 billion made from selling about 300 mostly discount brands.  They claim it is the largest and privately held distillery, but Heaven Hill disputes that point… They also claim it’s the oldest continuously operating distillery, built in 1812.  However, Burks’ distillery, now used for production of Maker’s Mark, disputes this.  According to its citation in the registry of National Historic Landmarks, Burks’ Distillery’s origins extend to 1805, and Burks’ Distillery is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest operating bourbon distillery.  So we know that Buffalo Trace claims things that may just be apocryphal…

The distillery has historically been known by several names, including the George T. Stagg Distillery and the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.  The company says the name “Buffalo Trace” refers to an ancient buffalo crossing on the banks of the Kentucky River in Franklin County, Kentucky.  The Sazerac Company purchased the distillery in 1992, and Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was “invented” in 1999.  So, as you see, Buffalo Trace was no small Mom and Pop brand that did well…

Records indicate that distilling started on the site that is now the Buffalo Trace Distillery in 1775 by Hancock Lee and his brother Willis Lee, who died in 1776.  The first distillery was constructed in 1812 by Harrison Blanton.  In 1870 the distillery was purchased by Edmund H. Taylor and given its first name, the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery.  Taylor sold the distillery eight years later to George T. Stagg along with the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery.  This second distillery was sold within the year to James Graham, in order to add more land to the O.F.C. Distillery.  In 1886, Stagg installed steam heating in the storage warehouses, the first climate controlled warehouse for aging whiskey in the nation.  This is another unique feature of Buffalo Trace… Most other brands brag that their barrel houses are NOT climate controlled… (Except for Woodford Reserve…)

While Buffalo Trace Distillery is mainly known for its bourbon, it also produces other spirits such as rye whiskey and vodka, plus quasi-bourbon such are Bourbon Cream.  (More of Bourbon Cream later…).

Buffalo Trace is HUGE!  The following spirits are produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery:

  • Self-produced brands
    • Buffalo Trace – straight bourbon
    • Col. E. H. Taylor – small batch, single-barrel, and barrel proof straight bourbon and rye
    • Eagle Rare – straight bourbon and 17 year antique collection
    • George T. Stagg – barrel-proof straight bourbon
    • Stagg Jr.- barrel proof straight bourbon
    • McAfee’s Benchmark – straight bourbon
    • O.F.C. – straight bourbon (with a prior name for the distillery)
    • Old Charter – straight bourbon
    • Old Taylor – straight bourbon
    • Sazerac – straight rye and Sazerac antique collection
    • Thomas H. Handy – barrel-proof straight rye
    • W. L. Weller – special reserve, antique 107, and barrel proof William Larue Weller antique collection straight bourbon (with a wheated mash bill very similar or identical to that for the Van Winkle brands)
    • Wheatley Vodka
  • Brands produced in partnership with Age International (a former owner of the distillery, now part of the Japanese company Takara Holdings):
    • Ancient Age – straight bourbon
    • Blanton’s single-barrel – straight bourbon
    • Hancock’s President’s Reserve – single-barrel straight bourbon
    • Elmer T. Lee – single-barrel straight bourbon
    • Rock Hill Farms – single-barrel straight bourbon
  • Brands produced in partnership with the Van Winkle family (under an agreement established in June 2002):
    • Old Rip Van Winkle – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Van Winkle Special Reserve – straight bourbon (wheated)
    • Van Winkle Family Reserve – straight rye

So, rather than having a great family story, Buffalo Trace is a product of a giant corporate conglomerate.  Nothing romantic, no great family story, nothing to write home about.  However, it is a VERY good bourbon!

Finally we moved on to the tasting…

We tasted some white lightning and some vodka that they make.  Nothing special, although the vodka is rated to be very good and is at a price point far below other premium vodkas…

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We tasted Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare.  Same mash bill, but Eagle Rare is a higher proof and it has been aged longer… It was marginally better than Buffalo Trace, which, of course, was quite good.

Then we tasted the bourbon cream.  It is a bourbon liqueur, 30 proof; It is made with bourbon and real cream.  A special process enables these two dissimilar products to blend nicely without curdling.  It was spectacular!  (And I don’t like Harvey’s or Bristol Cream…)

Then we added a little root beer to the bourbon cream.  Root beer float!  Add a little ice cream for a real treat!

And, of course, we were given bourbon balls to enjoy!

So the tasting was fun, but the back story was disappointing…

We returned to the Villa and turned in early.  And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-05 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Cinco de Mayo! – Day #11

We had a busy day today, but everything was easy-going and enjoyable.  We began by driving 20 minutes into downtown Lexington;  we attended services at the 2nd Presbyterian Church…

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The 8:45 am service was very sparsely attended; maybe 60-70 people.  I trust the 11:00 am service would be better…  It was a very traditional service; it was a little odd that their hymns had familiar tunes, but totally different words.

We returned to the Villa, and then we walked over to the Horse Park.

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We saw horses.

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The big barn houses the draft horses – Clydesdales and similar hard working horses…

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The Big Barn is supposedly the largest horse barn in the USA…

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There was an interesting display showing the earliest and biggest horse farms and estates.  There was no mention that the horse farms, dating to the early 19th century, used slaves to work the horses.  In fact, all the early jockeys were slaves, and later, former slaves, until the Jim Crow laws and attitudes eliminated blacks from horse racing tracks altogether; this changed finally in the late 20th century…

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We watched a potion of the “Showcase of Breeds”, where we saw four different saddle horses on display…

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We walked through the “Hall of Champions”; this is where former winners are spending their twilight years living in the lap of luxury…

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And we walked back to the Villa…

We drove to the tiny town of Midway, so named because it was at the halfway point of the Ohio and Lexington Railroad; it was the first town in Kentucky founded by the railroad.  It was a delightful town, with railroad tracks running down the center of Main Street… Did I mention that it was laid out by the Railroad?

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This corner building used to house the local IOOF lodge – Oldfellows.  If I ever wanted to move to a small town I would find a building like this to convert to living quarters… What could be better than living in a place like this?

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The former train depot is now a bank…

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We had lunch at the Brown Barrel.  Good burgers (a blend of ground brisket, short rib, and chuck – just like I use at home…), and The Best French Fries Ever!

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The building is a former distillery, but I suspect the roof had caved in, because this roof  structure looks pretty new and pristine to me…

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After lunch we drove to do another bourbon tasting.  We are in the heart of the Bluegrass country – green pastures and horse barns as far as you can see…

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We arrived at our destination:

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Woodford Reserve is a very pretty place!  The distillery was built in 1812, and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.  But Woodford Reserve was founded here in 1996…

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They have a nice deck area where you can enjoy a cocktail or a light lunch…

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We started the tour overlooking the 1812 stone buildings…

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You know the song, “Roll Out the Barrel”?  This is where the barrels are rolled out from the distillery to the Barrel House…

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The traditional cypress wood fermenting tanks…

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The pot stills…

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Woodford Reserve is unique in that they use ONLY pot stills; there are no column stills here.  The fermented mash is distilled three times to get the whiskey to about 168 proof…

The barrel house…

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The tour guide talked about the historic stone barrel house… However, when questioned, he told us that it only holds 5,000 barrels.  They have five other modern barrel houses over the hill, which each contain over 50,000 barrels each…

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Another thing we heard for the first time is that they use steam heat in the barrel houses during cold winter months; they add heat, then turn it off; the result is that the temperature changes from high to low many times throughout the winter.  I was shocked!  This would kill any fine wine; wine needs a constant temperature to mature in the bottle.  But bourbon ages in wooden barrels, and the hot-cold cycle allows the wood to expand, sucking whiskey into the wood, then contract, pushing the whiskey back out of the wood.  This is what provides the flavor to bourbon, and it seems like they know what they are doing…

We tasted the Woodford Reserve and the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.  The regular WR was good, the WR Double Oaked was better.  The Double Oaked is aged in the regular way for 4-5-6 years, then the bourbon is poured into another new oak barrel that has been heavily toasted and charred; the bourbon is aged for another 9-12 months…

Driving back to the Villa we saw even more beautiful vista across the Bluegrass countryside.

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We enjoyed Happy Hours (6:00 – 9:00 pm) with another couple that we had not met at the various GAMs… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-04 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Kentucky Derby! – Day #10

Today is the big day!  The Kentucky Derby; the “Greatest two minutes in sports”!  And today’s running of the Derby was historic!

As you have read here, we went to Churchill Downs earlier in the week.  We are smart enough not to try to go there today!  The Caravan, along with the Kentucky unit of the Airstream Club, arranged for a semi-private room at the Keeneland Race Track.  We could watch all the action in the comfort of an indoor, climate controlled room, with free-flowing food and drink all day long.  After all, the Derby is the 12th race of the day, so there is a lot of action to watch…

Of course, Lynda had to get dressed up and wear the hat:

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Yes, I was dressed up, too…

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We arrived at the track at about Noon.  It is a very nice place, much nicer (and way smaller) than Churchill Downs.  Our meeting room was on the 4th floor, right up there:

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We had a great view of the jumbo-tron and the race track…

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Of course, nothing is happening on the race track.  We will watch the races on the jumbo-tron and on the 1,000 TVs in the meeting room…

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So we socialized with fellow Airstreamers, ate, drank, wagered, cheered, and generally had a dandy time… We had such a dandy time that mid-afternoon I snuck off and found a comfortable chair in the lobby and had a little nap…

Finally the big race neared.  It was raining; the track was a sea of mud.  Last year was rainy and muddy, too.  Very historic…!  We picked our first choices (we didn’t wager, but others did).  I picked Improbable, Lynda picked Maximum Security…

And they’re off!

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The first to cross the finish line was Maximum Security!  Lynda “won”!

So we packed up, walked back to the parking lot and returned to the Villa.  Then history happened again.

We has no sooner gotten inside the Villa when the news notifications on our phones started ringing.  What?  Maximum Security was disqualified for a contact infraction on the home stretch!  This has not happened since 1968, and is only the second time the winner was disqualified in the 145 year history of the Derby!  Very historic…!

So the second horse, Country House, was declared the winner.  He was a 65:1 long shot, the first time such a long shot has won the Derby!  Very historic…!

We relaxed as rain beat down on the roof of the Villa;  an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-03 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Moving On – Day #9

Today we move from Bardstown to Lexington.  In the rain…  We began with a drivers meeting.  In the rain…

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We hitched up in the rain and we drove in the rain.  We even stopped along the way in the rain…

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We appreciated their attitude…

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We were able to do a tasting on the outside gazebo.  Did I mention it was raining?

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It was very interesting.  I doubt that I had ever tasted much Four Roses, but I had read a little about their process, so we were eager to find out what it was all about…

Our tasting guide told us about the history of Four Roses;  she told us that the founder was Paul Jones, Jr.  The brand name was trademarked in 1888 by Jones, who claimed it had been produced and sold as early as the 1860s.  The Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, distillery was built in 1910 in Spanish Mission-style architecture, where we are today, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The brand was purchased by Seagram in 1943.  It was the top selling brand of bourbon in the United States in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s.  Around the end of the 1950s, with the rising popularity of gin and vodka, Seagram decided to discontinue the sale of Four Roses Bourbon within the United States.  Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon marketing was shifted to Europe and Asia, which were rapidly growing markets at the time.  In these markets it quickly became the top selling bourbon.  In the United States, during this period, the Four Roses name was used on a blended whiskey, made mostly of neutral grain spirits and commonly seen as a sub-par “rotgut” brand.  Four Roses continued to be unavailable as a straight bourbon in the US market for more than forty years until the brand ownership changed in 2002 after Seagram was purchased by Vivendi, who then sold most of their brands to Diageo, which sold the Four Roses brand to Kirin, who discontinued the sale of the “rotgut” blended whiskey; Kirin reintroduced  Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey to the US market.  And here we are today.

Four Roses uses two different mash bills, using about 60% corn and up to 35% rye, a very high percentage.  They also ferment the mash separately using five different yeasts; each yeast gives off a different aroma and flavor – spicy, herbal, floral, and fruity.  So they end up with barrels containing 10 different bourbons.  Another thing that Four Roses does differently than the other distilleries is how they age their barrels of whiskey:  Their barrel houses are one story only, 6 barrels high.  (Other distilleries have 7 story barrel houses, with each story having three barrels high; So the difference is between 6 barrels tall and 21 barrels tall.  Four Roses claims they get better, more consistent aging using this configuration…

Their main product, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, uses all 10 recipes;  we tasted it and were not very impressed, but it wasn’t bad.

We then tasted the Small Batch Bourbon; it uses four of the recipes blended to get their particular taste profile.  It was quite good, with a nice sweet nose and a smooth finish.

The third taste we had was their premium bottling, Small Batch Select, which uses six of the recipes.  Maybe it was us, or the rain, or whatever, but it did not impress us at all.

They also make a single barrel bourbon, which we did not taste…

So we learned a lot and we continued our journey… We are now in the Lexington area, all green horse pastures, trees, and stately houses – Kentucky Bluegrass!

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Our campground is at the Kentucky Horse Park, a huge complex with a huge museum, displays, and everything horse.  We will tour here is a few days…

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The caravaners were busy at work setting up their Airstreams.  It finally stopped raining…

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Also joining us at this campground, and at our Kentucky Derby party tomorrow, is the local Kentucky Airstream Club.  They joined us for a pizza dinner in the Pavilion…

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We walked the park a little bit.  Lynda did some Laundry and I attended to some computer business.  We were tired, and turned in early…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-02 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Louisville and their Slugger! – Day #8

Once again we boarded the bus…

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Soon we found ourselves in Louisville.

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Our first stop is at the Louisville Slugger factory.  But first, we once again attempted a group photo…

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And a selfie..

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And the final shot:

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The giant bat does dominate the skyline in this historic section on downtown Louisville…

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Inside we reviewed the current major league standings; how ’bout them Dodgers!

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The Louisville Slugger is made by Hillerich &  and Bradsby & Co.  They used to make butter churns, but they found that making bats is a more profitable business…

They have many bats that have been used in MLB games;  Lynda tried out the bats of current Dodgers Cory Bellinger and Justin Turner…  She also took a photo with Jackie Robinson…

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We watched a master bat maker working at his lathe making a bat.  It takes him about 30 minutes to make a bat, using the model bat as a template and hand-measuring every aspect of the new bat with a set of calipers to make sure it is an exact replica…

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(By the way, it takes 30 seconds for the CNC controlled lathes in the factory to make a bat, which is an exact replica of the specs that are programmed into the computer…)

The museum even has bats in its belfry…

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We enjoyed the tour (sorry, no photos…).

They use trees from western New York and eastern Pennsylvania; their trees are in sustainable forests, and most trees selected for bat-making are about 65 years old.  Bats are made mostly of maple, but also birch and ash.  They maintain 3,000 different bat designs.  Pros usually order 80-100 bats per player per season, to the tune of about $80 each.  Retail bats, and bats made for minor league baseball are cheaper…

Next on our agenda today is a river cruise up the Ohio River; Indiana is across the river at this point.

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We assembled for the lunch buffet on the lower, enclosed deck, out of the rain…

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Once underway the rain slowed and we could walk around the boat and see the sights…

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The water is quite high this time of the year…

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It was a nice boat ride.  Who doesn’t like boat rides?

Next we walked around downtown Louisville.  We are in the historic downtown, adjacent to the main financial district…  Lots of historical storefronts…

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Here is an area where the old buildings have been torn down, but the facades have been saved.  We also saw this with new, modern buildings built behind the historic facades.  Very nice!

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There are some Bourbon tasting rooms here, but we didn’t have time…

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We spent about an hour in the Frazier Museum…

We returned on the bus, and once again turned in early…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

And in the spirit of all things baseball, I present the McAnoy children…

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2019-05-01 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Louisville, KY and Churchill Downs! – Day #7

Every now and then we forsake our various pickup trucks and take a chartered bus on our tours.  Today is such a day; we are going into Louisville, to Churchill Downs…

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We are here during Derby Week (Kentucky Derby will be Saturday…), so the museum and grandstands are all relatively busy.  On a normal race day they only have about 5,000 people in attendance.  Today there were about 20,000, and on Derby Day there will be 160,000 people here!

We entered into the stables area and had breakfast in a restaurant overlooking the back stretch.  Daily workouts are going on, and we watched the horses coming and going, as well as the various folks grooming the track.  We had a guide to whom we could ask questions and who told us about what was going on.

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Eventually we entered the main gates; we tried to get another group photo, and we spent some time in the Museum and on a short tour which brought us out adjacent to the track at the finish line…

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Our seats for this afternoon’s races are on the third level, waaayyyyy down at the end of these grandstands…

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And they’re off!  We watched seven races.  In most races, the lead changes several times along the home stretch as the horses approach the finish line.  Eventually, one usually pulls away from the pack and wins, as we see here…

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We were able to see the track workers set up the starting gates, and other exciting things going on between races…

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Most races are on the dirt track…

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Today one race was on turf…

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It was fun, but it was also a tiring day.  We were grateful to be able to sit back and doze on the return trip…

We arrived back at the campground in time to make some Old Fashioneds for Happy Hours;  BBQ pulled-pork sliders were on the menu tonight; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-30 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Bardstown, KY; My Old Kentucky Home and Bourbon – Day #6

This morning we left early for our appointment at Jim Beam for our tour.

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Again the tour was pretty typical.  Jim Beam is arguable the largest producer of bourbon in the world and is distributed all over the world.  Their brands include not only Jim Beam, but Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Baker’s, and Booker’s… It is a huge industrial plant, all controlled by computers and other machines.  Once the fermented mash is pumped into the still it takes about 90 seconds for one barrel of whiskey to be produced.  Also, we learned that Jim Beam and their other bourbons are about 70% corn, plus rye and malted barley.  (Remember, Makers Mark uses wheat in lieu of rye…)

One VERY fun thing we did is fill our own bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon.  We started by rinsing a bottle (with Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon), then putting our initials on the bottle, and setting the bottle on the bottling line…

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The final product:

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We dipped the bottle into the wax (twice) then once again just enough to allow us to put our thumbprint on our bottle…!

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This was a unique experience for us!

We asked why the barrel Houses are black.  The tour guide denied that the barrel houses have mold.  She claimed they were painted black out of tradition, but they also have them in all colors… Also, they do not rotate barrels like Makers Mark does – they select 1,000 barrels from various locations in the barrel house to blend and bottle…

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At the tasting our guide selected for us the Single Barrel Knob Creek and Jim Beam Black.  Lynda selected Baker’s and I selected the Jim Beam Devil’s Cut for our third choice.

As most of you know, Angels’ Share is the term distillers use for the bourbon that evaporates from the barrels while they are aging.  After 5-6 years a 53 gallon barrel will contain only 35 gallons (at best) of bourbon; the rest has evaporated and is called Angels’ Share.  But the bourbon also soaks into the barrel staves; to make Devil’s Cut they empty out the barrel, add distilled water, and put the barrel in a shaker for several hours.  The water, after absorbing the bourbon from the wood, is added back to the bourbon to reach the final proof.  It was excellent! Very rich and smooth!

We also learned what makes their super-premium bourbons special:

Basil Hayden’s has a high percentage of rye and a unique aging process; Baker’s is aged at least 7 years; and Booker’s, always my favorite, is always made at barrel strength (about 115 proof); what sets it apart is that the barrels are taken from special areas (on the 5th and 6th floors) of select barrel houses, where the aging is known to be extra special…

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This was Booker Noe’s house; he was the last of the family to live on the property…

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Next on the day’s agenda was a visit to “My Old Kentucky Home”.  It is actually called Federal Hill, and it was the home of three generations of the Rowan family from 1795 to 1922.

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The grounds are beautiful.  No interior photos were allowed…

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Worse house tour ever.  The house was very grand and elegant, similar to plantation houses we saw in Louisiana, but the colors and patterns of wallpaper and carpets were from the Victorian period and they hurt my eyes… We heard almost nothing about features of the house, but just an hour’s worth of family history and gossip.  Sorry, not my thing.

The park is named “My Old Kentucky Home” after the song of the same title by Stephen Foster, who was a close friend of the Rowan family.  It is the Kentucky State Song and is sung at ALL civic events in Kentucky, including sports games, political rallies, and, of course, the Kentucky Derby.  Everyone in Kentucky LOVES this song.

Ironically, the song is NOT about the joys and beauty of Kentucky; the song tells of the hardships of slaves, and all about the difficult lives they had, and heartbreak of being sold to an unknown owner.  It was used by abolitionists like Frederick Douglas in their anti-slavery work.  It seems odd that most Kentuckians seem to think it is all about the loveliness of their state, when it is telling the dark history of the state and our country…

We escaped as quickly as we could, and drove to Heaven Hill Distillery, named after Mr. Heavenhill, who owned some adjacent land that once held a distillery before prohibition.

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Never heard of Heaven Hill?  Maybe you have heard of some of their brands:

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Larceny, Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, McKenna, Rittenhouse…???

Heaven Hill is the largest independent, family owned distillery in the country.  ALL other large distilleries are owned by the multi-national holding companies like Brown-Forman, Constellation Brands, Diageo, Fortune Brands (Suntory), etc.  Heaven Hill is still owned by the descendants of its founders, the five Shapiro brothers.  Interestingly, Earl Beam, of the Jim Beam family, was the first master distiller, and there have been MANY Beam family members in important positions at Heaven Hill over the years.

We saw a short film about the distillery; apparently they buy up small brands from around the country and make re-make them in their own image.  Many of the brands I’ve never heard of; many are regional brands of very small production…

We tasted three of their bourbons, plus one rye whiskey.  Nothing spectacular, and we didn’t buy any.  We did learn more about the different processes in making different whiskeys…

I’ve concluded that the mash bill, which grains are used, and what percentages are used, have little effect on the final taste of the bourbon.  Ninety percent of the flavor comes from the barrel.  In my tasting experiences this week all the taste and nuance comes from the aging process and the selection of the various barrels that have aged differently.  We will test this theory further when we visit Buffalo Trace next week; stay tuned…

After we were done tasting we hurried back to the campground, where our leaders were pouring Mint Juleps using Buffalo Trace, which the distillery had provided to us.

Mint Juleps gave way to our 4th round of GAMS…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-29 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Bardstown, KY; Abraham Lincoln and Makers Mark! – Day #5

We set out this morning to see Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.

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Between 1909 and 1911 this farm was purchased and the log cabin where Lincoln was born was secured.  A nationwide fundraising drive was instituted and this memorial was built over the site of the original cabin.

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Inside the memorial is the cabin…

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It was the first “Lincoln Memorial”, predating the one in Washington, DC, by more than 10 years.

Several years later scientific dating was done on the logs, and they were determined to be from 1840; this is not the real original cabin where Lincoln was born.  The National Park Service now calls it the “Symbolic Cabin”.

Real or not, it was a moving place…

We then moved on to someplace not quite so historic…

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We did the usual tour – definition of Bourbon, the grains used in Makers Mark (about 70% corn, plus wheat and malted barley).  They made a big deal about not using rye; when MM was started in 1953 most “bourbons” were rye whiskey.  (Bourbon has been legally defined as being at least 50% corn since 1964…)  We saw the mash cookers, the fermenting tanks, the column stills where the whiskey is distilled, and the pot still where it is distilled again…

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The mash is fermented in cypress wood tanks – like giant hot tubs…

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Other interesting factoids:

-MM is one of only a few distillers to use live yeast in the fermenting process

-When their first 5 year aged bourbon was released in 1958 it was the first “Premium” bourbon

-Barrels in the barrel houses (warehouses) are rotated after three years – 7th floor to 1st floor, 6th floor to 2nd floor, etc.  And vice versa.

-The Barrel Houses are painted dark brown (almost black) to disguise the mold that grows everywhere around aging bourbon, as the evaporating liquid settles on the metal siding and provides a food source for the mold; the mold is harmless to just about everyone, but is unsightly and is a mess to clean…

-Average age when bottled is 6 1/2 years, but it is all done by tasting, not by age

-When they have 346 barrels ready to bottle they blend all the barrels to match the signature taste profile

-For over 50 years they made only one product – Makers Mark Straight Bourbon Whisky

-Today they also make a cask-strength bourbon; “46”, a super premium bourbon (more on this in a minute); and “Private Select” bourbon, a special, custom made version of 46  made specifically for certain bars, restaurants, and high-end liquor stores.

-Every bottle is hand-dipped in red wax

Next we went into the “46 cellar”…

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This is where MM 46 is made via a special aging process… It is kept at 50 degrees because they have found that this aging process works best at the cooler temperature.

When a barrel is tasted and is deemed worthy of being made into 46 it is pulled out of the barrel house and brought here.  The top of the barrel is removed and 10 French oak staves are inserted into the bourbon.  The top is put back on and the bourbon is aged another 9 weeks…

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The result is a super-premium bourbon with extra spicy notes from the French Oak…  The name comes from the selection of the staves.  Over 100 combinations of staves were tried, with different chars, different edges, different lengths.  After extensive testing and tasting, combination #46 was deemed to be the best.

We then learned that super-good customers (bars, restaurants, liquor stores) have the opportunity to make their own version of MM46 – Private Select.  They come here and select different combinations of staves, tasting the results until they get just the taste they want.  Thereafter they can order this special recipe again and again to sell exclusively in their place of business.  In the 10 years or so I have been ordering and buying Makers Mark I have never run into one of these special custom bottles…

But we were now ready for the tasting…

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We tasted six glasses:  MM White (un-aged whiskey), MM (regular), Cask strength (111 proof), MM46, and a Private Select made for the tasting room, and not available in any store…  Also, in honor of the Kentucky Derby this week we also tasted MM Mint Julep – all mixed and ready to pour over ice…

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My opinion?

MM White (un-aged whiskey):  Terrible!

MM (regular):  Always one of my favorites as a every day sipping bourbon

Cask strength (111 proof):  A little too rough for my taste

MM46:  Spectacular; a very special treat, very complex, and a joy to drink

Private Select: Also spectacular, very smooth, very nice finish

MM Mint Julep:  Terrible – tasted like mint mouthwash or toothpaste

We were able to buy a few souvenir bottles…  I had to have a bottle of Private Select…

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And then we went to lunch…

The evening we had another GAM… And we had some quiet time…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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