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2019-05-10 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Butcher Holler and the Coal Miner’s Daughter – Day #16

We began today by spending time at OSCAR, the Oil Springs Cultural Arts and Recreation center; it is located in a school that was sold off in 1955 when the mining industry shut down and the population plummeted… (more on the mines later…)  The school was purchased by a local businessman who has lent it to OSCAR for the past many years…

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We did crafts.  Just like – well, you know… There was wood carving, tin punching, painting, wire art, and several other things that we could try our hand at…  We spent the morning crafting away, and they even provided a tasty mid-morning snack…

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I did a little relief carving of an apple…

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Lynda made something out of tin…

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Some others made these wall plaques…

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The sky was roiling when we returned to the Villa; we had a light lunch in the Airstream, and then we headed out for our next tour.  The rain held off for the rest of the day…

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We carpooled to the town of Van Lear, and the Webb General Store… About 1 1/2 miles down the road from the store is Butcher Hollow, or, in Kentuckian, Butcher Holler…

Here the story begins…

Loretta Lynn was born Loretta Webb on April 14, 1932, in Butcher Holler, in the “house” that is still standing today.  She is the eldest daughter and second child born to Clary and Ted Webb.  Ted was a coal miner and subsistence farmer.  The youngest Webb daughter was Crystal Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb).  There were six other children born to Clary and Ted, but you only need to remember Herman, Loretta’s immediate younger brother.

Butcher Holler was one of many communities that loosely made up the town of Van Lear, KY.  There were five coal and slate mines in the area dating from the early 20th century, with 2,500 miners, and four railroad lines serving the mines.  These mines supported a community of 15,000 to 20,000 people.  When the mines closed in 1955 the population plummeted.  There is little remaining today of this thriving community.  Today, even with recent “suburban” style growth, Van Lear has fewer than 2,000 people.

On January 10, 1948, 15-year-old Loretta Webb married Oliver Lynn, better known as “Doo”, or “Mooney”.  They had met only a month earlier.  Despite Doo’s promise to Loretta’s father never to take her away from Butcher Holler, the Lynns left Kentucky and moved to the logging community of Custer, Washington, north of Bellingham, when Loretta was seven months pregnant with the first of their six children.  The happiness and heartache of her early years of marriage would help to inspire Lynn’s songwriting.  In 1953, Doo bought her a $17 Harmony guitar.  She taught herself to play the instrument, and over the following three years, she worked to improve her guitar playing.  With Doo’s encouragement, Lynn began singing in local clubs in the late 1950s.  (In the Movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, she mentions that she was going to be playing in a “nasty ol’ honky tonk over to Lyndon”.  I sincerely doubt that Lyndon ever had a “nasty ol’ honky tonk”…) 

Lynn signed her first recording contract and cut her first record, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”, in February 1960.  Her first album was recorded in Hollywood.  The Lynns toured the country to promote the release to country stations.  By the time the Lynns reached Nashville, the song was a hit, climbing to No. 14 on Billboard’s Country and Western chart, prompting her first appearances on the Grand Ole Opry in 1960.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Her best-selling 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was made into an Academy Award–winning film of the same title in 1980, starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.  Spacek won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Lynn.

Back to Lynn’s brother, Herman Webb.  After the mines closed most of the Webb family moved to Indiana.  But Herman always wanted to return.  In 1975, he bought the local general store near Butcher Holler.  He named it Webb’s Store and ran it until his death in 2018.  Today his son and daughter run the store and offer tours of the house where Loretta Lynn grew up…

Butcher Holler is a fer piece down the road, about 2 miles past Van Lear, and about 10 miles past Paintsville, (pop. 5,700 today).  Butcher Holler is way back in the hills…

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This is Webb’s store…

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The sign is a little worn…

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There are signs everywhere hawking the tours in case no one is at the store…

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A shuttle took us up the 1 1/2 mile one lane road to the house.  We shouldn’t complain – when the Webbs lived here there was no road, just a footpath.  (In the movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, Doo drives his Jeep to the house by driving in the creek…)

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The house is pretty much original.  When Herman moved back to Butcher Holler in 1975 he did shore up the foundation and replace much of the front porch using 1970s techniques and design.  (If you notice the front porch guardrail you will see that it is VERY similar guardrails in 1970s era apartment buildings in Orange County, CA…)

Inside the house we were given a tour by Hermasina, Herman’s daughter.  There are four rooms plus two attic bedrooms.  Much of the furniture is original to the house; there is a lot of memorabilia from the Webb and Lynn families…

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This view up the valley was not like this when the mines were operation.  There were few trees; any tree over 6″ in diameter would be needed as shoring in the mines, so this view would have extended miles up the valley.  The area would be farmland for residents to raise their own vegetable gardens…

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It was a great tour – very authentic and not too much hype and certainly no glossy brochures…

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This road was only a footpath in the 1940s…

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We forewent the shuttle ride and walked back to the Webb Store…

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We did pass one of the entrances to one of the mines…

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The store isn’t much – more memorabilia, a few staples, candy, and lots of moon pies and RC Colas…

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Other than the store, just about all evidence of this thriving community is gone… No train tracks, no industry, no other businesses, very few people…

So we returned to the Villa.  We had a little FaceTime with our grandson, Ian.  He is five years old this week!

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In the evening we returned to the Highway 23 Museum.  We enjoyed a nice dinner, then the pickers began… Bluegrass music!

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There was music, dancing, singing, and even some square dancing!

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-09 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Country and Country Music – Day #15

We visited three local points of interest today… We started at Mountain Home Place…

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This is a working farm; all the buildings here were moved onto this property from adjacent land that was taken when the Paintsville Lake State Park lake was built.  The buildings date from 1850 to 1900.

Of course, we start in the Gift Shoppe… They sell all hand-made products produced by local craftsmen…

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The old men caravaners enjoyed sitting on the front porch…

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We strolled the property and saw the vintage buildings; we also enjoyed their animals…

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I enjoyed what appeared to be really tentative foundations…

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We saw the local church…

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And the local one-room school house, in use until 1958…

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A typical cabin…

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Interesting ladder to the attic lofts…

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Then we moved on to lunch in Paintsville…

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I enjoyed a local delicacy… Fried Bologna Sammich…

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The next local landmark we toured was the Mayo United Methodist Church; the church was donated in 1904 by Mr. Mayo, who made his fortune in coal mining.  (We are only about 50 miles from the West Virginia border.)

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The stained glass windows are remarkable…

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The organ was relatively small (1,000 pipes, 18 stops, two manuals), but high quality, and still in good condition; it still uses the original mechanical connections to operate the pipes.  The manual pumps were replaced by electric fan chambers in 1914 when electricity arrived at the church…

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Our own caravaner played for us, and we returned the favor by singing a few hymns…

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Next door was Mr. Mayo’s house… The Mayos only lived here for a few years; Mr. Mayo died suddenly, and Mrs. Mayo moved to Tennessee to be with her family.  The house (45 rooms) is now a Catholic School…

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And finally we visited the Highway 23 Museum…

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It was so-named because of the many country music stars who were born along Highway 23…

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The only country music stars I had known anything about were Loretta Lynn and her sister Crystal Gail.  We also saw a video of an interview with Loretta Lynn about the making of the movie, “The Coal Miner’s Daughter”… We will visit her childhood home in nearby Butcher Hollow tomorrow, and re-watch the movie in a few days…

The museum is small, but it was enjoyed by those who followed country music… We returned to the Villa, and walked along the lake again…

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Happy Hours ensued, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

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…

2019-05-03 – 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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2019-04-30 – 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…

2019-04-26 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY – Day #2

After raining all night we awoke to a lovely morning.  We carpooled to the National Corvette Museum.  Not only were we Airstreamers doing this tour today, but it was the 25th anniversary of the museum and hundreds of Corvette owners were coming to gather as well…

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Even our campground was not immune to this invasion of Corvettes…

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The museum is located only a quarter mile from the Bowling Green Assembly Plant, where Corvettes have been made since 1981.  Unfortunately, the plant is closed for re-tooling; rumor has it that the newest model Corvette will be revealed at this event this weekend…

(Spoiler Alert:  Yes, the new C-8 Corvette, with a mid-engine configuration, was revealed at the Museum on 4/27/19!)

This yellow structure is called the “Skydome”.  It contains a large exhibit hall inside, as an addition to the main museum.  More about the Skydome later…

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We gathered in front of the museum for a group photo, then went inside for a tour.

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The exhibits started with a display of a 1953 Corvette, showing its innovative framework and chassis design.  Note how light the structural framework is.  These cars were clearly designed for performance, not for safety…

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We proceeded through the exhibits, seeing the Corvette design evolve.  The first years were difficult, and very few cars sold in 1953-1955, but the 1956 model caught on and sales sky-rocketed.  However, they have never reached the 1,000,000 cars per year that were originally envisioned…

The 1956 – 1962 years (Model C-2, as the aficionados call it) are my favorite Corvettes…

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This is the interior of the Skydome:

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A particularly interesting exhibit centers around an event that happened a few years ago…

On February 12, 2014, a sinkhole (40-foot-wide and 25-foot-deep) opened under the floor of the Skydome area of the museum.  Video from the museum’s security camera shows the collapse occurring at 5:38 AM local time.  Since this did not occur during visiting hours no one was injured although much of the Skydome area concrete floor collapsed.  Eight rare and one-of-a-kind Corvettes, portions of the display stands and rails, large concrete floor slabs, boulders, and dirt fell into the sinkhole, causing serious damage to all eight of the Corvettes.  The Corvettes involved had an estimated value of a million dollars.  The remaining 20 cars in the Skydome were immediately removed from that area.  All eight of the Corvettes were recovered from the sinkhole.

Exploration in the sinkhole discovered a cave passage 80 feet below the Skydome floor and that this previously unknown cave had an unstable area in its roof that collapsed.  Apparently, when the museum was built, a large storm water retention basin was dug adjacent to the Skydome, which altered the flow of ground water under the museum.  This change in geologic activity contributed to the cave collapse.

The Skydome reopened after repairs were completed on September 3, 2015.  The eight Corvettes are displayed in their original location at the time of the collapse, although only three of them have been repaired/restored.  The other five were deemed too damaged to be repaired, so they are displayed is their “as found” condition…  It is a remarkable thing to see!

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We continued to look at the displayed until lunch happened…

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After lunch we visited the Historic Rail Park, located at the historic L & N train depot…

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It was great fun…

There were model railroad exhibits that little kids really love…

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There were historic exhibits inside the museum; but the best part was the train!

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We were able to go through all the cars…

First was the engine (with the engines and generators removed…). We also could go into the cockpit and sit in the engineer’s seat.  No steering wheel!

This is the Post Office car…

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The dining car…

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The kitchen…

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We saw a 3rd class Pullman sleeping berths, the 2nd class “roomettes”, and the private bedrooms in 1st class.  Finally we saw the private car of the L & N president, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room and a parlor, plus observation platform at the rear.  This car was used by Herbert Hoover during his presidential campaign.

We also saw cars that are not on display; a caboose…

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And a hospital car, used to transport injured troops from WWII and the Korean conflict…

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We returned to the Villa in time to prepare for the first GAM – Get Acquainted Meeting.  As luck would have it, we already knew these four couples…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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