Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Taste of the Bluegrass

Shame on me for living in Kentucky for 12 years before I experienced one of the Bluegrass State's signature products.

Hi, it's Sheila, and I finally took a journey on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Ric and I spent the day at Woodford Reserve, nestled in the hills of Woodford County, near Frankfort.

It was a beautiful autumn day for a drive south. The leaves were just starting to show a fall tinge of color as we traveled past acres of horse pastures to the heart of the Bluegrass.

We started our day with a picnic from Woodford's lunch counter - Bourbon cheese spread with crackers, local Rome apples, a Kentucky farmhouse sandwich made, of course, with Kentucky ham, homemade potato salad, and sweet potato whoopie pies. Woodford Reserve boasts a talented chef, Ouita Michel, and the food was delicious.

After lunch, we rocked on the porch while we waited to take our tour. Is this not the picture of relaxation? We felt as if time was standing still as we enjoyed the quiet and the scenery.

We also took a moment to look through the exhibits and photos which depict the history of Bourbon Whiskey, and why Kentucky's blend is so unique. We learned how Bourbon got its name. The whole area of what is now Kentucky was originally the Kentucky District of Virginia. Because America was grateful to France for helping us defeat England and win our independence, the Virginia legislature dropped a number of French names onto American soil, Louisville and Bourbon County are tributes to King Louis the XIV's first and last names. Versailles is named for his home.
When settlers started making whiskey in this part of Kentucky in the 1700's, they were amazed to find that the color was completely clear. That's because the layers of Kentucky limestone filter out the iron, along with its taste and color. The water is good for horses too because it contains so much calcium. We found out the company which owned Woodford Reserve early in the last century was one of only 10 companies in the U.S. which were allowed to produce whiskey during Prohibition - for medicinal purposes - and distilling is the only industry in America started with an Act of Congress (after Prohibition was a dismal failure).

The tour of the distillery by our guide Steve B. was so interesting. The limestone building where the Bourbon is made and put in white oak barrels is a National Historic Landmark. We saw the barrels roll out of the building, down a track to another building next door, where they're stored for eight years. We saw - and smelled! - the huge vats where the yeast is added to the grains.

We marveled at the three giant copper stills, made in Scotland, where the mixture becomes White Dog - white because it's so clear, and dog because it'll bite you!

And we wandered through the rows and rows of barrels were the Bourbon ages. You can see the

evidence on many of the barrels of Master Distiller Chris Morris's work, sampling the bourbon to make sure it's just right for the Woodford Reserve label.
There's a very cool Wall Street Journal article about his perfect palate for Bourbon Whiskey here:

At the end of our tour, we sampled the amber liquor about which we'd learned so much. I can't distinguish all of the different "notes" Chris Morris can, but I did enjoy this small taste of Kentucky. Our trip wasn't so much about the Bourbon. It was the enjoyment of slowing down, noticing the little things about our surroundings, meeting friendly new people, and taking home memories of a lovely afternoon.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Sheila looks beautiful and fun.Heard it's a great time. Have a great day.