Bourbons and Banjos!

Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
My Old Kentucky Home State Park

Flag of United States  , Kentucky
Sunday, May 27, 2012

We awake to the strumming of a banjo this morning. The state park hosts a worship service every Sunday and we are right next to the gathering place – it seems fitting to start this hot day with some banjo gospel and a capella hymns.

Our first stop is Jim Beam. We make it there for the first tour of the day and relate our college stories of how we first met Jim. Now we've been on countless wine tastings, but these are a little different. Gulping down glasses of whiskey before noon is not for everyone, though we recommend everyone at least try. Here we are treated to a single barrel reserve and (mercifully) the new cherry bourbon which goes down pretty smooth. Onward…

All the way down the trail to Woodford Reserve. [Through many phone calls, we find out that Woodford Reserve is the only one of the six that is closed on Memorial Day, so we have to go a little out of our way to fit it in this trip.] The Woodford Reserve tour is the only one that costs ($7), but they let you keep the little plastic shot glass with their logo. By now, we are starting to get the hang of this bourbon thing (and the free bourbon chocolate balls they give you at the end of each tasting) and would like to share the rules for distilling this distinctly original American spirit:

1)  Though all bourbons are whiskey, not all whiskeys are bourbons.

2)  Bourbon can only use a natural mix of grains, and you gotta use at least 51% corn.

3)  It must be not more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol) when it goes in the barrel.

4)  The charred white oak barrels can only be used once. (They ship the barrels to Tabasco makers in Louisiana and scotch distillers abroad for reuse.)

5) The sweet nectar must be in the 53 gallon barrels for at least 2 years, though most are kept in the barrel longer than 4.

Those are the basics. There’s all kinds of other information on the process, but it’s best explained by one of the guides in an exaggerated southern drawl while bellied up to the counter for a tasting.

After our final tour for the day, we swing and miss on a couple of campgrounds – it is Memorial Day weekend after all – so we find ourselves back at My Old Kentucky Home State Park in the exact same spot as the night before. We look for bluegrass music at a few bars, but no luck…so we jam out to our own on the iPod speakers around the fire.
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