Bourbon & Forests
~Sunday, April 18, 2021~
Well, when camping you cannot choose your neighbors, nor their pets, right? We have a family of 4 that showed up yesterday with no wherewithal that maybe the constant barking of their shitsoos everyone else in the campground. That just gets me when people either don’t care or are completely oblivious to considering other people. No, no, no….we won’t let this ruin our day, and something a little bourbon tour might cure.
Today was our scheduled bourbon tour at Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center just minutes from our campground. In fact, Bardstown is THE place to sample bourbon, kind of like Napa is to wine.
As you approach the main tour facility, across the street are the still houses-all painted in white.
What stands out is just how large these buildings are (all storing barrels and barrels of precious bourbon). There is also a mystery black substance on them in sharp contrast from the brightly painted buildings. It looks as if they were painted that way intentionally. We found out, the black is mold. This stems from the evaporation that occurs from the barrels. The sugars are in the vapor which sticks to the walls. When the water evaporates what is left is the “sugared mold” on the building. It definitely adds a lot of character to the outside…...fitting for the rustic drink that bourbon is.
We arrived to a line of people that we thought were there for the 12:30 tour as well. We soon found out that those people have been waiting in line since 8:00 a.m. this morning to get their hands on an exclusive bottle of bourbon called “Old Fitzgerald”. Crazy! Our tour guide said she’s even seen times where people camp out overnight with sleeping bags right outside the front door, or get their mom to stand in line, so they can get 2 bottles, not just one of their limited selections. Lucky us, that “Old Fitzgerald” was on our tasting for today.
The facility just went through a 14 million dollar renovation, with the final phase due to be completed by the Fall of 2021-complete with a rooftop bar, interactive tasting/blending facility and restaurant. We were led into a private room by our 70+ year old tour guide named Holly (she told us, just think of Christmas to remember her name). She was an intriguing southern woman, with a very slow, relaxed speaking tone, great sense of humor, and knowledgeable about all things bourbon. Jeff and I were the least experienced bourbon drinkers in our 8-person group (all of us sitting at our own table). In front of us, were 4 shot glasses
lined up front to back along with a tiny blue bottle of water with a dropper. 2 of the 4 selections were bourbons and the last 2 were whiskeys. One of the first 2 was Rye, the next was Wheat, both about 100 proof (50% alcohol), and the last 2 were whiskeys at 120 proof (60% alcohol). The funny thing is I’ve always equated a stronger, burning sensation when you swallow any type of alcohol, to have the highest proof. Not in this tasting. As we went from 100 proof to the 120, it actually was smoother. What Jeff and I both liked equally was the wheat bourbon (so now we know we like wheat, not rye) and we both liked the first selection of whisky. Tasting bourbon is quite different from wine tasting. The recommendation is to not swirl the bourbon before tasting, as that creates a vortex bringing the aroma down into the glass rather than up your nose. As you smell, you’re supposed to open your mouth. We first would experience the bourbon “clean”, meaning room temperature, then diluted. That’s what the dropper bottles were for. After sipping it clean, then you’d add a few drops of water to mimic melted ice in the glass. Jeff and I preferred the taste, a little diluted. It’s probably because we haven’t acquired a taste for bourbon yet. The extent of our palate is tequila, rum and wine. After our fabulous tasting experience which made all the difference with our guide, we headed into the store. We didn’t purchase any bourbons, but we did buy t-shirts highlighting one of Heaven Hill’s bourbons called “Larceny”.
After our awesome tour, we went back to the campsite to do a few things before taking Sadie with us to Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. This 16,000-acre gorgeous piece of property (which was not always gorgeous) was purchased by German immigrant Isaac Bernheim in 1929. Bernheim eventually went into the distilling business achieving great success with his Bernheim Brother Distilling Company and his popular brand of bourbon, I.W. Harper. He was so grateful to the people of Kentucky for allowing him the opportunity to be successful, that he decided to dedicate this slice of Kentucky heaven as a gift to the people of his new homeland, to provide a place for the renewal and restoration of the bond between people and nature. The land’s previous use was for sale and iron ore industries, with the land heavily abused and nearly devoid of trees. Between 1929 and 1950, the land was transformed holding steadfast to his vision.
One of the highlights in the Bernheim forest are three “giants”......Mama Loumari, Little Nis, and Little Elina.
Danish artist Thomas Dambo crafted the trio of woodland creatures from recycled regional wood to help Bernheim celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2019. What a treat that we were there only 3 years after the installation.
We ate a late dinner due to a “blue boy” run (this always seems to take about an hour), Sadie’s bath and 2 long FaceTime calls to our peeps….my sister and brother in-law in Lake Oswego and our son Shane in Napa. Can’t wait to see these guys when they meet up with us on the road sometime over the summer while we’re in Michigan.