But Always Fine Bourbon: Pappy Van Winkle and the Story of Old Fitzgerald by Sally Van Winkle Campbell

Posted on by Eric Burke

Last night, I finished a book that had been on my wish list for years. Literally years. For some reason I never got around to buying it even though I had heard very good things about it. But when we were introduced to the author at the Kentucky BourbonFest and saw that she was selling her books, we figured that it was just about time to finally pick it up. 

This is not a history of bourbon. This is a history of one family and their bourbon. A pretty famous bourbon family at that. This is the story of Pappy Van Winkle and his brand, Old Fitzgerald. And it is written by someone with pretty good access to the family and their archives, because she is family. As the granddaughter of the famous Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle (and daughter to J.P. Van Winkle Jr., and sister to Julian Van Winkle III who produces Pappy the drink) Sally Van Winkle Campbell is probably uniquely qualified to write this story. 

And what a story it is! Written in a very conversational style, this book starts in 1893 as Pappy is first starting work at W. L. Weller. It then steps back and tells you about the Wellers, the Stitzels and the some of the other major characters in the story before heading back to Pappy and stories of his time with the company. The book details his rise through the company, the struggles of Prohibition and the way he ran his company afterward.  

The book regales you with story after story. Each entertaining enough that if you aren’t careful, you’ll do as I did and find yourself still awake long after you should be sleeping. The book ends well after Pappy and his company were both gone, touching on the creation of the bourbon named for the man before taking it’s leave of you. 

This is a great book for any bourbon lover or anyone who just wants a glimpse into a bit of the history and the life of a very colorful man. Go buy it, you won’t regret it. 

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Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, And Rebirth of an American Whiskey by Fred Minnick

Posted on by Eric Burke

Disclaimer: Fred Minnick is a friend and in my statement of ethics I promised to disclose when I am reviewing one of my friend’s products and to only review them when it was truly something I really liked. This is one of those times.

I’m sitting here tonight, drinking from a freshly made batch of Cherry Bounce and trying to think of what to say about Fred Minnick’s newest book. I could say it is great, informative and well-written. But one could say that those things should go without saying for a Fred Minnick book. Fred is one of my favorite authors. I’m lucky to count myself among his friends. 

This is a book that is geared toward the bourbon geek or the wannabe geek. The person who really wants to dig in to the details of bourbon’s history. The one who wants to read about tax policy and government oversight. Who wants to explore the various “candidates” for the title of Father of Bourbon and see if one rings truer than the others. This is a book for people who love bourbon and want to know more. 

Most books about bourbon love to talk about where and when it came from. Everyone wants to get into the gory details of Prohibition. This is a book that spends as much time discussing the 1940s until today as it does the 100 years previous. It doesn’t matter if you no nothing about bourbon or live online in bourbon forums, you’ll probably learn something in this book. I know I did. This is a book that really does follow it’s subtitle, chronicling the “Rise, Fall, and Rebirth” of our favorite spirit.

This is not a book content to rehash old legends. I find that refreshing. And speaking of refreshing, that glass of Cherry Bounce is empty. And if you'll excuse me, I think I need another.

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Willett-Distilled Bourbon: Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond

Posted on by Eric Burke

Tomorrow I’m heading back to northern Wisconsin to shoot my youngest brother’s wedding. Yep, among my many skills is the skill of photography. But I don’t normally take photos of people. I shoot landscapes, animals, etc. Things that are outside and surrounded by all sorts of natural light. So this will be fun. 

If by fun you mean learning as you go, flying by the seat of my pants and hoping no one notices that I only kinda know what I’m doing. All while trying not to screw up the only memento that my brother and his new wife will have of their happy day. And also while trying to explain that no, you can’t do night time shots during the day. That no, rain isn’t the end of the world. And that yes, trying to take all your wedding pictures in the rain as it is getting dark is probably asking for them to not turn out as well as they would have if you’d have done it before the ceremony, before it rained, except that you were too superstitious to let him see you.…


I don’t normally do this, but this might be one of those times that the flask comes with. If there is any chance at all that I end up with a Bridezilla on my hands, I want to be prepared. Especially since I’m going to be … well … faking it and trying not to scream for most of the day.

So what will be in that flask? Well there is a good chance that it will be the recently released Old Bardstown Bottled-in-Bond, Willett-distilled bourbon. It's 100 proof to help fortify the will. And it's inexpensive enough that I won’t feel too bad taking a snort from the flask. Plus I have a couple bottles of it so I won’t miss it too much.

Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond

Purchase Info: $22 for a 750 mL bottle at the Willett Distillery Gift Shop

Details: 50% ABV. NAS (but bottled in bond so at least four years old). Distilled at DSP-KY-78 (Willett).

Nose: Grassy, caramel, mint, spiced gum drops and oak.

Mouth: Sweet and spicy with caramel and vanilla backed by allspice, black pepper, mint and a grassy note.

Finish: Sweet and of medium length. Lingering allspice, mint and dried grass.

 smile because I liked this one

Thoughts: Twenty. Two. Dollars. For. A. Craft. Distilled. Bourbon! And it’s good!

OK to be fair this is no world beater, but at $22 it doesn’t have to be. What it needs to be is solid, tasty and work well either neat or in a cocktail. This does that. It’s a nice addition to the ranks of tasty, inexpensive bottled-in-bond bourbons. If you visit Kentucky, make sure this is in your bag when you leave.

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1792 Full Proof

Posted on by Eric Burke

It wasn’t long before my trip to BourbonFest that I got a note from a friend of mine letting me know that he saw the 1792 Full Proof at a municipal liquor store near his house. Ordinarily, I might have passed on driving the 70 miles or so (round trip) just for the opportunity to spend money on bourbon. Especially since I would be driving about 1600 miles (round trip) in the coming weeks also for the opportunity to spend money on bourbon. But, I like 1792 and quite liked the last of their limited releases that I’d tried. Plus to be honest I was feeling more than a little bored on that late August morning. So I made the trip up there and decided to do a little shopping.

Though I tend to like 1792, it really was a previous 1792 limited release that I had picked up (the Port Finish release) that made me decide to make the trip up there to grab this one as well. I'd liked the Port Finish quite a bit and it showed me that the blenders for 1792 know what they are doing with these releases. And plus 1792 Full Proof sounds like it's just 1792 with less water. More proof is hardly ever a bad thing since at worst you can dilute to your favored proof level and get more pours out of a single bottle.

1792 Full Proof

Purchase info: $44.99 for a 750 mL at Top Valu Liquors, Columbia Heights, MN

Details: 62.5% ABV (My research on this one indicates that this was the proof that this was entered into the barrel, not the proof that it was removed from the barrel. So it was probably diluted to 125 proof).

Nose: Juicyfruit Gum, brown sugar and baking spices.

Mouth:  Whoooo…that’s a hot one without water. This is fruity with cloves, cayenne, caramel and oak.

Finish: Hot with medium length. Lingering fruit and oak.

I like this. So this is a smile.

Thoughts:  I’m really impressed by these 1792 limited releases. The price is right and both of the ones I’ve tried have been very tasty. Where the Port Finish was much sweeter than the regular 1792, this 1792 Full Proof is just the regular 1792 on steroids. It has the same wonderful dry and evaporative qualities as 1792. Just more so. It is a very lovely, though hot, whiskey neat. I tend to give it just a little ice to dilute it and help tame the heat. It’s very tasty so if you like 1792, grab this if you see it. If you don’t like 1792 however, I’d give this a pass. It’s that, just more so.

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A Visit to Glenn's Creek Distillery

Posted on by Eric Burke

If you read the last post, You've already seen what the outside of this small distillery looks like. Located in the old bottling and shipping building of the former Old Crow Distillery, Glenn's Creek Distillery is surrounded by history. Outside is the place to be inspired by what came before, but inside is the time to focus on what is yet to come.

Glenn's Creek Distillery is much smaller than the former occupant of the property. In this one shot you can see almost the entire production area. Off to the right is the aging area. Beyond that (in the Lowes wrapping) is the yeast growing and storage area. Grain storage is beyond that. On the right right of the photo you see fermenters with a cooker peaking up behind them. All the way to the back are their four stills. The only thing you don't see is the bottling area. Which is behind us.

Here it is. Four bottles at a time. And their initials underneath.

The aging portion of the distillery was interesting. On these racks are barrels of two kinds of Bourbon, Rye, and Rum. Two distilled on site and two sourced from MGP in Indiana, but aged on site. The racks themselves are made from reclaimed wood from the Old Crow warehouses outside. If they get big enough there is hope to use one of those to put their own barrels in one day.

They are small-time and hands on. In this case the agitation on the cooker comes from a person holding a drill with a long paddle on the end. The man stirring was our tour guide for the day. Dane is the Lead Distiller at Glenn's Creek.

This is Tiny Tim, the 12 gallon experimental still. It was the first still they had made and they survived using it as the only one for a while. Now it is kept around to run experimental batches.

This is Double D. Named so because it has two doublers, not for any other reason you might think of. It is a 34 gallon still.

This still is Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld is where the rum is distilled. It is a 600 gallon still. They currently run it at 450 gallons but this gives them some room to expand as needed. 

This is Dr. Crow. Named for the man who lent his name to the former occupants of the property, Dr. Crow is where the whiskey is made. The still was originally set up to be heated by a steam boiler, but that portion was too expensive to buy so they converted it to direct heat with the use of the burners from some heaters found around the old distillery.

And this is the current Glenn's Creek Distillery product line-up. From left to right, the Ryskey Rye and the Stave + Barrel bourbon are purchased from MGP and delivered in the barrel to be aged on site. Skipping one, Prohibition Kentucky Rum is the rum distilled in Rumsfeld and aged in barrels that formerly held bourbon.

OCD #5 is an interesting one. It is a bourbon fermented using yeast that was recovered from the sealed Old Crow fermenter number 5 (a photo of it is shown in the Old Crow post). The story goes that since the fermenters were mostly sealed, one day they had the idea to see if there was anything living in there. Yeast can survive a long time in spore form, but 20-30 years is a bit past it's best by date. Most of the fermenters didn't do anything and the mash was spoiled. All but fermenter #5. That one was happily fermenting away when they checked on it. So they pulled it out in buckets, grew it up some and used it to create OCD #5. Did they really catch a yeast that had been previously used by Old Crow? No idea, it may have just been a wild yeast that they caught. Either way, no one else has it and it is a pretty interesting story.

Before I left, I had the chance to take a taste of each of these. As we weren't tasting in the ideal conditions, these aren't real tasting notes, only impressions.

Ryskey Rye Whiskey

Details: 59% ABV. 95% Rye whiskey sourced from MGP in Indiana. Aged on site in full-size barrels with toasted staves added to each barrel. This is a single barrel product.

Thoughts: Spicy with a nice finish.

Prohibition Kentucky Rum

Details: 58.5% ABV. Distilled on site. Made from fermented molasses. 

Thoughts: Hot, molasses, maple syrup, rock candy. Has a rum funk to it. It was quite tasty in a Rum-mosa cocktail (Rum, OJ and cinnamon sticks).

OCD #5

Details: 53.8% ABV. Fermented using yeast caught on site. Aged in full-size barrels with added staves. Staves were smoked.

Thoughts: Slight smoke, herbal. Some corn flake notes. There is a cinnamon note at the tip of the tongue and a slight rum funk. He asked how old we thought this was, we knew it was young, so we guessed 2-3 years. It turns out that it was only six months old. Pretty tasty for that.

Stave + Barrel

Details: 59.4% ABV. Bourbon whiskey sourced from MGP in Indiana. Aged on site in full-size barrels with toasted staves added to each barrel. This is a single barrel product. Six months old.

Thoughts: This is a high-rye recipe MGP bourbon. It's tasty, though young. The added staves make it taste older than the six months it is.

UPDATE: Since I initially wrote this I've noticed that Glenn's Creek Distillery have started a GoFundMe project to help fund the restoration of the Old Crow distillery ruins. If you have the means, think about helping save a piece of history.

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