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Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2017: Bottled in Bond Fire

Posted on by Eric Burke

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I am reviewing something that I didn't pay for, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. I received media passes to this event for both myself and my wife

Warm and sunny. The perfect late summer Kentucky day. It's too bad it was our last day in Bardstown because it's days like those that make me never want to leave. And I was extremely excited to go to the Bottled in Bond Fire event that night. It seemed like it would be the perfect end to the trip. 

Historically, Saturday night was reserved for the Gala, a formal event. And since the last time I was voluntarily in a tux was my wedding day 20 years previous, let's just say I am never going to be covering the Gala. Not my speed. I'm a bourbon around the fire sort of guy. Not a bourbon in a rented outfit sort of guy.

So yes, when they introduced the Bottled in Bond Fire event last year, I was pretty stoked. I didn't go, as it was introduced after I had purchased my tickets, but I was pretty sure I wanted to go this year. And as things worked out, I got media credentials to the event. 

The Bottled in Bond Fire event is held at Wickland, Home of Three Governors. Wickland is an old Bardstown home (oddly the home of three different Kentucky Governors) which is available for tours and events. I had never visited before and was excited to see some of the details of the old house. When we first entered we were greeted by the check-in station and the food line. The event was serving barbecue, beans, and slaw. Perfect food for a bonfire.

Off to the right was a sitting area. Comfortable chairs and the featured speaker of the evening, Susan Reigler, Prsident of the Bourbon Women. Ms. Reigler was around to answer any bourbon questions that guests might have. 

Off to the left of the main entrance was the Bourbon Room. Here, four distilleries were pouring mostly bonded bourbons. Buffalo Trace brought Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch and Single Barrel, Both Bottled in Bond.

As is to be expected, Heaven Hill brought the most options to an event featuring Bonded products. They even brought one surprise...

I wasn't really expecting to see their Bonded Brandy, Sacred Bond, being poured at a Bourbon Festival. But it was and I tried it. It was fine, nothing to write home about. 

Barton was only pouring Very Old Barton Bonded. Which is fine by me. VOB Bonded is my go-to bourbon for the hotel room or cabin when I'm in Kentucky. 

Four Roses was a bit of a surprise for me. Seeing as they have no bonded products. There were no representatives there, but they did have Small Batch and Single Barrel on hand.

Obviously, the fires were outside. There were also tables to eat at, bean bag toss and live music.

The live music was provided by The Echoes, a Louisville trio. I enjoyed the music. It fit the mood of the event perfectly. I really hope someone thought to bring them a bourbon or two.

Since I had never been there before, they were nice enough to let me wander the house and go upstairs. Knowing that they offer ghost tours of the place, I was curious to go take a look. I didn't see any ghosts, but the empty old rooms in the light of the twilight were certainly a bit creepy. On the way down, I got a better view of the food and entrance area.

It wouldn't be a bonfire without s'mores. And although I'm guessing that liability concerns wouldn't allow people to toast their own, my wife tells me the desserts inspired by them were a very tasty substitute.

So, final verdict. I thought it was a decent event. My wife loved it. It was fun, the people were talkative, the bourbon was tasty, and the music was entertaining. Everything that you would want. All in all, I will probably drop the $75 to go as a paying guest next year so that I can enjoy myself a little more (hard to really relax when everyone thinks you work there due to the press credentials around your neck).


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Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2017: 1792 Flights of Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I am reviewing something that I didn't pay for, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. I received media passes to this event for both myself and my wife

It was a misty, wet evening at the Bardstown airport. The rain had been threatening all day and as we drove onto the runway, it decided to let finally let go. Not that we were in any danger of being too wet. This was more like the spot-free rinse in the car wash than a full-on rainstorm. It was, however, enough to cause the closure of the doors to the hanger we were heading to. Luckily, just after we got in.

This was my first time at the 1792 Flights of Bourbon event. It was new last year and to be honest, I didn't even know about it until it had passed. Normally the first ticketed event is the Sampler on Wednesday. This being on Tuesday was a bit of a surprise. But this year I was offered media passes and thought it sounded like fun. 

"Flights" of Bourbon. It's an event of Puns. Airplanes, hangers, and a lineup of 1792 bourbons. 

Speaking of multiple bottles, they saved a few limited releases to share with the guests. By my count, there were five in addition to the regular Small Batch: High Rye, Sweet Wheat, Full Proof, Single Barrel and the 225 Anniversary release to celebrate Kentucky's 225th Birthday.

Pretty display and pretty tasty as well. Doesn't sound like it was very expensive either. I had a friend tell me they got one that cost about $35.

Continuing with the "Flight" theme was a very nice molded ice sculpture on the food table.

Every one of the employees I talked to were entertaining and happy to be there. Fun people!

There were door prizes for the guests to win. 

A portion of the proceeds from the event benefited the Green Beret Foundation, a group that helps the transition of Green Berets back into society. I thought this was very cool.

My initial impression was that this was a very small event. I had heard rumors of a ticketing malfunction so I wasn't sure whether it was the rain, the tech problems or the fact that no one was in town yet that kept the people away. After asking the PR person about it, I was told the following: 

"[Barton 1792] really did go into it wanting to produce a more intimate, personally engaging event, as well as one that would be attended by the right people (meaning influential individuals in the industry, Barton brand enthusiasts, and other business stakeholders, etc.), instead of the most people (meaning general tourists/festival attendees)."

So in other words, they succeeded. This was a very small and intimate event. In fact, the main draw to this event was the conversations. Don't get me wrong, the bourbon, the food and the crooners on the sound system were good too, but I spent most of the night wandering from group to group and joining conversations. I found old friends and met new ones. All in all, it was a fun time. I don't know that I would want to pay $75 for the event personally, but enough people did that I'll assume I am on the outside on that one.


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Off to Kentucky!

Posted on by Eric Burke

You know it isn't September until I take my annual trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, Kentucky. I'm doing things a little differently this time, I still bought tickets to a couple events, but I also ended up getting media passes to a couple more. I'm going to be all over Kentucky during the week I'm here. Frankfort, Bardstown, Louisville. Hell I even visited the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park this morning. 

If you see me, please stop to say hi! I love meeting each and every one of you. If you meet me, I sincerely hope I look like this.

But who am I kidding, I'll probably look like this...


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Rebel Yell Small Batch Reserve

Posted on by Eric Burke

I'm in the process of packing for a much-needed vacation tonight, so I'm going to keep this kinda short. Not as short as the last post, but short none-the-less.

I've had a love/hate relationship with Rebel Yell for a very long time. The standard, entry-level, release was one of the first bourbons that I truly disliked. I used most of the bottle for years as a prop whiskey. I'd empty a bottle, which I planned to review, without taking its photo. Instead of shooting an empty bottle, I'd add a little visual interest by pouring my prop bourbon into the bottle, shoot the photo and then pour it back into the Rebel Yell bottle. After a while, I stopped pouring it back in and started dumping it out. And, of course, started adding other whiskeys that I didn't want to finish to the bottle. Oddly after all of that, it made a decent cocktail whiskey, so I started a new prop bottle.

Since the time that I reviewed Rebel Yell, Luxco (the brand owner) started revamping the look of the brand and introducing other extensions to the Rebel Yell line. Flavored ones of course, but also a Straight Rye and a blend of Rye and Bourbon. The latter of which I reviewed quite favorably. And then they released the Rebel Yell Single Barrel, a ten-year-old, wheated bourbon. And it was fantastic! 

Which made me wonder if I need to go back down and try the Small Batch Reserve that I had walked past for years due to how I felt about the standard Rebel Yell. 

Want to read more about the Rebel Yell brand history, check out my buddy Peter's take on it. He does a lot more fact checking and research than I feel like doing sometimes...

Rebel Yell Small Batch Reserve

Purchase Info: I honestly have no idea, I thought I bought it at Total Wine, but when I went back to check the price on their website, they said they don't carry it in my state...but I see Ace Spirits has it for a little under $27.

Details: 45.3% ABV

Nose: Corn bread, mint and honey.

Mouth: Brown sugar, mint, banana, baking spice and dried grains.

Finish: Short to medium in length with lingering banana and baking spice.

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Thoughts: I've had more than a couple of glasses of this during the weeks it has been on the shelf. It isn't bad in a tumbler, nothing special, but it gets the job done without being offensive. 

I really think it works well in a cocktail with Campari and Ramazzotti Amaro. It's a riff on a Black Manhattan, and I use two ounces of Rebel Yell Reserve, half an ounce of Campari, half an ounce of Ramazzotti and a few dashes of bitters. I like how the sweet of this bourbon offsets the bitter of the Campari and Amaro. So I'm giving this a like on that fact alone. On its own, it straddles the line between meh and like.


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Evan Williams Single Barrel, 2009 Vintage

Posted on by Eric Burke

I've had an odd sort of relationship with Evan Williams Single Barrel over the years. It isn't really a love/hate relationship as much as it is a like/meh one. In my experience, they are never really bad, not even in an off-year. Instead, they are just sort of...meh. Not bad. Not great. 

I used to really like them. I'd pick one up every year. But then we had a string of forgettable ones. So much so that even though I liked 2006 (the last one I bought), I forgot to try 2007 or 2008. But it is quite amazing what seeing a good price on the sign will do toward reminding you, especially when there is an open spot on your shelf just begging you to fill it. 

Evan Williams Single Barrel, 2009 Vintage

Purchase info: 19.98 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: 43.3% ABV. Barrel #: 367. Barreled on July 30, 2009. Bottled on January 31, 2017. 

Nose: Honey, wintergreen, sugar cookie, and almond. 

Mouth: Nice thick mouthfeel with vanilla, ginger, wintergreen and sugar cookie.

Finish: Warm with a medium length. Lingering spice, mint, and sweetness. 

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Thoughts: I like this one a lot. It's very tasty, especially for the price. I may have inadvertently taken a break from this product, but that will have to stop. Good solid bourbon at a good price is nothing to take for granted these days.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!