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Kentucky Bourbon Festival: Ticketed Events

Posted on by Eric Burke

Paul Tomaszewski of MB Roland Distillery signing the Louisville Slugger made famous on WhiskyCast

While at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival I like to attend some of the ticketed events. As the tickets to some of these are expensive, I aim to attend three each time. This year I attended Kentucky Bourbon All-Star Sampler™, Let's Talk Bourbon™, and the ARCO Speakeasy.

Chris Morris, Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve, pouring a couple Old Foresters at the All-Star Sampler™.

Kentucky Bourbon All-Star Sampler™

Picture it: a large open room that looks like it could house a small manufactuing company inside it. Down the center of the room is a large table heaped with food. Scattered around the room are tables and barrels with lighted tops for you to eat that food. All around the exterior of the room are small bars pouring spirits for you to taste. 

Sounds like a nice place to be right? Well for $50 per person you could be there. And as far as I’m concerned, you probably should. It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to shake hands with and be poured a drink by the likes of Jimmy Russell, Chris Morris or Jim Rutledge. I met up with a few friends, both old and new, while there and had a great time. Most of the distilleries were pouring their standard line up. Jim Beam had their Small Batch Collection, Heaven Hill was pushing Evan Williams, Woodford Reserve had both Woodford and Old Forester there. I was especially interested in what some of the craft folks were doing though. MB Roland from south-western Kentucky had their bourbon and Black Patch Whiskey available to try. Old Pogue had Five Fathers Pure Malt Rye to be sampled. Limestone Branch debuted their aged product, Precinct No. 6 at the event. There was also a brandy from Copper and Kings in Louisville that wasn’t too bad.

All in all it was a great evening and it made me very happy I decided to go back again this time.

Your materials to help you enjoy Let's Talk Bourbon™: the lyrics to My Old Kentucky Home, some notepaper, a booklet on how bourbon is made and a breakfast cocktail.

Let's Talk Bourbon™

The ticket is $30. For that you get breakfast, should you want it. You get cocktails, both with breakfast and after the event. You get a gift, this year a Four Roses branded Tervis glass. Plus, to top it off, you get to listen to Jim Rutledge talk about how bourbon is made and answer any questions the audience might have about it for about two hours. There is no event I can reccomend more than this one. This is my favorite event. I try to be early and get into the front row because I like to take notes, even thought the base presentation might be the same, the questions and tangents are always different and very informative.

The band, the screen, the distilleries and the costumed attendees all help to set the scene for the ARCO Speakeasy.

The ARCO Speakeasy

This was an event that I almost did not go to. I hadn’t planned to do anything on Saturday night because I was supposed to be up at 6am Sunday morning to drive 13 hours home. I was talked into it by my friends at MB Roland. And boy am I glad I was. This was a very fun event put on by the members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. They each made a cocktail or two and you got to drink them. The best part, of course was that almost everyone was dressed in Prohibition-era costume. The people watching was fantastic. The cocktails weren’t bad either. 

It’s $50 or $100 per person depending on if you considered yourself a VIP or not. I did not. The event happens at the same time as The Great Kentucky Bourbon Tasting and Gala™ which is a black-tie event for $150 per person. Too rich and too fancy for my blood. The Speakeasy was just right. I didn’t have to dress up too much (I didn’t have a costume so I just dressed nicely and didn’t feel out of place) and it was a third of the price. I mean, that money could be spent on bourbon (and was). Plus I met and talked to a lot of great folks that are part of the Craft Trail while enjoying drinks showcasing some of their products. All in all it was worth needing extra coffee for the drive home the next morning.