“Drinking mint juleps, famed Southern drink, though in the Deep South not really drunk much. In fact, they are drunk so seldom that when, say, on Derby Day somebody gives a julep party, people drink them like cocktails, forgetting that a good julep holds at least five ounces of Bourbon. Men fall face-down unconscious, women wander in the woods disconsolate and amnesic, full of thoughts of Kahlil Gibran and the limberlost.” – Walker Percy
Congrats to Andy Smith who won the bottle of Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 YR Bourbon on April 24.
This month, we’ll give away a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s 15 YR Bourbon on May 29. We’ll announce the winner LIVE on our Facebook Page and post the video to our pursuitofpappy.com afterwards.
More Pappy Resources
The Pappy Raffle/Lotteries/Auctions Page (Keeps you in the know about Statewide, Store-Specific or other opportunities to locate a bottle of Pappy.)
The Pappy Events Page (Makes you aware of Tasting Events, Whiskey Festivals, etc. that offer and opportunity to taste some Pappy Van Winkle.)
Also, the Pappy List is now categorized by State. (Bars and restaurants do run out so it’s always a good idea to call and ask if that’s the only reason you’re going.)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The secret to the magic that will happen Saturday at Churchill Downs, they like to say around here, is the water. All over Kentucky, it flows over the limestone that is natural to the state’s geology, filling it with various minerals like calcium that end up feeding the bluegrass, which in turn supposedly makes the young horses who graze on it strong and fast.
But that same unique Kentucky water that has for decades sustained the Thoroughbred industry is also fueling a different kind of magic in this state: a bourbon boom.
Whether you are watching the 145th Kentucky Derby on television Saturday or are among the 100,000-plus at the track, the connection between the race and the state’s thriving bourbon industry will be impossible to miss.
Last year, Woodford Reserve became the presenting sponsor of the Kentucky Derby, replacing Louisville-based Yum! Brands, which operates KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. Another bourbon brand, Old Forester, has a sponsorship agreement to provide the official mint juleps sold on track and lends its name to the Old Forester Turf Classic race before the Derby. Although their company names might not be present on the track, practically every other bourbon label in the state leans into the Kentucky Derby theme by sharing recipes on social media for drinks like the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan or the Kentucky Mule.
“The defining culture of Kentucky, which we Kentuckians have always cherished, is that combination of bourbon and Thoroughbred racing and music and the food,” said Rob Samuels, chief operating officer for Maker’s Mark, whose grandfather founded the company. “And how it all comes together in this moment has become a magnet for people that can go anywhere and be anywhere or choose to celebrate with us here in Kentucky. It’s reflected obviously this weekend for the Kentucky Derby, but we see it in many ways throughout the year now because consumers and customers all over the world are drawn to experience those same aspects of the culture.”?
But it wasn’t always thought of that way, especially outside the state’s borders. In fact, until the past decade or so, Americans didn’t actually consume all that much bourbon, particularly the high-end or premium brands that have become a major part of the Derby scene.
Just consider that in 1999 there were fewer than 20 distilleries in Kentucky producing about 455,000 barrels of bourbon. Now there are 68 distilleries that filled 1.7 million barrels last year and have provided the infrastructure for a massive tourist attraction, with 1.5 million visitors (mostly from out of state) on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
“It took a lot of work to get consumers to notice us outside of the core,” said Chris Morris, the master distiller for Woodford Reserve. “We were doing well in Kentucky and certain markets that were bourbon markets. But how do you make bourbon cool in New York or San Francisco?”
A couple of things happened.
Bringing bourbon back
One was simply good fortune with younger people embracing spirits and bartenders at high-end establishments using the versatility of bourbon to craft interesting drinks. There were also random bourbon-friendly touchstones like the TV show “Mad Men,” which helped revive a drink like the Old Fashioned that had long gone out of style.
That renewed interest in bourbon extended all the way from everyday brands you could find at nearly any bar or liquor store to the extremely rare, small-batch bourbons like Pappy Van Winkle that were selling for hundreds if not thousands of dollars through an online black market.
Ultimately, it spoke to a generation of younger people more concerned about taste and complexity rather than just whatever could give them a buzz.
“There’s a really wonderful focus around authenticity and the history of the category and brands that have survived like Old Forester, which was the first bottled bourbon in America,” said Campbell Brown, president of the Old Forester brand. “People want to know these stories, and the depth of knowledge has translated to a real interest in cocktails and how they’re flavored and what bourbon can do that you can’t do with as easily with scotches, for instance.
“People are interested in that, and they want to proof the drinks themselves and decide how they want to enjoy them the most and play around with the product a little bit. And for me that’s what makes it such a sustainable sort of trend.”
But the other thing that happened was that the bourbon industry leaned into horse racing, which, for all of its problems, has unquestionably become a sport that puts on a really good party.
Though the Kentucky Derby has always drawn huge crowds, it’s now an event that appeals to American sentiment of a bygone era where celebrities and all manner of fashionable people put on their most outlandish clothes, drink cocktails out in the sun and bet on horses running around a track.
Most of all, it looks like a lot of fun, and the easiest piece of that experience to export into millions of homes watching on television is bourbon. In 1999, Woodford Reserve — a relatively new brand at the time — became the first-ever official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. Since then, Morris said the growth of the two entities has happened “hand in hand.”
“If you look at where horse racing was at that time, it was just like bourbon — in decline,” he said. “It wasn’t cool. It wasn’t attracting a young audience. Then horse racing began to advertise to young people.
“So Woodford Reserve was rejuvenating bourbon and Churchill was helping rejuvenate horse racing and we came together to help each other.”
The history really runs even deeper than that. The first case of Maker’s Mark ever sold, Samuels said, was to stock the bars at Keeneland Race Course in 1958. And to this day, more Maker’s Mark is sold at Keeneland than at any single location anywhere in the world.
In 1997, at a time when it was somewhat taboo for tracks to sell naming rights of races to corporate sponsors, Keeneland anointed one of its major races the Maker’s Mark Mile in 1997. (It’s now the Maker’s 46 Mile.) The company is also a major sponsor of the Breeders’ Cup and has created special commemorative bottles that honored recent Triple Crown winners Justify and American Pharoah, with proceeds going to charitable causes.
“Were it not for Keeneland and the Thoroughbred racing community, Maker’s Mark wouldn’t have survived,” Samuels said.
Ultimately, it’s that authentic connection to this place and the lifestyle Derby week evokes that has helped bourbon grow steadily into a massive international product. You can get a good red wine from four continents, a smooth vodka from Russia or Texas and a complex craft beer from every small-town brewery.
But that unique water here with its infusion of calcium carbonate, potassium, magnesium and zinc has given bourbon its distinct taste and the horse industry its generations-old reputation. In the end, they’re made of the same stuff, all coming together on Saturday.
“Every sip of Kentucky bourbon brings memories of rolling green hills and white fences and galloping foals,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association. “It’s the perfect symbol of the state.”
“Drinking mint juleps, famed Southern drink, though in the Deep South not really drunk much. In fact, they are drunk so seldom that when, say, on Derby Day somebody gives a julep party, people drink them like cocktails, forgetting that a good julep holds at least five ounces of Bourbon. Men fall face-down unconscious, women wander in the woods disconsolate and amnesic, full of thoughts of Kahlil Gibran and the limberlost.“
This is just one of the great quotes in Walker Percy’s essay on Bourbon, called Bourbon Neat. If you haven’t read the blog long maybe you don’t know that Percy’s writings introduced me to the sweet elixir. His flawed characters always seemed to have a bottle nearby. And when I read his essay on Bourbon (though a bit dated) I could still relate to what he said:
“But, as between these evils and the aesthetic of bourbon drinking, that is, the use of bourbon to warm the heart, to reduce the anomie of the late twentieth century, to cure the cold phlegm of Wednesday afternoons, I choose the aesthetic. What, after all, is the use of not having cancer, cirrhosis, and such, if a man comes home from work every day at five-thirty to the exurbs of Montclair or Memphis and there is the grass growing and the little family looking not quite at him but just past the side of his head, and there’s Cronkite on the tube and the smell of pot roast in the living room, and inside the house and outside in the pretty exurb has settled the noxious particles and the sadness of the old dying Western world, and him thinking: ‘Jesus, is this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?’ “
Or this one:
“The joy of bourbon drinking is not the pharmacological effect of the C2H5OH on the cortex but rather the instant of the whiskey being knocked back and the little explosion of Kentucky U.S.A. sunshine in the cavity of the nasopharynx and the hot bosky bite of Tennessee summertime—aesthetic considerations to which the effect of the alcohol is, if not dispensable, at least secondary.”
And finally, if you’ve ever celebrated something that took a lot out of you, wrestled with the mystery that is life, or simply won the big pot after risking just about everything — you should like this one:
“Then imagine William Faulkner, having finished Absalom, Absalom!, drained, written out, pissed-off, feeling himself over the edge and out of it, nowhere, but he goes somewhere, his favorite hunting place in the Delta wilderness of the Big Sunflower River and, still feeling bad with his hunting cronies and maybe even a little phony, which he was, what with him trying to pretend that he was one of them, a farmer, hunkered down in the cold and rain after the hunt, after honorable passing up the does and seeing no bucks, shivering and snot-nosed, takes out a flat pint of any Bourbon at all and flatfoots about a third of it. He shivers again but not from the cold.”
But this post is really about a drink synonymous with this week’s Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep. Here’s what Walker had to say about his favorite Julep recipe.
“Reader, just in case you don’t want to knock it back straight and would rather monkey around with perfectly good bourbon, here’s my favorite recipe, “Cud’n Walker’s Uncle Will’s Favorite Mint Julep Receipt.
You need excellent bourbon whiskey; rye or Scotch will not do. Put half an inch of sugar in the bottom of the glass and merely dampen it with water. Next, very quickly—and here is the trick in the procedure—crush your ice, actually powder it—preferably in a towel with a wooden mallet, so quickly that it remains dry, and, slipping two sprigs of fresh mint against the inside of the glass, cram the ice in right to the brim, packing it with your hand. Finally, fill the glass, which apparently has no room left for anything else, with bourbon, the older the better, and grate a bit of nutmeg on the top. The glass will frost immediately. Then settle back in your chair for half an hour of cumulative bliss.”
So anyway, enjoy the Derby and enjoy a damn good Bourbon (or many) neat or in a Mint Julep.
The third batch of rye from Old Carter Whiskey Co. has arrived on shelves in Kentucky, just in time for whiskey fans around the world to converge on the state for the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Old Carter Rye Batch #3 is a blend of just five barrels of 95 percent rye recipe whiskey, yielding only 1009 bottles in total. Bottled at a barrel strength, unfiltered, 116.2 proof, this marks the eighth release from the brand.
The brand promises a nose of “enticing aromas of baked goods, caraway rye spice, creme bruleé, ample fruit and a touch of leather.” On the palate, we’re told to expect “cinnamon sugar toast, tons of licorice and sweet, lingering spice…delivered in a balanced, pleasantly viscous, mouth-coating way.”
The new release follows two batches of rye, one of bourbon, and four of American Whiskey(one 12-year release, and three separate single barrels of 27-Year). It’s not the only release we can expect from the Carters this year—we’ve been told to keep an eye out for Rye Batch #4, Bourbon Batch #2, a new American whiskey, as well as a few other surprises.
Each release from Old Carter is barrel strength, unfiltered, and blended by husband and wife team Mark and Sherri Carter. The two were founding partners of Kentucky Owl, but started their own brand last year.
Old Carter Rye Batch #3 is on shelves now only in Kentucky for around $190.
Acker Enters New Realm by Holding Its First-Ever Spirits Auction in May Featuring More Than 300 Lots of Rare Whiskies and Cognacs
New York, NY – April 30, 2019 – Acker, the world’s leading auction house of rare and fine wines, announces its first spirits auction devoted to rare whiskies and cognacs. The company’s foray into prestige spirits is in response to a white-hot market among global consumers and collectors. Titled “Acker Distilled,” the inaugural event, to be held on May 11 at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong, will feature a wide range of aged Scotch—the oldest of which dates to 1928, with several produced during war time, representing an era of rare distillations. People who cannot attend in person can also bid live online on all offerings from anywhere in the world via AckerLive, and traditional absentee bidding is also available.
Of the impressive cognacs on offer, the oldest dates to 1858, and several were distilled in the 1920s. A special offer will feature the iconic Kentucky Bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle, in a full set (seven) of coveted bourbons including the very rare 25 Year Old. This curated package includes lunch and a VIP tour for six people at the distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky in 2020, and an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in a private cask purchase process of the renowned Buffalo Trace Distillery.
“This is truly a rarefied offering that speaks to cult collectors of what is one of the world’s most exciting distilleries,” said Acker Chairman John Kapon. “The global fan base for this limited-production bourbon is enormous and we’re thrilled to offer this unique package to the lucky bidder who wants a real-world experience of what’s considered one of the world’s most coveted bourbons.”
Other bottle and lots highlights include Hennessy 8 in a Baccarat-designed decanter, Macallan 1950 Fine and Rare, Macallan 1951 Fine and Rare, Balvenie 50 years old 2018 release, Macallan 1945 – 68 years – Spey Malt, Hennessy 1868 First Lading Cognac, Croizet Cognac 1858, and Hine Cognac 250th Anniversary.
Acker’s auction leverages recent research that reports the global whiskey market is expected to enjoy an annual growth of 5.3% for the next five years, according to an industry report by ResearchAndMarkets.com.
“That growth by any measure, is promising, so we have strong faith in extending our reach to the adjacent collectible-spirit segment,” Kapon said. “For many years, we have offered an incredible list of rare and finest spirits in our auctions. It is now the time to affirm to our client base that we have the experience and expertise to assess and offer the world’s finest spirits. This not only reinforces our position as the world’s leading wine auction firm, but also makes loud and clear that we are a source for the world’s finest spirits.”
As with all Acker events, the inaugural spirits auction will be conducted in true Acker style, with a pre-event tasting, and promises a high-spirited ride through an offering of world-class bottlings.
“If you are a serious collector of spirits, May 11 at the Grand Hyatt or via AckerLive is where you want to be,” Kapon said.
Announcement of the auction follows last month’s company rebrand and logo redesign, part of a year-long program leading to the company’s bicentennial celebration in 2020. Established in 1820, Acker has been the world’s leading and largest wine auction house for more than a decade. The family-owned company operates a retail wine shop in Manhattan, offers wine education workshops and tastings, and fine and rare wine concierge services in Hong Kong and New York.
Established in 1820, Acker is the oldest wine shop in America and the world’s largest fine and rare wine auction house. The third-generation of the wine-merchant family, Acker Chairman John Kapon started the auction business in 1998, pioneering the market in Hong Kong, and elevating it to the world’s No. 1 wine auction house. A master taster and auctioneer, Kapon conducts more than 15 live auctions each year, with online auctions held each month, broadcasting to major Asian cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo, with collectors around the globe participating in real-time bidding.
For more information on Acker’s upcoming auctions, or to consign a collection, please visit www.ackerwines.com.
Enjoy the Chase. Cheers!