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The quintessential kentucky day

Posted on October 20th, 2007 after 10789 miles by Dean Croshere.

Bourbon and horseracing. That’s a good Kentucky day.

Here is “Destill My Heart” at the Woodford Reserve Distillery, having a snack. Destill came in last in all 7 races she ran. She is now an attraction at the visitor’s center.

Bourbon tasting has been high on my list of things to do since I began this trip. It was back in April that I first started drinking whiskey. At first, I found the burn repulsive. I had motivation though. The girl I was dating at the time loved the stuff. I certainly wasn’t going to be disgusted by something she loved, so I dove in headfirst and developed a taste for it.

Long story short, while my relationship with her is over, my relationship with bourbon is just beginning.

I love the complex flavors that can be found in the firewater. Makers Mark has a fantastic smoky flavor. Woodford Reserve has a delicious maple cinnamon flavor. I’m sure some of the others have great flavors too. I’ve only just begun to sample them.

It is fascinating though. Alcohol tastes bad. All of it does. When we say an alcoholic drink tastes good, we are really saying it “tastes less bad.”

Then again, I guess you could say that the process of “acquiring a taste” for booze is to learn to ignore the bad so as to better appreciate the complex flavors that can only exist in alcohol. I’m really curious, would seltzer water taste good stored in a barrel for seven years?

Probably not. It has to be rotten grapes or grain to properly age in toasted barrel.

This is sweet mash. It is a mixture of corn, malted barely, and rye. Bourbon must be at least 51% corn. Woodford reserve is 72% corn. Scotch is usually about 90% malted barely. This bourbon mixture is currently fermenting.

In a few weeks, it will be sour mash.

It will then be triple distilled in these copper stills. After the first it is technically beer. After the second, it is technically wine. After the third, well, that’s whiskey. This process is specific to Woodford Reserve. Apparently most distilleries do this step in only one or two steps, and they do it in stainless rather than copper.

From here, they are poured in barrels, rolled down this track, and placed in these big storage buildings for seven or eight years.

The barrels must be white oak, they must be charred, and they can only be used once. The barrels are then sold for various purposes, including the creation of scotch. See, bourbon isn’t stored for as long as scotch because the barrels are new and they impart their flavor much quicker as the burnt wood absorbs and releases the whiskey in tune with the temperature changes.

I used to believe that bourbon must be made in Kentucky. This is not the case. Instead, bourbon must be made in America. It just so happens that all bourbon (so far) is made in Kentucky. Note that bourbon is never charcoal filtered like Jack Daniels.

One of the most interesting things about whiskey is that, unlike wine, it is not made in the same location as its primary ingredients. The best wine is made in the valleys where the grapes are best grown.

Apparently, the Kentucky whiskey is so good for the same reason the thoroughbred horses are so fast. The water is naturally limestone filtered so it is loaded with calcium. This apparently makes really healthy yeast for fermentation and really strong bones for fast horses. I’m not sure why water from other places can’t just be fortified with calcium, but I digress.

Ok, I guess I wasn’t really digressing, there wasn’t much more to say about that. After the bourbon tour, I had a choice. I could go visit other distilleries, or I could go to a horse race at the Keeneland racetrack.

I went with the horse race.

I know next to nothing about horse racing. That didn’t stop me from putting a couple bucks on loosing horses in a couple different races. I made some slightly more educated guesses for the second race. By more educated guess, I looked up the horses names and went with the one with the coolest name. “Liquoreaux” sounded like an awesome name. I imagine it is pronounced "liquor roo."

I nearly won some money. My horse started off way ahead before giving up about halfway and finishing…well, look.

You can see him on the leader board there in the background. Number 5 in green. See, on the list there at the bottom? Listed in last place? That’s him. Or her, I guess. I suppose the horse is probably a her. I really don’t know much about horse racing.

::Discuss::Permanent link::Location

Carlsbad, CA
Central Ala- 'Bama
The middle of the state.
Heaven on a Bun?
Next to the CdA lake
Driving in Idaho
Just south of Coeur d' Alene