Louisville Weekend Road Trip

With the kids at their grandparents’ house last weekend, my husband and I decided to take a road trip to Louisville, Kentucky to taste some bourbon and take in a baseball game (and a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum).

A 7 1/2-hour drive from Richmond, Louisville lies on the Kentucky river, which separates Kentucky from Indiana. Though you can follow I-64 all the way there, it isn’t quite a straight shot as the interstate winds through the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. For bourbon lovers, you could make an easy stop at the Smooth Ambler distillery in Maxwelton, WV on the way there or back.

The Louisville area is home to many distilleries, from small, craft distillers like Willett, Town Branch and new distiller, Jeptha Creed to huge worldwide brands like Wild Turkey and Jim Beam. One tip to note: the distilleries in this region of Kentucky can be pretty spread out. If you’re pre-reserving tours, be sure to budget enough time into your schedule for the drives between sites.

On this trip, we visited Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort on our way to Louisville. About an hour outside Louisville, the distillery is situated on the banks of the Kentucky river on the site of an ancient “buffalo trace,” a trampled-down region that resulted from the mass migration of millions of buffalo centuries ago. Buffalo Trace produces some of the most sought-after bourbons in the world, including Pappy Van Winkle, Elmer T. Lee, E.H. Taylor and Blanton’s.

The tour features a visit into one of the aging warehouses, and an educational video on the history and distilling process of Buffalo Trace, then culminates with a trip to the small building housing the bottling line. On the day of our visit, Blanton’s was making its way through the bottling line.

The post-tour tasting offered samples of Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare bourbons, Wheatley Vodka, White Dog Corn Whiskey and Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream, plus Dr. Mcgillicuddy’s root beer for those who were under 21. Off the tasting room, a locked vault housed some of the rarest past releases, including Pappy Van Winkle 25 Year bourbon and decades-old Weller and Old Taylor bottles.

Later that evening, after checking into our super-convenient, downtown Louisville hotel (the Hampton Inn – Louisville Downtown, which is within walking distance to most major downtown sites and also has a free local shuttle), we ventured back out into the countryside to visit Jeptha Creed Distillery, a relatively new local distillery that makes flavored moonshines and vodkas, as well as a very limited-release bourbon.  On Friday nights, the distillery puts on “Jammin’ at Jeptha,” a concert series featuring local bands.  One or more food trucks sell meals and snacks, and the distillery serves up craft cocktails. Local brews are also available, such as Country Boy Brewing beers.

Day one of our Louisville trip was full of fun and bourbon. We were excited for more on Saturday!

Smoking Barbecue with Bourbon Barrel Char

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Master Distiller Brian Prewitt led our special tour as he explained the distillation and aging process of A. Smith Bowman’s bourbons. From the giant stills to the high-quality barrels to the final bottling, the process of crafting small batch bourbon was fascinating to see.

At the end of our tour, my group sampled some of A. Smith Bowman’s products, like John J. Bowman bourbon, George Bowman colonial era dark Caribbean rum and Mary Hite Bowman Caramel Cream liqueur. We also visited the gift shop, which was full of everything you could think of that has anything to do with bourbon, from barbecue sauces to bourbon-scented candles. I picked up a bag of barrel char – the blackened, bourbon-soaked shavings from the charred inside of a used bourbon barrel – and decided to give it a try along with some hickory chips when my husband smoked a pork shoulder recently.

IMG_2400

Here’s the barrel char soaking with some hickory chips.

IMG_2401 (1)

Mixing up the dry rub – coarse salt, fresh ground black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and a bunch of other good stuff.

Before (applying the dry rub) and after smoking.

IMG_2404

The finished product!

The barrel char definitely added a layer of flavor to this delicious smoked pork shoulder. Of course, this yummy barbecue is best served with a pour of your favorite bourbon.