Hosting a Fall Bourbon Tasting

Hosting a Fall Bourbon Tasting

Happy fall y’all!

This is my favorite month of the whole year.

Everything looks pretty, taste like pumpkin, & bourbon pairs well with apple cider!

This past weekend I was invited to my first at home blind bourbon tasting. I was pretty excited but really did not know what to expect since I myself am still slowly building my bourbon collection & finding new brands each day. I’ve also like most people only have done tastings when I know what I am getting so you go in with preconceived notions.

After Saturday night, I’m not motivated more than ever to be able to host my own blind tasting one day!

Here is the run down on what I learned, what to do, & how to keep non bourbon drinkers involved. Below you will see the set up.

When arriving there were snacks, beer, wine & bourbon and ginger ale cocktail to get your palette warmed up. Once the tasting started, everyone received a packet with professional reviews of each sample including a star rating, a tasting wheel diagram, and 5 different sheets to fill out the breakdown each bourbon.

We were told that the bourbons would be going up in proof, but other than that it was a guessing game! With each taste, you also got to grab a card from either deck (this comes into play later), and after sniffing, giving your initial thoughts you were able to taste and add a drop of limestone water if needed.  We then were able to guess if we thought we knew the bourbon, pretty sure not one person got any of them right, ha! We did this with each sample and we’re all amazed on how different the hug (burn in your throat), smell and taste varied throughout.

Between each sample, we were suggested to either eat a few nuts or chocolate to get the previous taste out. This also made a huge difference! After the fifth sample, we were told to look at our cards and see who had the best poker hand, that person won a bottle of something we tasted!

Here is the breakdown of what I got to try out…

  • Wathens – Westport Wine & Whiskey store batch
  • JTS Brown – bottled in bond
  • Joseph Magnus
  • Barrel Bourbon Batch 11
  • Old Forester 1920

Most of these you can find at a store or if you do a little digging! Like I said, I am still growing my collection so my labels would be more commonly known but still interesting to see if anyone can guess!

So if you are looking to do your own at home tasting, here’s what I suggest!
– A variety of mash bills, some corn some rye
–  Different ages
– Variety of prices
– for the set up, clear non labeled cups
– A tasting wheel, this helps people who don’t know really what they are looking for
– HAVE FUN!
Bourbon is supposed to be something you enjoy, make it interactive for all the guest, play the poker hand or be creative and come up with your own game!

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Meet a Friend of Limestone, Dr. Alan Fryar

Meet a Friend of Limestone, Dr. Alan Fryar

It’s hard to be more of a friend to limestone than Dr. Alan Fryar, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Fryar’s specialty is understanding how water moves through karst, a special kind of landscape formed by the dissolution of limestone. He has studied it across the Bluegrass region. One study performed in Woodford County compared a spring under UK’s Animal Research Center with another in downtown Versailles. He has also researched sinkholes and “telling people where to and where not to build from an engineering perspective.”

This extensive understanding of karst makes him one of the Bluegrass’ top experts on the natural foundation on which our Commonwealth stands.

He explained that Kentucky’s limestone gives it a unique geographic difference. “The Bluegrass region is sort of a dome of limestone.” Dr. Fryar noted that this limestone had an immediate effect on how Kentucky grew and evolved.

“It has to do with historical settlements,” he noted. “People settled in areas where limestone was fundamental.” The Falls of the Ohio and the unique properties of central Kentucky’s soil are both thanks to limestone and attracted settlers.

Dr. Fryar’s interest and knowledge about karst and Kentucky’s history with limestone has led to a hobby of speaking to the landscape’s role in bourbon distilling. He’s been interviewed by several journalists and authors about the role of limestone in Kentucky’s unique industries.

He notes that “interesting coincidences” led settlers to the industries that remain the cornerstones of Kentucky’s cultural and economic identity.

“Bourbon is what people started distilling because the ingredients were available,” Fryar notes. The limestone water that came from natural springs across the Bluegrass was a key ingredient. It isn’t a coincidence that Royal Spring, Kentucky is where Elijah Craig began making whiskey in 1789.

It turned out that the high pH of limestone water is ideal for promoting fermentation, and it naturally filters out impurities like iron that alter the taste. This made water from the Bluegrass region the perfect ingredient for the earliest bourbon distillers.

While limestone water is not essential to bourbon production at this point, it has created a myth around the spirit. “I think that’s where the concept of terroir comes in, where it’s not just physical factors, but it’s also what the consumer perceives as the place, the origin of the spirit that gives it value,” he told Louisville Public Radio in 2013.

Even his students have gotten into the act of studying the relationship between geology and distilling. One of his UK graduates now works as an environmental compliance officer for a major name in Kentucky bourbon.

Dr. Fryar is helping the public understand the geological reasons behind bourbon’s rise in Kentucky. That makes him a great Kentuckian and a true Friend of Limestone.

My Favorite Lakes In (and around) Kentucky

My Favorite Lakes In (and around) Kentucky

Hello, all!

Last month my blog focused on the sustainable extraction of limestone. I wanted to make this month’s blog a little more fun and personal. So, we are going to talk about my favorite lakes in (and around) Kentucky. I know…I know…. it is officially fall. Why in the world am I blogging about lakes? Well, for one, you can always plan for next summer! Second, you can still enjoy our lakes in the fall and winter months. The cold weather should never stop you from enjoying what nature has to offer!

Cave Run:

Let’s start with one close to home for me. A little over 15 miles from my hometown of Morehead, Ky is Cave Run Lake. It is located in Rowan, Morgan, Menifee, and Bath County. I grew up visiting, hiking, swimming, camping, and fishing here and continue to visit every chance I get. What I love most about Cave Run is, even on extremely busy days, you can always find peace and quiet. What else does the lake have to offer?

  • Camp at Twin Knobs and Zilpo.
  • Put your boat in at 12 different locations.
  • Picnic all over.
  • Swim at two managed swimming beaches: The Beach (located in Twin Knobs) and. Or, swim wherever you like! I suggest Windy Bay and Billy Branch.
  • Try out your “lake legs” at Cave Run Marinas.
  • Hike!
  • Fish for Bass, Catfish, Bluegill, Walleye, etc. Musky fishing is very popular here!
  • Eat at Pops BBQ
  • Attend the annual Storytelling Festival the 29th and 30th of September…you still have time to make it this year!

Norris Lake:

I spent a weekend at Norris Lake with a group of friends a couple years ago. Since then, I have always wanted to plan another trip. Norris Lake is in Tennessee; located a little over an hour from Pineville, Ky. I choose to include it in this blog because, in my experience, the lake is relatively unknown and it is close enough to Ky. I fell in love with Norris Lake immediately due to its seclusion and small size. So, why Norris Lake?

  • Over 20 Marinas!
  • Camp at Norris Dam State Park Campground
  • Water Skiing. I “attempted” it…. and failed.
  • Fish for Bass, Crappie, and Walleye.
  • Over 16 restaurants…many of which are at Marinas.
  • And obviously, swimming and hiking trails.

Cumberland Lake:

Over this past summer, I had to the opportunity to spend a couple days at Cumberland Lake, located in the southeastern part of the commonwealth. However, this was the only time I have been there. So, my knowledge of Cumberland Lake is limited. The short time I was there, I really enjoyed what the lake had to offer.

  • I remember thinking every person there, but me, was on a boat. There are boat rentals all over!
  • Our lodging was through a local cabin company. There are many…many more.
  • I suggest spending time on Cumberland River, as well.
  • Do I even need to say this? Lodging, food, fishing, hiking, and swimming.
  • If you’re a coffee drinker, try Baxter Coffee.

 

I think I see a pattern with my favorites. They are all relatively located on the eastern side of the state. Maybe I need to visit some lakes on the western side next year. Any suggestions?

What is your favorite lake? Let me know in the comments!

 

Best,

Adam

FOL Visits Maker’s Mark

FOL Visits Maker’s Mark

Have you ever just grabbed a handful of oatmeal? That’s what it felt like when I of reached my hand into the 3 day old mash tub at Maker’s Mark.  I guess I should back track to the beginning of our tour so you don’t think we just I am just running around sticking my hands into things to ruin your next red dipped bottle.

Maker’s Mark was our first tour of many as Friends of Limestone, as we go along this journey together, I will be highlighting and visiting different distilleries around Kentucky. Maker’s Mark Distillery is located in Loretto, KY, so once you think you’ve gotten lost, you’re almost there! If you haven’t had the chance to visit, it is highly worth the drive.

Onto the tour…

We started out learning a little bit about the history of Maker’s Mark & I could give you the full run down on how Maker’s Mark got started, but that’s what Google is for.

Maker’s Mark helped shape and change the whole bourbon industry. Margie Samuels (wife of Bill Samuels Sr.) is a total badass of the bourbon industry!! It was Margie’s idea to dip the bottles in red wax, starting the process on her kitchen table that happens on the bottling line today.  Even to this day, each bottle is hand dipped. Think about that, every Maker’s Mark bottle is completely different. Pretty crazy huh? She also created a bread recipe that turned into bourbon, designed the logo, and picked the shape of the bottle! (okay done fan-girling over her…but c’mon she’s great!)

Now, if you remember back to my previous post on what makes Bourbon, you should remember that some Bourbons are made with rye and some are made with wheat.  Maker’s Mark is made up of 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% barley.  This adds up to a grain alcohol that reaches 110 proof .

FOL_Makers Tour-22.jpg

Before combining all of these ingredients to start cooking, Maker’s Mark stands out once again by using a Roller Mill to break up the grains, most distilleries use a hammer mill instead.  The reason behind using a Roller Mill is to help keep the bitter taste out of these grains. Once all of these ingredients are broken up and combined, they are cooked. They spend 3-4 hours cooking, then chill to between 80 and 85 degrees.

Once this mash bill is done cooling, then comes the yeast! From the very first bottle until the one being barreled today, Maker’s Mark has used the same yeast strain. This yeast strain has been passed down over 6 generations, and is kept in different parts of the world (just in case you were wondering, they won’t tell you all the locations!)

FOL_Makers Tour-14.jpg

Now on to the fermentation process, this is where each of us got to try out a 1 day old mash, a 2 day old mash, and then the hard oatmeal feeling of a 3 day old mash. The texture and the taste changed after each day. These are fermented in 9600 gallon tubs – TALK ABOUT BIG! The room smells a lot like beer, which to me smelt pretty good! Next we got to see the copper stills, this where you will see what is called White Dog in the bourbon industry (to make it simple, unaged bourbon), and the distilling process begins. This was another cool part of our tour, trying the white dog directly from the still.  If you ever want something to burn your nose, take a good smell of this!

Now the best part! Time to fill up the barrels that give Maker’s sweet smooth taste!  Until this tour, I never really thought about how the barrels were made, I only cared what was in them. Maker’s Mark buys their barrels locally, once the barrels are made, they sit outside for almost a year to get the definite shape and begin to bring out the wood flavors before ever being filled. Once arriving to the distillery, they are charred at a grade 3, to make the bourbon just a little sweeter.

FOL_Makers Tour-7.jpg

Each bottle of Maker’s Mark is aged for around 6 years. 3 years at the top of the warehouse and 3 years at the bottom. Throughout this aging process, the barrel is tasted up to 6 times! (Where can I get that job??)  They taste these barrels to guarantee each bottle taste like the very first one.  Can you guess how many barrels are aging at this very moment?! Whatever you’re thinking…think a little higher. Now, guess around 800,000!!

I don’t want to spoil all of the tour details, but when you go, check out the creak that runs through the grounds and the wall that is exposed where the Maker’s 46 and private select bottles are stored. THAT’S ALL LIMESTONE! Bill Samuels Sr. bought this piece of land because of the Limestone water that filtered right on his distillery. Now that is something incredible!

Before I leave you wanting to make the drive to middle of nowhere Kentucky, remember that, each bottle of Maker’s Mark taste like the very first one. Which really means, it’s like having a drink with Mr. Samuels himself, right? .. a girl can dream!

FOL_Makers Tour-10.jpg

Limestone, Extraction, and the Environment

Limestone, Extraction, and the Environment

Let’s talk about Limestone.  Limestone is a sedimentary rock and the leading stone extracted and processed in the United States.  Out of all stone mining in the U.S., limestone accounts for roughly 42%.  It is extremely functional, as it is primarily used in the construction industry.  However, it has many uses!

You interact with limestone on a daily basis and you may not even know it.

  • It is used to make the paper you just wasted after trying for the 100th time to operate the office copier.
  • The plastic bag you used to carry a pack of gum out of Kroger.
  • The glass jar of outdated pickles in the back of your refrigerator.
  • The paint on your wall…and, if you did the paint job, possibly on your floor too.
  • The carpet in your house that you keep forgetting to vacuum.
  • The overly priced bottle of water you purchased at Speedway.
  • The food in your 4 for 4 at Wendy’s.

Let us not forget the horses and mint juleps we like to watch/drink on Derby Day!

Have you ever wondered how we extract it? Probably not, so here we go.  The majority is mined through a process called surface mining (some extraction is done through underground methods).  Surface mining mines from the top down, not the bottom up.  In respect to limestone, the process is referred to as quarrying.  Quarrying involves the removal of earth and stone piece by piece with heavy machinery and small explosives.   The end result is a large open pit (quarry).  Once completed, the stone goes to a processing plant.

You may be thinking, “oh, yeah, that’s what those giant holes in the earth are called!”.  Have you ever thought about the environmental impacts from “those giant holes in the earth”? Again, probably not.

If not conducted properly quarrying can have negative environmental impacts.  These include:

  • The removal of trees, vegetated areas, soil, and habitat loss required for many species to live.
  • Contamination of local water sources.
  • Acid mine drainage
  • The use of large amounts of water.
  • The creation of wastewater.
  • Air and soil pollution from heavy machinery.

All pose negative health risks for humans, non-animal species, and nature.

In a previous blog I discussed the importance of conservation and preservation.  Another crucial component is sustainability.  Sustainability is a principle that seeks to maintain the balance for both future and present species/generations.  If we are unable to find and maintain this balance, future generations will feel the impacts.  Limestone extraction is not immune.  Alongside practicing conservation and preservation to our limestone reserves, we also need to make certain our extraction methods are sustainable for our present and future generations, as well as the natural environment…and for the 4 for 4 at Wendy’s!

 

Best,

 

Adam

Call Me Old Fashioned

Call Me Old Fashioned

Whether you’re a beginner bourbon drinker or consider yourself a connoisseur, we each have a go-to drink of choice! I’m going to share my favorite cocktails, along with which bourbons go best with certain mixers.

Let’s start with my favorite drink to make when I’m ready for a brunch at home or a good Sunday Funday. There are many ways to make this, but lately I’ve preferred a drink with four ingredients or less so this is it.

Kaitlyn’s BBB (bourbon bubbly brunch)
– 2 oz bourbon
– shot of brut Champagne
– 2 dashes of bitters
– splash of orange juice

If you are drinking this, you likely enjoy sweeter drinks. I recommend pairing this cocktail with a heavier, wheat bourbon rather than a rye. (Common wheat bourbons include: Maker’s, Larceny, & Old Fitzgerald) Be warned, this drink will sneak up on you!


It’s lunch time! Especially when it’s hot out, I tend to lean towards a nice, ice cold Kentucky Mule. It’s simple & refreshing! I like to pair the ginger beer with a bourbon high in rye content, which includes Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Woodford & Old Forester. You can make this as strong or as light as you would like – no judgment here on how heavy your pour is! With any mule, the crushed ice is the main component.


When it comes to dinner time or a late night cocktail, I prefer my FAVORITE drink the Old Fashioned. How can you really go wrong here? I love this drink for its simplicity while keeping such a bold flavor. Everyone has a different version of an Old Fashioned. Some places muddle the cherry and orange making it more of a smash and some throw in a whole slice of orange (which is too much for me).

A Classic Old Fashioned:
– teaspoon of simple sugar (1 cup sugar / 1 cup water to a boil)
– 2 oz bourbon
– 2 or 3 dashes of bitters
– orange peel
– *optional maraschino cherry

Take the orange peel, fold it so the skin is facing the drink, squeeze some of the oils out and rub the skin side around the rim of your glass. Adding that extra citrus will really bring out the different flavors in your bourbon. Most of the time I go with a plain bitters, but every now and then I will use a cherry or rhubarb (so good!) flavor. I personally lean towards a rye bourbon again here but there is no wrong way to drink an Old Fashioned, this is one drink you can definitely make your own!


Now that I’ve taken you through my day filled with bourbon, let’s talk about another thing we all love & how to combine them both. Football.

Tailgate season is quickly approaching here in the South. If you root for red (Go Cards!) or blue, we can all agree that having a good drink before kickoff is a must! I also chose this drink because it’s easy to mix in a large container and throw in the back of your truck.
Spiked Apple Cider (for large groups)
– 1/2 bottle Bourbon
– gallon of Apple Cider
– 2 liter of ginger ale (if you really wanna get crazy you can replace this with ginger beer)
– apple slices for garnish or let them soak all day then eat before game time!

The nice thing about this is that it can be served chilled or heated! (Don’t use ginger beer if you are heating it up … gross.)

Now let’s go have a drink! Cheers!

Meet Our Environment Blogger!

Meet Our Environment Blogger!

Hello everyone! My name is Adam Sizemore. I am from Morehead, Kentucky; a small town located in the Appalachian region of our great state. Even though I do not currently live there, I have lived in Kentucky my entire life and Appalachia has always been important to me.

I moved to Louisville in the summer of 2014 to continue graduate school at UofL. Prior to that summer, I completed both my undergraduate and Masters degrees at Morehead State University. There I became focused on studying environmental issues. 

There isn’t a specific moment I remember becoming interested in environmental matters, but it stretches as far back as Elementary School.  In the 4th grade, I entered a Kentucky conservation-writing contest where I imagined “00H20” (double-oh-H20), a secret agent who gave citations to people with outdated and environmentally unfriendly appliances, water faucets, and toilets.

Maybe I was just a little too obsessed with James Bond; I wonder where that paper is now…

Anyway, my environmental focus has shifted greatly since then! At Morehead State, I was extremely interested in our food system and its impacts on our environment. Now, I am focused on environmental issues in Appalachia; especially coal mining in Central Appalachia. I am currently researching how members of Martin County, Ky overcame a dam failure that released over 300 million gallons of coal waste into the community in the fall of 2000.

Being an advocate for the environment is something that I am passionate about in my career, as well as my personal life.  My wife and I are expecting our first child this November and the well being of our planet for future generations is something that will always be crucial to me.  I am excited to discuss environmental topics, as well as continue to learn more with each of you each month!

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”-Jane Goodall