Author: kaitlynoel

From Snob to Stave (and Thief)

From Snob to Stave (and Thief)

Well guys, I am officially a bourbon snob! Not really, but that’s everyone probably thinks. Last month with some friends I took the first step in getting my Stave and Thief Certification!  What does this mean? Do I get anything cool? Can anyone do it? I am going to answer all of these questions and tell you about my experience, what it means to me, and what I plan to do from here.

The Stave and Thief Society course was originally set up for hospitality businesses in 2014 to help educate their staff, as bourbon tourism was becoming all the rage.  This way the staff had more than basic knowledge of bourbon and could help guide their customers on what brands, mash bills, etc. would be best for their palette. Now it is offered as a learning course for anyone that is interested. I was able to take the basic certification with the Whisky Chicks which included a 3 hour class, learning the history of bourbon, the difference between all whiskies, how to read a label, the Kentucky heritage, and what goes into building a flight.  I highly suggest taking a class instead of doing the learn from home – it really helped me listen and learn to other bourbon lovers backgrounds, what they like, and how they got into it. The most fun thing about bourbon is who you share it with! In my class, there were all levels, one couple just started drinking bourbon within the past few months, some others were brought up by their dads being into bourbon and knowing the history like the back of their hand, and others (like me) knew a good amount but still could learn a lot more!

After all the learning, then it was time to drink! We were able to try to classics such as Basil Hayden & Larceny and then I was able to try some bourbon from New York and Indiana, which is very different and interesting to try. (Kentucky is still my favorite though!)  From there we learned to make our flights, what goes into the process, and how to line them up. I can’t tell you all the secrets but it is very interesting once you start looking at different restaurant flight offers on their thought process behind it.

Test time! Once you finish the class you have to take an online test of multiple choice questions and create your own flight. Now the waiting game, it took about a week for me to get my test results back and say that I passed!! My next step is to take the executive course, which is an all day training including learning the different smells, taste, and more in depth in the bourbon making process. If you are interested in bourbon and taking your hobby / passion to the next level, I highly recommend this course. Stay tuned for my next step in bourbon love!

FOL visits Four Roses

FOL visits Four Roses

New Year – New Bourbon Tour

Hey there bourbon lovers!! I hope everyone celebrated Valentine’s Day with a little pour of their favorite drink and some roses, four roses perhaps!  Speaking of Four Roses, the Friends of Limestone squad kicked off the new year with a tour down in Lawrenceburg, KY learning all about the 10 different recipes that make up Four Roses. Currently their distillery is being remodeled and hopes to open up later this spring, it was still a good time but I will definitely be making the trip back once it is back in production!

Since the distillery is shut down, we start off the tour with a video on where Four Roses started and what makes it unique compared to all the other bourbons. Four Roses has been around for a long time, 1860 in fact! Paul Jones  who was the original owner bought the current property in 1910 and story has it that he named this wonderful bourbon after a girl who showed up to a dance wearing a corsage with four red roses. Four Roses was also one of six distilleries that were allowed to sell during the prohibition for medical reasons, you can still see some of the medical bottles that were used. Pretty neat!  Four Roses has been through a lot of rise & fall throughout the past century and currently it is rising back to the top!

That’s enough history for now, let’s talk about what goes into the bottle!  Like mentioned earlier there are 10 unique recipes put together by hand from their Master Distiller, Brent Elliott. The yellow label includes all 10 recipes, aged for 6.5 years and finished at 80 proof.  The small batch is pulled from 20 barrels and finished at 90 proof. Then the single barrel has only 1 recipe and 1 barrel finished at 100 proof after aging for 7.5 years.  All barrels are checked at 5.5 years then marked on if they will be a yellow label or move on to a small batch or single barrel.   Here is the breakdown of the 10 recipes .. it starts out with two different mash bills, mash bill E is made up of 75% corn, 20% rye, and 5% malted barley. Mash bill B is 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley.  From there, they pick from 5 different yeast strains V for a light fruity flavor, K for a spice, O for a rich fruit, Q for a floral, and F for herbal notes. Below is a list of the 10 different recipes for you to use when you are buying your next Four Roses bottle to know what you are getting out of that bottle. O stands for that it was made in Lawrenceburg, E or B for the mash bill, S for straight whisky, and V/K/O/Q/F for your yeast strain.

So if you have ever bought a bottle or drink of Four Roses and didn’t know if it was for you, try it out again! Maybe you just weren’t a fan of that yeast. Or you can be a little crazy like me and collect all 10 recipes – did someone say bourbon tasting?!

Explaining Kentucky’s Three Tier Alcohol System

Explaining Kentucky’s Three Tier Alcohol System

Happy New Year Friends!

This month I am letting you in on a not-so-known secret.

On December 5th, 1933, Kentucky’s liquor laws were written to make it pretty hard to buy any alcohol. The end of Prohibition meant that every state had to develop their own rules on selling liquor, and Kentucky’s are pretty unique.

Let me break it down to each level and how that affects you & I buying bourbon!

The Three Tier System

Tier 1 Suppliers / Producers

This tier includes anyone who makes the alcohol. They include Beam Inc, Brown-Forman, and any other liquor company you’re familiar with.

Tier 2 – Distributors / Wholesalers

This is where the laws written at end of prohibition take over. Legislators ruled that distributors must receive alcohol from the supplier and deliver it to your local liquor store, effectively making them a middle man. In most states, the distributor is a privately owned company separate from the producer or supplier, (one of the biggest distributors in Kentucky is Southern Wine & Spirits) but in some states the actual state itself buys the alcohol.

Tier 3 – Retailers

This includes anywhere you can buy liquor, from your corner store to the big name liquor stores.

Why does this matter?

This system prevents producers from selling directly to retailers which means a producer and/or the retailer can not play favorites, preventing the large producers from buying up liquor stores or bars to only sell their brands. The distributor must act like a independent unbiased middle man. The purpose of this system was to promote fair market practices, for the most part it has worked!

Now what if you try to find your favorite bourbon in another state but that local store doesn’t have it?  This is because of the biggest downside of the system, producers large or small have to make deals with a distributor in each state! If you are not one of those large producers previously mentioned it is very hard to get your brand to all 50 states. That makes it difficult to find your favorite small brand bottle in a faraway place.

How does this affect the way we buy bourbon? At each of these levels the bourbon is taxed. Before the bottle even hits the shelves, it has been taxed for every year in the barrel by the local and state government! After that the distributors are taxed by the state, then as the final sales tax that we pay with each drink at a bar or bottle from Kroger. Last year that was $825 million in taxes per the Kentucky Distillers Association. All in all nearly 60 percent of every bottle of liquor in Kentucky goes to taxes or fees, with seven different taxes on Bourbon – including a tax on barrels each and one for every year it ages.

So next time you go in to buy your bourbon of choice, that bottle went through a lot more than just the normal aging process! If you want to learn more about the three tier system or liquor laws in Kentucky, check out this site!  Cheers!

Bourbon Holiday Gifts for Newbies and Experts Alike

Bourbon Holiday Gifts for Newbies and Experts Alike

It’s the most booziest time of the year!

Between Halloween and New Years Eve, it seems like life just gets a little bit more hectic. You are wrapping up projects at work, trying to fight away the Kentucky weather changes (aka allergies), and finding the perfect presents for all of your loved ones! Well you are in luck .. I’m going to suggest some of my favorite Bourbon lover finds this holiday season.

For the experienced Bourbon drinker .. this person might already have their favorite drink of choice and some great accessories so I suggest getting them some cool glasses to make their bourbon sipping a little bit more enjoyable. Below are my favorite to use throughout the year!

For the occasional bourbon drinker .. this person is slowly building their collection but might not know what all they need to really enjoy a good drink.


If you are looking for something a little bit more extravagant, there is plenty to do around the whole state of Kentucky! Plan a weekend away in horse country to explore some of the most famous distilleries in the world, there are plenty of bed & breakfast deals that include a bourbon tour. Don’t feel like making it a whole weekend or live nearby? Join up with Mint Julep Tours to go explore the country roads just for the day and then you don’t have to worry about who is going to be the DD!

Hope this helps you get some shopping done for the ones you love or for yourself! Have a safe & bourbon filled holiday!

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
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!

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 .

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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!)

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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.

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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!

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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!