Category: Bourbon Industry

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.

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

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!

What Makes Bourbon, Bourbon?

What Makes Bourbon, Bourbon?

Let’s talk bourbon Kentucky Bourbon.

What makes Kentucky Bourbon so special? Lots of things standout when it comes to bourbon vs. whiskey, and also when it comes to Kentucky Bourbon vs. the rest of the world.

First off, Whiskey vs. Bourbon:

You might have heard a saying that “All bourbon is whiskey is but not all whiskey is bourbon.”

Why is that though? Is it all of the barrels can never have been used before? Maybe it’s that extra corn? It could even be the Angel’s Share?

Bourbon stands out for all of these reasons. Whiskey can reuse charred barrels, where bourbon must be barreled in a new barrel each time.

If you are familiar with bourbon, you are probably familiar with the Angel’s Share. To be considered Bourbon, it must be aged for at least two years, but on average most bourbons are aged between 8 – 15 years (depending on if contains more rye or wheat)! Let me tell you, I hope I am one of these Angel’s because they are tasting some good stuff!

With bourbon aging for so many years, some of the spirit is lost to evaporation from the barrel into the air as it ages. This process does also happen with whiskey, but not as much is lost since the aging process is usually shorter.

Kentucky Bourbon vs. Everyone

Is it the climate, that creates a distinct all four seasons? Weather has a huge impact on the aging process, each distillery has their own tricks of the trade, it really comes down to a simple process.

When it is hot, the barrels expand and when it is cold the wood condenses. The higher the barrel in the rickhouse the hotter it is, closer to the ground, the colder, (I think you get the idea). So throughout the year the spirit is being tossed around, which effects the taste of each final product.

But did you know that Kentucky offers a special water that stands apart?

Don’t get me wrong, the four seasons in Kentucky does make an impact, but we can all thank limestone water for the 95% of bourbon that is made in Kentucky. Limestone makes our state beautiful, and also helps create the one drink we crave either year around or the first Saturday in May.

Iron can taint the flavor, but here in Kentucky the iron is filtered out of the water as it flows over the rock and becomes a sweet-tasting mineral water. Other areas of the country have all four seasons, but they do not have Kentucky water.

So, thank you Limestone .. we wouldn’t have Kentucky bourbon without you!

Understanding Education

Understanding Education

By Brandon McReynolds

Editor’s note: As Friends of Limestone begins it’s journey, we will be outlining each of the four pillars of our work as well as our focus issues. This is the second part of our four part series on our work. Part one on preservation and confirmation can be found here.

As I began to envision what would eventually become Friends of Limestone, I knew early that a key goal would be highlighting the importance of limestone to Kentucky. Across the state there are hints at its historical significance, it adorns street signs and was once the name of a settlement that would become Maysville, KY.

If you have ever been on a bourbon tour, you have likely a guide explain why bourbon is the backbone of Kentucky and it is because of limestone. They may have mentioned how limestone filters water uniquely, preventing iron from having an effect on the finished product.

Perhaps you have wondered why the equine industry is such a strong part of Kentucky. We can attribute that to the nutrients that limestone offers the ground and grass, making the Commonwealth an ideal place for raising horses.

I also thought about all the trips to Kentucky’s caves I took as a kid. Marveling at the vast open spaces that exist hundreds of feet below the ground. At the time, I had no idea (likely because I was not paying attention to the tour guide) that limestone provided the ceiling, which allows the caves to exist. Ultimately, what I recognized is that so many of my experiences growing up in Kentucky are linked to limestone.

I then began to think: what would my old Kentucky home be like without it?

Certainly not the same. I know that many Kentuckians have had similar and unique experiences throughout their lives that connect their own personal story to limestone. Friends of Limestone was started, in part, for us to share those experiences. To show that as Kentuckians, we share more in common than we do differently. We want to show that many of the things we love about the Commonwealth have their foundation in limestone. This is why we chose education as one of our central principles. To yes, inform people about fun facts and numbers but to also share stories.

We want to create a space to talk about, inform, and share both the historical and current impacts limestone has had on Kentucky and the people of Kentucky. This blog will include stories, information, and facts from across the state to educate and highlight how our love for Kentucky is rooted in the importance of limestone.