Category: Bourbon Industry

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!

A Kentucky Legislative Session Update

A Kentucky Legislative Session Update

By: Brandon McReynolds, Ph.D, Friends of Limestone Founder

Hey Friends!

We are now a little over halfway through the 2018 Kentucky Regular Legislative Session (the legislature only has 59 legislative days this year), which provides an opportunity to check-in on the bills connected to Friends of Limestone’s mission.

Over the past week, our team reviewed all the proposed legislation from this session. As of publication, over 150 bills have been filed in the Senate and close to 400 in the House. These bills cover a variety of policy areas connected to limestone and the industries that exist in Kentucky because of limestone. Below we listed several of the bills that stand out to us.

We have provided a brief description of each piece of legislation along with why the legislation is of importance to Friends of Limestone. We also recommend checking out the Legislative Research Commission’s website where you can see the bills and resolutions your representatives have sponsored! Also, be on the lookout for a separate blog post about Kentucky’s pension problem, and how it affects us all as Friends of Limestone.

House Bills:

HB 26- Natural resource severance and processing tax

Currently: in House to Appropriations and Revenue

  • Amends state law to define the “processing” of limestone to include the act of loading and unloading
  • Amends state law to allow for a tax credit for identical severance or processing tax paid in another state or political subdivision.

FOL Perspective: the mining and processing of limestone as a natural resource is one use of Kentucky’s large limestone deposit. Legislation focused on the continued mining of limestone needs to consider the environmental, social, and economic impacts of mining each time legislation such as this is proposed.

HB 159- Increase sales tax on alcohol

Currently: in House to Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs

  • Amends state law to increase the whole sales tax rate for beer, wine, and distilled spirits to 14 percent
  • Forbids local governments from imposing a regulatory fee on the sale of alcoholic beverages
  • Amends state law to establish a $100 annual transporters license fee
  • Amends state law to require that every distiller, rectifier, winery, and nonresident wholesaler make its brands available to any wholesaler and not grant the distributing rights of any particular brand to only one wholesaler exclusively
  • Amends state law to require that alcohol wholesalers make deliveries to retailers on a timely basis and no later than one week after the order date
  • Amends state law to require that alcohol distributors make deliveries to retailers on a timely basis and no later than one week after the order date
  • Amends state law to permit a quota retail package licensee or a nonquota malt beverage package licensee to transport alcoholic beverages between stores of common ownership if the licensee derives not less than 90 percent of his or her cash receipts from the sale of alcohol and pays the annual license fee

FOL Perspective: The sell of alcohol is highly regulated and taxed in Kentucky. As Kaitlyn pointed out in her recent blog, taxes incurred throughout the process make up a substantial cost that is passed onto consumers. This law adds further taxes and regulation.

HB 267- All wet counties through a local option election to approve license fee

Currently: in House to Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs

  • Amends state law to allow all wet cities and counties containing wet cities through a local option election to impose a regulatory license fee on the sale of alcoholic beverages

HB 41, 42, and 229– All deal with gambling

FOL’s mission does not directly connect to the issue of legalized casino gambling. However, due to the on-going discussion around casino gambling and Kentucky’s horse industry we wanted to make people aware of these pieces of legislation.


Senate Bills

SB 22- Sports wagering

Currently: In Senate to Appropriations and Revenue

  • Requires Kentucky Horseracing Commission to institute a sports wagering system
  • Vest control of sports wagering with the commission
  • Establishes a 20% tax on the total amount wagered at sports wagering facilities

FOL Perspective: The equine industry plays a substantial role in the Kentucky economy.  Legislators and voters need to understand the economic and social impacts of expanded sports gambling along with how legislation such as this will support the long-term growth of Kentuck’s equine industry.

SB 56- Kentucky Horse Racing Commission

Currently: Has passed in the Senate, and is in the House to Licensing, Occupations, and Admin Regs

  • Amends state law to make ex officio members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission nonvoting members.

SB 110- Alcohol license quotas

Currently: In Senate, passed out of committee, seven-floor amendments were added, waiting for second reading

  • Codify the quota system for alcoholic beverages for wet counties and cities
  • Creates new process for verifying quota numbers
  • Create a process to allow for a city or county to petition for a quota increase

Various amendments have been added and range from eliminating the quota system to shifting how the system is managed.

FOL Perspective: As legislators debate the pros and cons of Kentucky’s quota system, FOL believes that they should work to give agency and power to counties and cities across the state.

SB 129- Reorganize energy and environmental cabinet

Currently: In Senate to Natural Resources & Energy

  • Amends over 25 state statutes regarding the Energy and Environmental Cabinet
  • Changes names of various portions of the Energy and Environmental Cabinet
  • Amends state law regarding responsibility for who can take legal action regarding various programs

FOL Perspective: Every issue before the legislature is an environmental issue, a reorganization of  Energy and Environmental Cabinet needs to ensure the environmental justice is a part of the policy process both inside and outside of the cabinet.

SB111- Breeder’s Cup exemption

Currently: In Senate to Appropriations and Revenue

  • Amends state law to make permanent the Breeder’s Cup exemption relating to wagering
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!

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.