Learning about bourbon is a journey. Some people are content to learn the basics and call it a day, while others want to know everything there is to know, posthaste. Bourbon lovers and geeks living in the Louisville area are truly blessed with the wealth of opportunities for learning about bourbon in our fair city. One of the powerhouses of bourbon education is the Filson Bourbon Academy, which hosts numerous events throughout the year.
In addition to the day-long academy, the Filson also hosts a number of smaller events. The Filson Bourbon Salon at Oxmoor Farm is an excellent example of this. Held approximately once a month, a new topic is explored with each session. August’s session was about bourbon families, and the panel consisted of some big names in the industry.
Fred Noe, Master Distiller of Jim Beam, is the great grandson of Jim Beam. He grew up in the business, learning alongside his father, the famous Booker Noe. After completing college Fred was allowed to work the nighttime bottling line at Beam, and he worked his way up from there. The best lesson Fred Noe says he received from his father was “not to bullshit people.” He went on to add that, “if you don’t have fun in this industry, you’re doing something wrong.” Fred Noe is one of my favorite storytellers in the industry and it is always a treat listening to him talk.
Bill Samuels is the second generation of the family that founded Maker’s Mark. He originally had no intention of entering the family “hobby”, but after a tumultuous career in the field of science he began to learn the trade of whiskey making. When he first signed on with the family business, his job was to land new customers. He was able to trick his father, Bill Samuels Sr., twice on a trip to New York. He would conspire with his sister to learn where his father would be having dinner and send them a bottle of Maker’s Mark, instructing them to pour half of it out and act “like they were selling the hell out of it.”
Wes Henderson, whose father started the Angel’s Envy line, also had some great stories about growing up in the business. Henderson feels it is very important as a part of a bourbon family to safeguard the history of the industry. He added that his father was a real company man, in that he even used “new make” as his aftershave.
Mack Brown of Brown Forman revealed that he learned more about how not to drink from his grandfather than how to drink. He added that the bourbon industry is the “friendliest damn business in the world,” which is always apparent at these types of events.
No matter the event, The Filson will not disappoint.
Photos Courtesy Of Maggie Kimberl