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    In 2009, my wife Brooke and I shipped our family out of Louisville for diplomatic posts, first to Sweden, then to the UK. Apart from a fleeting return to Louisville in 2012, we were away for seven years. We cherished that time abroad, but home is where our hearts were. Our first Saturdays in May were marked by late nights in front of unreliable internet simulcasts, with the Derby often not yet official until the first minutes of Sunday.

    Family and friends visited, and we had all the local news sites and stations bookmarked, but nothing brought Louisville back into our lives like the jumbo manila envelope that arrived once a month bearing the mail pile from home. That’s because somewhere in the heap of bills, solicitations and catalogs would always be Louisville Magazine. More than giving us news or names from home, it managed to give us, with its tone and editorial choices, with its look and feel, something close to home itself.

    In last month’s issue, former owner-publisher Dan Crutcher left the question unanswered about whether he had succeeded in making the magazine good. That was for readers to decide, he wrote. The answer from me, a reader of Louisville Magazine since I moved here 18 years ago, is a highly unscientific and highly certain “and then some.” I am so grateful to him for entrusting me with the stewardship of what he and so many others have carefully cultivated. While I, like Dan, will leave it to your judgment to determine whether the excellence continues, I can guarantee that the editorial independence will.

     

    Speaking of traditions, one of my all-time favorites comes from the late and wonderfully traditional — and innovative and wise — Owsley Brown II, who also happens to have been my father-in-law. He was a fourth-generation leader of his family company, Brown-Forman, in the great Kentucky tradition of making and selling bourbon. But he cared just as much about tending to the metaphorical bourbon of Louisville. Dan did too. And so do I.

    Soon after I met Owsley, he explained to me that making bourbon takes three steps. During the first, fermentation, you need to let a lot of different natural ingredients react with one another, including yeast, which acts as the catalyst. Things must be allowed to bubble up over time. But if you stop at the end of step one, you get beer. Beer is fine (and maybe better than fine), but it’s not what Owsley was after.

    The next step is distillation, which uses heat and vapor to narrow things down and arrive at something more essential. But stop there and you get vodka. Owsley reminded me, meaning no disrespect to our Eastern European friends: “You can make vodka in an afternoon.”

    Bourbon needs a final step. If you ask people to guess what that is, most will say “aging,” which is close. Time is indeed part of it, but it’s not time alone. It’s time in the charred barrel — the whiskey expanding into the wood and contracting with the changing seasons. It’s called maturing.

    It’s not so different from a community’s ebbs and flows of gratitude and resentment and agreement and disagreement and competition and cooperation and so on. Maturing is what gives character, color and complexity to a great bourbon. And to a great city.

    At Louisville Magazine, we’ll continue to catalyze and bubble things up. We’ll distill and always try to focus on the richness of our time in the barrel together. We know that Louisville makes us. So we’ll keep making Louisville.

    This originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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