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    Eat & Swig

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    Illustrations by Steve Bowman

    Have you ever experienced that phenomenon, that almost déjà-vu sensation, of seeing something and, once you do, being unable to stop seeing it?

    That’s bourbon in Louisville. Even a recent trip through Kroger, just for the basics, isn’t immune. I’ve come to expect to see bourbon-flavored coffee or barbeque sauce or Woodford Reserve bitters in the Kentucky Proud section, the dark wood display cases next to the deli. On these shelves, I know I will find inventive concoctions like blackberry bourbon preserves or bourbon caramel sauce. But around every corner there is more, the word printed so often it starts to look funny. It’s in the spice aisle, inside a pouch of brown sugar bourbon marinade. It’s alongside Campbell’s in premade sauces, paired with chipotle or apple. It’s in beef jerky. It’s in ice cream with pecans, ice cream with burnt caramel. Ghiradelli has put bourbon into caramel-filled chocolates. Freezer cases house bourbon steak and bourbon-glazed chicken. There’s Reginald’s Bourbon Pecan Peanut Butter. Hell, I’m not even fazed that a can of Bush’s baked beans has “natural bourbon flavoring.” Rounding the dairy case, “banana milk” gives me a scare, my eyes noticing the “b” and my mind thinking the unthinkable.

    Also unthinkable: Kentucky without bourbon. While we may feel saturated in bourbon, we’re just at the tip: Bourbon has 10 percent of the market share of spirits. But there’s no sign of it stopping. Last year, the city — partly based on a 2014 report from its Bourbon and Food Work Group — announced the first phase of a Bourbon District, an area of downtown stretching on Main Street from Jackson to 10th streets and on Fourth Street from Main to Broadway, to be marked with signage and historical markers. The press release included the “word” Bourbonism with a registered-trademark symbol next to it.  Phase II will include a “grand sculptural element.” “Originally when we talked about Bourbonism, people would kind of snicker,” says Mayor Fischer, who coined the term during his first run for mayor in 2009. “It stuck.”

    It’s difficult to imagine that less than 15 years ago, bourbon was almost left for dead. Bourbon sales were so poor in the ’60s and ’70s that distilleries released gimmicky ceramic decanters in the shapes of dogs, trains and guns. Barrels would pile up because nobody wanted them. In 1999, the same year that the Kentucky Distillers’ Association created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, distilleries filled 450,000 barrels. In 2016, they filled 1.5 million. More than 7 million barrels are now aging in Kentucky, the highest number since the unsold ’70s stockpiles — more barrels than people in the state. Bourbon is currently an $8.5-billion industry worldwide (predicted to rise to $10.7 billion by 2020). And Louisville is the gateway. More than a decade ago, the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau began to “romance the entire region,” to model it after California’s wine country, says Stacey Yates, vice president of marketing and communications at the CVB. In the last five years, 2.5 million visitors from around the world have come to Kentucky to traverse the Bourbon Trail, a million of those in 2016. Since starting Mint Julep Tours in their basement 10 years ago, Sean and Lisa Higgins have grown their fleet — which takes tourists all over bourbon country — to 15 vehicles and 32 drivers, most of whom are certified bourbon stewards. “With the new convention center and Omni and other hotel expansions, we are looking toward expanding (even more),” Sean says.

    With this growth, do we risk transforming Bourbonism to kitsch? Will Whiskey Row mirror Nashville’s Broadway ­— tokens for tourists and little for locals?

    With my husband as my designated driver, I decide to see exactly how much bourbon I can pack into approximately 50 hours — from Friday after work until Sunday night. On the first weekend in January, I dive headfirst into Bourbonism.


     

    FRIDAY, 7:30 p.m.

    The only thing full at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen downtown on Main Street is the bar, a single empty stool at the end closest to the door. Behind the bar are mirror-backed shelves of bourbon, the most common pours — Old Forester, Wild Turkey, Weller — with spouts in their necks instead of corks or lids. Opposite the bar, a wooden wall displays barrelheads printed with brands: Lucky Moonshine, Larceny. A chandelier of barrel staves hangs in the dining area.

    Merle’s opened five years ago, under the name Manny & Merle, but I guess if you’re a stone’s throw from so many other bourbon-heavy spots — Doc Crow’s, Troll Pub, Down One Bourbon Bar, Bourbon Bent BBQ, Sidebar — you’ve got to get whiskey in the name. The restaurant’s website touts awards and associations, the logos surrounding its name like a well-nominated Sundance film: certified bonded premises, Stave and Thief Society, Bourbon Magazine’s best bourbon bars.

    The waitress brings the special: a $10 Michter’s flight, four fluted shot glasses settled into carved circles on a stave. One is filled to the brim with plain tap water — not the limestone water Kentucky bourbon is cut with to lower the proof, the reason so many tout Kentucky as the best place to make bourbon. I will later discover the best way to drink a flight — the sniffing, the order based on weakest to strongest proof, the special way to swish bourbon in your mouth to coat your palate, known as a “Kentucky chew” — but my first foray is on my own, a battle between American whiskey, rye and bourbon.

    The snifters make it difficult to get more than a small sip. I move between them, pretending I know what I’m doing. I try them alone. I try them with a few drops of water. But the variations are lost on my naive palate. Maybe the rye is slightly less smooth and spicier than the others? I usually drink Old Fashioneds. I don’t remember the last time I drank bourbon straight.

    We order wings with maple bourbon glaze and a pulled pork sandwich with Angel’s Envy barbeque sauce. All in, bourbon or death. After dipping my finger into the barbecue sauce, I pretend that I taste the Angel’s Envy. Is it in the smokiness? Is it an aftertaste? Yes, we decide, definitely some bourbon in there. Maybe I’m tasting the Michter’s, the smallest-yet-seemingly-bottomless flight that lasts most of the meal. The bourbon does pair well with grease and meat, its char from the barrel mimicking the char on barbeque, its sweetness complementing the maple.

    “This smells really good,” our waitress says as she drops off an end-of-the-meal pour of Weller, from the restaurant’s hand-selected collection, a popular offering in many of the bourbon bars — and a decent way to tell which bars aren’t hopping on the bourbon bandwagon, trying to make a profit on a long bourbon list with no knowledge to back it up. Our waitress says that the staff travels to a distillery — they have picked barrels from Buffalo Trace, Old Forester and Woodford — and blind-tastes several barrels, picking favorites. For the Maker’s 46, the staff actually constructed a barrel by selecting staves before their bourbon was aged. “Most of our stuff is spicy,” she says.

    As I sip the Weller — which tastes, well, like bourbon, maybe slightly smoother down my throat — the late-night honky-tonk act walks in with a guitar and a shoeshine box. As we leave, our table is littered with melting ice, picked-clean bones and empty snifters.
     

    9:10 p.m.

    The Silver Dollar in Clifton serves what, on paper, is the most bizarre cocktail I’ve seen.  I do not know until later that the “Tom and Jerry” is based on a cocktail created by a British journalist in the 1800s. I only know what the menu says: Buffalo Trace and “Tom and Jerry batter.” Yes, batter: vanilla, clove, nutmeg, allspice, butter, sugar and eggs. A mug with cartoon steam is printed next to it. It is served warm.

    The bartender makes it sound edible, but I’m still skeptical. From the end of the bar, another brick-backed one with overflowing shelves of bourbon (so many bottles some even sit on a stereo mixer, three deep), I watch her mix the drink. She pulls out a plastic container and seems to use all her strength to scoop two spoonfuls of batter into a textured milk-glass mug. When she shows me the batter later, it looks like the whipped consistency of cookie dough before the flour. She stirs in hot water and vigorously stirs, as if the best way to get rid of flabby arms is to dissolve the batter in this mug.

    The Silver Dollar’s pour menu is expansive, and the most expensive pours are from vintage bottles, the oldest being an Old Hermitage Rye from 1941. A single pour of that will set you back $320. Only on the first of the year did a law pass allowing the sale of pours from vintage bottles purchased from estate sales, thus opening up the bourbon market in Kentucky even further.

    But back to the Tom and Jerry. Freshly grated nutmeg skims the surface. True to the bartender’s word, it looks like a mug of Christmas eggnog. The taste matches her description, too, switching from a doughy, under-baked cupcake to a thicker, egg-y flavor. But the more I drink, the more it becomes cloying, overly sweet. I begin to drink it slower, and as it grows colder, it grows stickier, coating my lips like preteen lip gloss.
     

    SATURDAY, 10:20 a.m.

    We park behind the floodwall on 10th street downtown. On the other side is a two-story brick building, a former tobacco factory with KENTUCKY PEERLESS painted across the brick. Inside, we are the only guests, perhaps a result of the bitter cold and still-kept New Year’s resolutions. A cat meows loudly at her full food bowl. Named Rye, she was adopted as a mouser, but, as our guide says, she “became the princess of Peerless.” Rye follows us around the gift shop, the first of many. On tables are socks with BOURBON down the ankle, rocks glasses with the Louisville skyline reading BOURBONISM.

    Kentucky Peerless is a 2014 restart of the Worsham Distilling Co., a giant operation in Henderson, Kentucky, which produced 200 barrels of Peerless Whiskey a day by 1889. The original Distilled Spirits Plant number — KY DSP-50 — is printed in giant block letters on the floor. A very low number. Current numbers are issued in the 20,000s in Kentucky. (Evan Williams has KY DSP-1. The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse at Fourth Street Live is KY DSP-20029.) Peerless has mostly phased out its Lucky Moonshine because the young distillery’s rye has now aged the requisite two years. Peerless’ bourbon won’t finish aging until summer of next year, which will mark four years in the barrel.

    We haven’t yet heard the spiel given at the beginning of nearly every tour: the five laws governing bourbon. Memorize these if you want to seem slightly impressive: made in America, only water can be added, new white oak barrels that are charred and can only be used once for bourbon, at least 51 percent corn, distilled at no more than 160 proof. Our guide explains the bourbon-making process, which we’ll hear over and over again this weekend. Cooking mash, fermenting mash, filtering mash in a giant copper tower with round windows, condensing alcohol, barreling alcohol.

    We move past aging barrels, one signed by Lil Jon (yes, that Lil Jon), before moving to the tasting room. A white map polka-dotted with red hangs above the door, a visual guide of visitors. There are dots clustered in Japan and Europe. The Norwegian countries have almost no white showing. There are even six red pins along Antarctica.

    Our guide moves us through the tasting, explaining that the same distillate will taste different depending on things like where the barrel ages in the warehouse.  Maybe it’s a placebo effect, a mind trick from her guidance, but I’m floored that I can taste distinctive differences between the four ryes, all from the same recipe but from different barrels: the flagship is spicy; the second sample is peppery and smoky; the third tastes like cloves and lavender; and the last is sweet like buttercream frosting.
     

    11:50 a.m.

    On Fourth Street near the Palace, Art Eatables is small and cramped. It would be easy to walk past if not for the window display of barrels and bottles. We are offered a sample as we walk in, the inside of the truffle made with Michter’s and dark chocolate. Maybe the Peerless rye is still numbing my tongue, but all I taste is chocolate. It is not until days later, when I finally open the box of chocolates made with Jim Beam Devil’s Cut and try one, that I taste it: a smooth mix of chocolate and bourbon. “Not your grandma’s bourbon ball” indeed. It’s a combination I don’t hate even after bourbon overload.

    In the back of the shop, boxes of chocolates line a shelf next to the bottle of the bourbon they were made with. Kelly Ramsey, owner and founder, says these bottles are actually filled with dyed water, a sad surprise for thieves. Some of the bottles are even crafted from chocolate, the real label wrapped around. The chocolates made with Weller 12-year are sold out, but they’ve got nearly everything else: Blanton’s, Maker’s Mark, Evan Williams, Angel’s Envy, Woodford, Wild Turkey, Knob Creek. Even a small brand called Big Ass Bourbon. There’s so much bourbon here that you have to enter your birthdate to access Art Eatables’ website.

    “Have you ever been to a rickhouse where the bourbon is aged?” Ramsey asks, discussing the store’s permanent bourbon smell. “All that angel’s share” — bourbon lost due to evaporation — “gets trapped in the wood. I honestly believe because we keep bottles open all the time — we’re always making (chocolates) — I really do believe that it gets stuck in the wood because sometimes people say it smells like tobacco. It’s that sweet, woody tobacco flavor, and I think it’s just from the alcohol being in the air. It’s sort of intoxicating just when you walk in.”

    Ramsey is the first and only certified bourbon chocolatier, a distinction earned from a Stave and Thief class offered by Moonshine University in Louisville and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Her husband Forest tells me she has more than 125 recipes, some for limited runs or a yearly 12 Days of Christmas set. She founded the company on her lunch break at a bank in July 2011. Mayor Fischer has called her “Bourbonism in action.” “We have literally had people from all over the world make special trips to our shop,” Ramsey says. “One guy was in town from Japan for 28 hours, and he put us on his ‘must stop’ list.”

    Ramsey crafts chocolates with mindful pairings — milk chocolate with peppery bourbon, dark chocolate with sweeter bourbon. “Chocolate beans are like coffee beans,” Forest says, explaining that the flavor is different based on the variety, the country of origin. Ramsey says, “I don’t think it hurts that both (chocolate beans and bourbon) go through fermentation as part of their production.” While top-end chocolate is important, Forest says top-shelf bourbon isn’t necessary. “Bourbon is different than beer,” he says. “The baseline isn’t that bad. The distilleries have to work hard to make something bad.”
     

    1:32 p.m.

    At Dish on Market I order a burger with Evan Williams pepper jelly. Is this red sauce the pepper jelly or the barbeque sauce? The menu says it has both. My stomach grumbles. Just eat the damn thing.
     

    2:34 p.m.

    The Frazier History Museum, soon to be the starting point for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, has a small bourbon exhibit, like a guide-yourself tour with a diagram of the distilling process and short video interviews with the likes of Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe. The exhibit is almost a justification for the bourbon products that outnumber the history souvenirs four-to-one. There are jars of bourbon pecan pie mix and bourbon fudge sauce, boxes of bourbon balls and bourbon praline pecans, barbecue sauces by five different distilleries, a chocolate-covered Twinkie from Cellar Door (which has a touch of salt but any bourbon flavor gets lost in the sponge, chocolate and cream). A canvas bag reads, “Some women are made of sugar spice, but real women are made of bourbon and ice” (the Kentucky version of wine mom sayings?). There are also side tables and coat racks made from staves and a line of bath products, including bourbon-tobacco body lotion, bourbon lip balm and a mint julep bath bomb that I buy.


     

    4 p.m.

    Jodie Filiatreau started distilling for Evan Williams in Bardstown in 1981, when bourbon was at its lowest point. “(Now) I don’t know how we’re going to keep up,” he says. “In Bardstown, they work around the clock.”

    In the lobby of the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience on Main Street, a giant fountain connects the two stories, the neck of a black-label bottle pouring and splashing out of a rocks glass. A circle on the floor marks the spot to take a selfie with it. My tour starts promptly at 4:20, a group of nine. The tour guide asks if anyone is from Louisville. My hand is the only one raised.

    The tour begins with a re-enactment of a town hall meeting early in Louisville’s history, Evan Williams arriving late with a jug of liquor. The acting is hammy, a little over the top, but more effective than the standard guide-led tour. Behind a pane of glass, a small still makes one barrel a day, Tuesdays through Saturdays, though it is not running when we arrive. “(Tourists) didn’t think it was a real distillery because we’d get done too soon and they wouldn’t see anybody back there working,” Filiatreau says.

    Filiatreau gives us a shot of “white dog” — the clear, un-aged, not-yet-bourbon distillate. It has a strong smell of corn bread and a wheat taste — a testament to the magic that happens in the barrel. “I can only imagine what it’ll taste like when it comes out of the barrel” after aging six to eight years, he says. It’s a common theme we encounter throughout the weekend: As much Bourbonism as there already is, we’re really just at the bottom of the mountain. Kentucky Peerless’ bourbon won’t be ready for another year. Michter’s and Old Forester downtown on Main Street and Rabbit Hole in NuLu have yet to open their doors. “Right now we don’t have a name for it,” Filiatreau says of the Evan Williams Experience’s small-batch bourbon.

    After a tasting, (of course) the gift shop. Overwhelming might be an understatement. Evan Williams sugar cubes. Toothpicks made from bourbon barrel staves. A plastic bottle of limestone water. Kentucky cider candles and wax melts. Ties and pocket squares with hundreds of tiny barrels and bottles.

    Filiatreau says he has forgotten to bung the day’s barrel, and asks if I want to do so. Behind the still, a barrel sits on its side, a wooden hammer resting on it. A few smacks and the poplar bung is in. I sign the barrel, and he signs a spare bung as a souvenir.
     

    6:25 p.m.

    At the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse at Fourth Street Live, our tasting guide, wielding a microphone, goes through the motions: the five laws of bourbon, the same intro over again. On a screen above his head, the actress Mila Kunis walks around Jim Beam’s Clermont, Kentucky, distillery, pulling bourbon from the barrel, sipping it with a distiller. The guide promotes the special feature of the Urban Stillhouse, what he calls “Build-A-Bear for adults” — a machine that allows patrons to bottle their own bourbon.

    At this point, it all tastes the same. No amount of Kentucky chewing will help.
     

    7:13 p.m.

    The “award-winning” Manhattan comes with a charred cinnamon stick. “It gets better the longer the cinnamon is in there,” the Troll Pub bartender says as he drops off the drink. It is the color of diluted blood in a martini glass.

    The French dip comes with onions caramelized in brown sugar and Old Forester. If I pluck an onion away from the meat, I can detect bourbon. Or maybe that’s just my tongue’s natural state now. We avoid the chicken and waffle sandwich and its MAPLE. BOURBON. BUTTER — too much sugar. I learned my Tom and Jerry lesson. My husband thinks these are three separate items, as if they slap a dab of butter on top and then douse it all in maple syrup and bourbon. And I’m the one sipping from this martini glass with the cinnamon stick charred on the end not in the drink, scraping black across my cheek like this is a drunken Ash Wednesday.
     

    10:40 p.m.

    We land at Garage Bar in NuLu, one of 30 or so spots that meets the criteria required to be on the CVB’s Urban Bourbon Trail: locally owned, open for at least a year, have at least 50 bourbons. Other requirements: at least three food items with a bourbon ingredient and bourbon education for the staff.

    I order a drink called District 8. It arrives in a rocks glass, red bitters floating on top of a pale yellow. It is sweet, but not overly so. I ask the bartender for a stamp in my Bourbon Trail passport, and the couple next to us asks what it is. They’re from Columbus, Ohio, and have never heard about the passport system, which includes three separate books: the Urban Bourbon Trail, operated by the CVB for restaurants and bars in Louisville; the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, operated by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association for the distilleries; and a Craft Trail, KDA’s booklet for small producers like Kentucky Peerless. For the KDA books, you must visit every stop to earn a prize. On the Urban Bourbon Trail, six stamps will win you a T-shirt that reads “10 years of barrel-aged adventures.”
     

    SUNDAY, 9 a.m.

    Holy Hell. Jim Beam was not joking around about this coffee. The inside of the single-serving pouch smells like straight bourbon and gets stronger as I pour the grounds into the filter. My kitchen smells not unlike the fumes that hit you as you enter distilleries. The coffee is too strong and bitter for me. I only manage half a mug.
     

    9:35 a.m.

    A Big Red soda billboard proclaims: “Sweeter Than a Mint Julep.”
     

    9:48 a.m.

    Bourbon Barrel Foods has some of the only non-sweet items we’ve encountered: soy sauce aged in used bourbon barrels, spices smoked by burning barrel staves. Many of the spices smell strongly of smoke and taste woody, surprisingly packing oak flavor into pepper and salt, sesame seeds and rub. Spices coat caramel corn, creating a smoky complexity that stops me from consuming the whole bag at once. One of the only products we find that is not made at Bourbon Barrel Foods’ Butchertown warehouse is bourbon marshmallows, which list Maker’s Mark as the second ingredient. They are like the center of a bourbon ball mixed with gelatin. I’m not sure if all of these food items are necessary to enjoy bourbon, but they don’t hurt it.

    “(Bourbon) does enhance so many flavors already in the food,” says Missy Hillock, co-owner of the bed and breakfast Chateau Bourbon in Norton Commons. She cooks with bourbon daily. It’s in her granola — a mix of oats, nuts, vanilla, cinnamon and a fourth of a cup of bourbon. Once it comes out of the oven, she pours more bourbon on top. It’s in cherries soaking in bourbon, sugar and vanilla. It’s in syrup (a mixture of maple, bourbon and butter) that tops homemade pancakes, waffles and crêpes. It’s in whipped cream. Vanilla is swapped out for bourbon in ice cream. Hillock uses it in three-day brines for Thanksgiving turkey or Hot Browns.

    Chateau Bourbon recently marked its two-year anniversary, and Hillock says many of her guests are visiting solely to explore bourbon in the city and state. “We wanted to incorporate bourbon because we love it and we thought it would be one more reason people might want to come and stay,” she says. “We just got really lucky with the timing. It wasn’t like we saw it all happening and were like, ‘Let’s do this.’”
     

    11:25 a.m.

    Fred Minnick, the author of several bourbon books, including Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey, was not wrong when he told me that North End Cafe is a hidden gem with some of the lowest prices for pours. For just over $20, we — insane people at this hour — order a pour of Weller 12-year and a pour of Pappy 12-year to go with our egg breakfast.

    If you’re not in the know, Weller is considered “Pappy Light,” made from the same Buffalo Trace distillate. We have to label our napkins to remember which identically colored hazel shot is which. My notes read that the one marked with a P is smoother and has a caramel aftertaste, while the W is sweeter but has a stronger burn. Both, I have written, have notes of fruit, particularly cherry.

    If you’d asked me days later, I couldn’t have recalled a difference.
     

    12:25 p.m.

    At Angel’s Envy, across the street from Slugger Field, it’s the same song and dance: grain grinding, mash fermenting. Our tour guide calls the white dog “hillbilly love sauce.” The main difference between Angel’s Envy and the other distilleries we’ve visited is the finishing process. Angel’s Envy lets the bourbon sit in port wine barrels, the rye in rum barrels. For our tasting, the tour guide points us to the “speakeasy” bar hidden behind a translucent wall, offering house-made cocktails like “When the Bell Rings,” an earthy and nutty drink crafted with absinthe, champagne and housemade “trail mix bitters,” served in a fluted glass and topped with flowers — testing the limits of bourbon concoctions. Our guide talks up a version of an Old Fashioned called the Henderson. “If you order that you better have warm shoes, ’cause it’ll blow your socks off!” he says.
     

    2:45 p.m.

    We’re in Shively at the Bulleit campus (formerly Stitzel-Weller), stark rows of buildings that look like they’ve been blackened by soot. It makes me think of old photographs of Cold War Russia. At this point we know the drill, like why DLP-16 is a big deal. When we ask questions, we surprise the tour guide. And we are the only ones asking questions (Why don’t I taste maple notes in this?), like that annoying kid who reminds the teacher about assigning homework.

    But our pestering pays off. After the tour, we are the only ones who examine the old Bulleit design, which looks like a giant perfume bottle, especially so for the 50-milliliter offerings. A thick, textured white label nearly covers the entire bottle, the tiny words in a vintage font: “Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.” Our guide brings three shots — two for us, one for her — from a bottle with more maple flavor.
     

    6:30 p.m.

    Jason Brauner conceived of Bourbons Bistro in 2000. He couldn’t get financing for five years — nobody believed in bourbon, let alone a bourbon-themed restaurant. “Even talking with different distillers” — Bill Samuels at Maker’s Mark, Jimmy Russell at Wild Turkey — “nobody thought it would fly,” Brauner says. “I think one of our first mottos was, ‘Bringing bourbon back one sip at a time.’”

    Brauner says he grew up with bourbon. His aunts and uncles drank highballs and worked at National Distillers, now Distillery Commons at Lexington Road and Payne Street. Right before he opened Bourbons Bistro, a bartender asked him, “Do you even know anything about bourbon?” The guy picked three bottles and mixed them up. He showed Brauner the labels, but not the order of the pours. “I looked at them and smelled them,” Brauner says. “I told him what they were without even sipping them.”

    Brauner guides us through our last tasting, from lowest proof to highest. “I always start there (at 80 proof), kind of warm your palate up,” he says. “I ease into something that’s 86, 90 proof.” By the time we get to the Four Roses single-barrel, the Basil Hayden’s tastes like water. “I’ve done my job then,” he says. “That tastes like nothing.”

    I ask everyone I meet in the industry this question: Is this a bourbon bubble that’s about to burst? Everyone says some version of “no.”

    “We’re so concerned about when it will end that I’ve always wondered: What if it doesn’t go away?” says Minnick, the bourbon writer.

    “Every distiller is doubling production, which is unheard of since Prohibition. Most of the distilleries are looking at a 25- to 30-year bubble,” Brauner says. “I think we’ve got a long way to go. I think you’d better hang on.”
     

    8:45 p.m.

    We arrive home, bellies full of bourbon and goat cheese. I run a bath, excited for the warm water.

    The mint julep bath bomb smells more like peppermint than sweet mint or bourbon. The water turns a murky brown. I sink in, boiling.

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

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    About Jennifer Kiefer

    Germantown transplant. Louisville native.

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