14 Bourbon aficionados and members of Bourbon Gospel embarked on a journey in September 2022 to traverse the revered Kentucky Bourbon Trail and sample the finest elixirs distilled east of the Mississippi.
The group's bourbon journey began by paying tribute to the legendary Buffalo Trace, where they were treated to an illuminating tour led by none other than Freddie Johnson, a true legend in the Bourbon Hall of Fame.
They then proceeded to the modern behemoth that is Bulleit Bourbon, where they were awed by the distillery's state-of-the-art operations. And to cap off an already unforgettable day, they ventured to the exciting up-and-coming distillery, "Whiskey Thief," where they got a taste of the future of bourbon. The visit to "Whiskey Thief" was the cherry on top of an unforgettable day filled with visits to some of the most respected and innovative names in the industry.
The visit to Whiskey Thief was a much-needed respite from the more established and refined producers on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The experience they offered was raw, authentic, and unvarnished, just like the whiskey they distilled. The hospitality they extended was second to none and truly exceeded the group's expectations. From the moment they stepped onto the farm, they were warmly greeted by the friendly and knowledgeable staff, who made them feel right at home. The group spent the rest of the afternoon indulging in straight-from-the-barrel samples, giggling over jokes about the bung hole, and soaking in the laid-back atmosphere. The staff was more than happy to share their expertise and answer any questions, making the group feel like part of the Whiskey Thief family. The trip to Whiskey Thief was an unforgettable experience and a highlight of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for the group.
Should we buy our own barrel of bourbon?
The query was posed, "Shall we take the plunge and purchase our very own barrel of bourbon?" The idea had been percolating amongst us for a spell. Acquiring a barrel of this revered spirit is not for the faint of heart, as the cost can run into tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the distillery of choice. However, with a hearty band of bourbon aficionados by our side, we deemed this the opportune moment to ponder the possibility and weigh the benefits. After all, why not take the chance to fulfill our dreams and bring home a bespoke barrel of liquid gold?
As we prepared to depart Whiskey Thief, we set out to find the right person to talk to about our latest venture. We were on a mission to secure a barrel of their fine bourbon, and we were determined to make it happen.
We approached our contact with a question, and to our delight, they were receptive to the idea. We probed for information on pricing, bottling, labeling, and all other aspects of the project that we deemed relevant.
After our discussion, we felt confident that we had gained a solid understanding of what it would take to bring our vision to life. And with that knowledge in hand, we headed out for dinner, eager to delve even deeper into the possibilities.
Over a delicious meal, we discussed and refined our plans. We explored various approaches, considering all the different ways that we could make this exciting project a reality. From start to finish, we were driven by a single goal: to secure our very own hand-picked barrel of top-notch bourbon whiskey.
The Selection Process
Thanks to the diligent schedule-keeping of Brian, our Senior Pastor and founder of Bourbon Gospel, we found an opening in our tightly packed itinerary. So, with great excitement, four of us made our way back to the Whiskey Thief distillery. As seasoned members of the Bourbon-tasting community and self-proclaimed experts, we were eager to meet with the folks at Whiskey Thief and discover the finest barrels they had to offer.
We arrived at the farm and were warmly greeted by the staff. They escorted us to a storage room, situated off the main floor of the distillery, and separated by plastic curtains. The room was set up with several chairs surrounding a large table, on which were placed 20 empty Glencairn Glasses, some blank paper, and seven boot-flask style bottles of bourbon, each marked with a number from 1-7.
This was a moment we had been eagerly awaiting, and we were ready to put our bourbon-tasting expertise to the test. We settled into our seats, eager to begin our journey into the world of Whiskey Thief's fine bourbon offerings.
After an hour of expertly tasting and evaluating each of the seven offerings, we kept our notes to ourselves until we had gone through all of them. Of the seven, three barrels stood out, with two of them being among the top two picks for each taster – barrels 6 and 7. Brian and Ron were particularly drawn to one barrel, while Carlos and Hugh preferred the other. As tasting notes began to fly across the room, we found ourselves at a stalemate. How could we choose between these two delicious options, both of which had their own unique appeal? Which of these barrels would prove to be the best all-around bourbon for the larger group?
As we pondered this conundrum, Brian took matters into his own hands. Without any warning, he casually tossed the remaining portions from his glasses of numbers 6 and 7 into one glass and gave it a taste. The transformation was immediate. His head tilted ever so slightly to the side, his eyes lifted from the glass, and a small grin began to form.
Without saying a word, he passed the glass to Hugh, encouraging him to try the blend. Hugh took a sip, and the same head tilt and a quiet "ohhh" escaped his lips. The glass went next to Ron, who in typical Ron fashion, asked what it was. Brian wouldn't yet divulge his secret, but insisted that Ron try the concoction. After a small sip, Ron's eyebrows raised, and his head began to nod in approval. "That's nice! Let me guess, you put the two together?" Brian's grin grew ever larger as he nodded in confirmation.
Carlos was busy chatting it up with our representative from Whiskey Thief and hadn't a clue about the mischief being performed. We slid the glass over to him, and he immediately knew what was going on. "You all blended the two, didn't you?" he asked with a knowing smile. And with that, we had found our perfect all-around bourbon – a delicious blend of the best parts of barrels 6 and 7.
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