Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dispatch from the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

Lew Bryson shamed me.

He didn't say a word, even though we've been hanging out some, but he's written a daily post from down here, even describing his harrowing brush with death in a Mercury, and I haven't done a damn thing.

The truth is, I try not to work when I'm here for the KBF, but Lew seems to be having a good time and working his ass off. I'm not going to emulate him too far, but here's something.

The festival has been going on for close to 20 years. I first came to it in, maybe, 1995. Maybe I came twice. I don't remember. Then I started to participate in discussions about bourbon on StraightBourbon.com, a very professional web site that is, in fact, non-commercial and a labor-of-love for its proprietor, Jim Butler.

Not long after the web site started in 1999, people on the site started treating the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival (KBF) as an informal national meetup. I've come every year since, mostly to hang out with my on-line friends.

Some, but not all, of the people on the site are dusty hunters. They prowl liquor stores looking for old bottles of bourbon. Believe it or not, whiskey can sometimes sit on a retail shelf for 20 or 30 years. (So much for inventory management.) Whiskey doesn't age in the bottle, but that window makes in possible to find products of now-defunct distilleries. Here is what makes the StraightBourbon group so amazing. When people find these things, they can't wait to share them. Every year, that's a bigger part of the Festival for me (although I still love the barrel rolling competition).

For instance, Dawn from Indianapolis had some Old Fitzgerald 1849 from the late sixties, and the same from the mid-eighties. They were both in perfect condition (sometimes whiskeys get damaged by bad corks or oxidation). Both were made at Stitzel-Weller. The earlier one I felt was just perfect, the more recent one still terrific, but not quite as good. Part of that is that I have an idea of Stitzel-Weller perfection and that was it. Others liked the more recent one better.

Gary from Toronto, by way of Tony from Detroit, had some Seagram's Benchmark from the mid-seventies. Now I understand the name. It was an early knock-off of Maker's Mark and had a very similar palate. Benchmark is still made, but by Buffalo Trace, and it tastes completely different.

So, finally, here's the deal with not making any posts. At some point during an event like this, I have to decide if I'm working or drinking. I think you know the rest.

1 comment:

Lew Bryson said...

Shame? I didn't mean to. I kind of shamed myself into this by not posting enough last month, and not posting enough about KBF last year. We all have our own demons.

Great hanging out with you this year, Chuck.