I’ve covered a lot of ground in 2018. I’ve visited 12 distilleries outside of Kentucky, 12 cigar bars and lounges outside of Kentucky, and two whiskey festivals outside of Kentucky, and that’s on top of all the awesome stuff I’ve been doing in Kentucky. I was on stage with my colleagues at The Bourbon Classic talking about whiskey media, I went to Castle & Key to see the grand reveal after more than two years of work, I judged the World Whiskies Awards at Jack Rose in DC, and I rowed mash at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Distillery (story soon in The Bourbon Review). American Whiskey Magazine launched and I’m a columnist there now, so make sure you subscribe to stay up-to-date. Here are some of my favorite stories of 2018:
- Retirement For Jim Rutledge Means Two Distilleries Instead Of One – This year I had the great honor of breaking the news that not only was Jim Rutledge still planning to open his own distillery, he was also still distilling on a contract basis at Castle & Key Distillery. He’s working with Brook Smith to start Reclamation Whiskey, which will help fund social programs in Appalachia, and is closing in on the funding needed to start the J.W. Rutledge Distillery (look for the update soon on gobourbon.com).
- Bourbon On The Rise – I love to see the great things the bourbon industry is accomplishing in my home state. There are more distilleries now than at any point in my lifetime, and there are more barrels of bourbon than horses and people combined, and that figure keeps growing. It’s an exciting time to be in Kentucky!
- Our Spirited History: The Bourbon Archaeologist – About once a year I have to check in with my friend Nicolas Laracuente to see what is new in the world of Bourbon Archaeology. That’s right, Laracuente is a genuine archaeologist who uncovers forgotten distilleries and most recently oversaw the unearthing of Buffalo Trace’s Bourbon Pompeii.
- Going Home: Old Forester Opens On Whiskey Row – We’re in the midst of a bourbon Renaissance, and this is especially evident in Downtown Louisville. Historic Whiskey Row, once the epicenter of the bourbon business, is once again bustling with distilleries, whiskey bars, and other tourist attractions including a new Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center. There’s a lot of cool stuff about Old Forester, but probably the coolest thing that you can’t see anywhere else is barrels being raised and charred on site.
- Barefoot Manhattans – Rosemary Miller and I spent seven months researching all the parts of a Manhattan cocktail, publishing monthly installments on bourbonveach.com. We learned to pair the right whiskey with the right vermouth with the right bitters and so on, until we came up with the ultimate Manhattan recipe.
- The Cheese Dude Abides – My friend Will Eaves’ love of cheese has no bounds. He has made it, sold it, mongered it, and most importantly he has passed on his love of cheese expertly paired with bourbon to me.
- New York City Cigar Scene – Yep, I finally went to New York for the first time thanks to Michael Veach and Rosemary Miller, and we wasted no time covering as much ground as we could. We marched (and took a Lyft) all over the boroughs until we dropped from exhaustion, including six cigar bars in one day. It was a memorable first trip!
- Is That Whiskey Kosher? – Kosher laws can be confusing to we gentiles, but this book was unbelievably helpful in sorting out all the Kosher laws that might pertain to whiskey and how they come into play. Basically, if it’s finished in a wine barrel it’s probably not Kosher, but if you have additional questions refer to this book.
- Ten Not-So-Obvious People Who Changed The Course Of Bourbon History – There are so many people who have had a lasting impact on the bourbon industry who you may not have heard of, or whose influence you may not know about. President Taft made a huge impact on the bourbon industry, but do you know why?
- Marianne Eaves: All About The Whiskey – I have had the pleasure of reporting on the many successes of Marianne Eaves over the last several years, from the time she was elevated to Master Taster at Woodford Reserve to the time she became not only the first female Master Distiller in Kentucky since Prohibiton, but also one of the youngest Master Distillers in the world.
- American Malt Whiskey Cocktails – There’s a growing interest in malted whiskeys in America, and there’s even a push to define a separate category for American Single Malt Whiskeys, which have heretofore been lumped in with other malt whiskey categories. There are some really cool folks making some really cool stuff, and it was great to finally learn how to approach this category when it comes to cocktails.
- Welcome To The B-Line – Northern Kentucky has a rich bourbon history, but in the bourbon boom this area has long been forgotten. Thanks to great places like the Newberry Brothers Prohibition Bar and others, there’s now a solidified visitor experience that includes several bars and distilleries.
- What’s Happening In The Barrel? – Any time I get the opportunity to geek out about the science side of bourbon, I’m there. I had the chance to speak with Maker’s Mark Master of Maturation Jane Bowie as well as Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlan Wheatley about what they have learned from barrel experiments, and it’s amazing to look at the science behind what makes bourbon taste so great.
- Is The Corn You Eat The Same As The Corn Used To Make Bourbon? – I will be the first to admit I am a corn nerd. What started with this question has evolved into a full-blown obsession with heirloom corn, mills and milling, farming, and more.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of my favorite stories of 2018. There were many excellent stories published in print magazines that do not appear online. I’m looking forward to learning more about bourbon, whiskey, cocktails, cigars, corn, and more in 2018. Thank you to my loyal readers – your readership is what allows me to continue to do what I do. Best wishes to a happy and healthy 2019!
All Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl