Bluegrass and Bourbon

I just got back from Louisville, Kentucky, where I had the chance to learn about Old Forester, Woodford Reserve and some other Brown-Forman brands, as well as tour the company’s headquarters and cooperage. I’ll be writing a longer Trip Report in the May/June issue, but here are some of the highlights from my trip.

I met with Campbell Brown, the great-great-grandson of George Garvin Brown. Campbell will become president of the Old Forester brand on May 1, a brand that the company is spending $50 million to release new extensions and open a distillery in Louisville on Whiskey Row, the original site for Old Forester. The company expects to open the new distillery, which will include a visitor area, sometime in 2016.

At Brown-Forman’s cooperage in Louisville, the company “raises” (manufactures) nearly 600,000 barrels per year, all used for aging its own brands. Most of the barrels are used for Jack Daniel’s, but since the company opened a new cooperage in Alabama to exclusively supply the Lynchburg, TN brand, more barrels are available for Brown-Forman’s other brands like Herradura, El Jimador, Old Forester and Woodford Reserve.

At the Brown-Forman cooperage, more than 600,000 barrels a year are raised for the company's brands.

At the Brown-Forman cooperage, more than 600,000 barrels a year are raised for the company’s brands.

Brown-Forman’s Master Distiller, Chris Morris gave a tour of the Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles, KY, where he demonstrated how to toast and char a barrel using just straw and a match.

Master Distiller Chris Morris showed how barrels used to be toasted and charred by hand using straw.

Master Distiller Chris Morris showed how barrels used to be toasted and charred by hand using straw.

Also at the distillery, Woodford Reserve’s chef-in-residence Ouita Michel created a flavor wheel to pair with the new Woodford Reserve Straight Kentucky Rye, which was released last month. She also created a full lunch using many of the items on the flavor wheel.

Chef Ouitta Michel prepared a tasting flavor wheel designed for the new Woodford Reserve Rye.

Chef Ouita Michel prepared a tasting flavor wheel designed for the new Woodford Reserve Rye.

After lunch, Chris Morris took the group through a tasting that included unaged Woodford Reserve, unaged Woodford Rye, the regular versions of both products, plus a few other surprises. Be sure to read my upcoming column for more details about the trip.

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