Kentucky, two years ago… (Part II: The Reckoning)

HOO boy, it seems silly to write this right now, what with the news lately, but times are rough and people need bourbon.  Even if we’re all going to be killed by global warming, a chemical attack or radiation, that’s years from now, right.  Until then, there’s still Kentucky and there’s still bourbon.  I’ve also been sick and feeling down, so screw you guys.  You get what you get when you get it.  Friggin’ kids.  GET OFF MY LAWN!


So yeah, Kentucky.  I went there, and saw some stuff and drank some bourbon.  Not LOTS of bourbon, because I don’t remember getting drunk.  Just a nice, pleasant mellow amount of bourbon.  Maybe it was lots of bourbon, but I spaced it out a good deal and did it all responsible like, especially since I was by myself and that damn crab refuses, absolutely REFUSES, to get his driver’s license.  Deadbeat.

On my third full day in Louisville, I left.  For good reason.  I decided to finally head down to Bardstown, the bourbon festival, and a couple distilleries.  But first, we had to check out of the HILTON Seelbach.  It really is a beautiful old hotel though.


First things first, we had to get some coffee.  And do some good ol’ fashioned trip plannin’, on paper, son (remember, this was before I had a smartphone).  I prefer doing it this way anyway, it just gets harder when the tools become obsolete.  ANYway….


We drove down to Bardstown, KY, Bourbon Capital of The World.  Before taking in the festival, I decided to stop by a couple distilleries first.  The closest was Barton 1792 Distillery, owned by the Sazerac Company (of New Orleans! Ok, Metairie). They make and bottle 1792 bourbon, as well as bottling and shipping many other types of liquor.  I like 1792 alright.  In my little book, I gave it three stars, so it’s a good bourbon, mixed or straight.  It’s a little heavy on the rye for my tastes however.

The setting is very much a factory/warehouse setting, and I’m convinced that a bourbon carries it’s place with it.  How could it not?  After soaking up the wood and air in rackhouses for years and years, how could it not take on its surroundings.  Maybe that’s too froofy for you, but I love bourbon.  It’s America’s Spirit, dammit and it’s damned magical.


Jesus, how artsy is that? Yeah, that’s a medium format b/w taken with my Holga. No biggie.


X marks the spot, where 1792 is made.


This here’s a big ol’ vat of kern. Bourbon, as you may well know, is bourbon because it’s 51% corn instead of rye. And a mash that contains wheat instead of rye is a “wheated bourbon”, which are, generally, my favorites. Though I have been getting down on some rye and bourye lately.


The 1792 rackhouse.
You can learn more about rackhouses and the science involved here:


The rackhouse is usually my favorite part, except for the tasting room. All those barrels just soakin’ up that wood with the seasons and the wind. It’s poetic, galdernit.


Mr. Crab enjoys it too.

I’ll spare you the boring photos of the boring ol’ warehouse and shipping system (but it fits in with my “bourbon carries its place” theory. Instead, here’s what Mr. Crab got up to in the tasting room and by the World’s Largest Bourbon Barrel.


He’s pretty stoked about the barrel plug, but I’m pretty sure that’s just drunk talk. Bourbon should be handled with moderation and class. Ohhhh, Mr. Crab.


Hey look! It’s the World’s Largest Bourbon Barrel!

So that’s stop #1.  Off to Maker’s Mark in nearby Loretto!  😀 😀 😀


Kentucky, two years ago… (Part I)

Leave it to me to write a (sort of) travel blog from a trip I took two years ago.  I’m a slow mover, I am, and I see no problem with it, by gum.  Think of this post as a too-short aged bourbon.  Maybe I should have waited six, seven years…like my always forthcoming China book.  Daaaaang, you just got served, Jill.———————

About two years ago, I was at the Museum of the American Cocktail here in New Orleans (which I highly recommend if you’re visiting).  I picked up a copy of Imbibe magazine that was dedicated to the best places to drink in the South (this included cocktails AND coffee, so I had to).  I discovered there was an entire festival dedicated to bourbon (of course there is. this should not be surprising.)  I decided that this would be my trip for the year, before I quit a job that afforded me travel time, money to do so, and a little bit of paid time off.  My last solo hurrah (I love a good solo hurrah), if you will.  So, come September way back in 2011, I boarded ye olde Southwest air bus and (eventually) made it to Louisville where I picked up my car and checked in at the Seelbach.

A view from my tiny room. Louisville looks, and feels, very….”Northern” to this Midwest-born girl. Despite its claims of Southern charm, it is gateway at best.

A word about the Seelbach:  This is a beautiful old hotel in downtown Louisville that has been absorbed by the monster that is Hilton Hotels & Resorts.  While I appreciate that the building has retained most of its charm, F. Scott Fitzgeraldyness, ghosts, and grandeur, I do not appreciate paying $200+ a night to stay in a tiny room where they charge for internet.  I stayed at the Seelbach one night and then jumped ship for the Ramada (further from the center of town, but internet is free.  it was the principal of the thing.)  If you go to Louisville, definitely stop by the hotel though, if only to visit The Old Seelbach bar.

The next morning, me and Mr. Crab got up, lazed around a bit, and headed out to explore.  I had no real plans other than getting some coffee first, then wandering around the city.  My trusty Imbibe magazine told me to head to Quills in the Highlands area of Louisville, an area filled with bars, shops, and other things the kids are into.  Though the shop was definitely “hip” (and I know that word is played out and some of you hate it, but it was pert dang hip), I didn’t feel unwelcome or judged.  Coffee was above average (on the non-chain specialty scale) and the pastry was right there with it.  I spent probably an hour there on my laptop since this was before I had my smart phone.  I would recommend Quills due to the simple fact that it was relaxed and had good coffee.  You really can’t (and probably shouldn’t) expect more than that from any beverage provider.

A clean, well-lighted place.P1040992WEBAfter that, I just drove down Baxter Ave, which turns into Bardstown Rd.  I was looking for a bookstore.  I had no idea if there was a bookstore down that way and forgot to look it up, but LO AND BEHOLD, books.  Weird.  A+ for that, Louisville.

Armed with a map and a couple “things to do” books, I went back to the Seelbach to re-group.  And by re-group, I mean drink.

And may a chorus of angels sing thee to thy rest…

So, that is the The Old Seelbach Bar’s bourbon selection.  Yeah, I know.  Being pretty green in the world of bourbon (I liked Maker’s, a lot, I knew that), I gave up and just asked the bartender for recommendations.  That’s when he gave me the manna from heaven that is Van Winkle (12 year).  I was in love, and forevermore on a quest.  In my little notebook, I merely wrote, “Van Winkle 12yr – smooooooth” with about five stars after it.  Only one other bourbon came close to the warm happiness that came over me at that moment (more on that one later).  Of course, little did I know at the time that this magical elixir was so hard to find and purchase (and that I would come to revere and love it even more for that).  NO MATTER!  I was sitting at a bar that F. Scott Fitzgerald might have visited, with days to spare and no one to answer to but a blue plastic crab.  I was one happy Pappy (AHA!  See what I did there.)

After some weird Kentucky bar food (I won’t even go into it) and a bourbon, I decided to walk around downtown a bit.  There is a decidedly Midwest air to the city.  I felt like I was back in Topeka a few times, a Topeka that didn’t let its downtown die and a Louisville that used its river as a feature rather than an afterthought.  Of course, living with the Mississippi in your backyard, does make the Ohio elicit a rather, “Huh.” response, but there you go.  Nothing much to report other than White Castle isn’t as good as I remember it and Louisville seems pretty proud of the past, but more so about the corporate present.

P1040995WEBFor dinner that evening, I went to 732 Social (also recommended by Imbibe).  I would link that, but the restaurant actually no longer exists, which is a shame, because I had a fabulous meal and bourbon cocktail there.  It was part of the whole Urban Bourbon Trail, however, and I applaud this marketing effort.  I did not get my passport stamped at any of the locations however, so no t-shirt for me.

And thus ends days 1 and a half.  I know, I know, try and be patient for this rip-roaring tale of solo hurrah!