The best month of the year is here, everyone. That's right, it's National Bourbon Heritage Month.
In 2015, the Old Fashioned was named the official cocktail of Louisville. Legend has it the Old Fashioned, a bourbon cocktail that includes sugar and bitters (and occasionally cherry or citrus), was invented right in Louisville.
Louisville's historic Pendennis Club was the first to use the name in 1881, but it had been referenced otherwise as a bourbon cocktail being made "the old fashioned way."
Not surprisingly, bourbon is big business in Kentucky. It's an $8.6 billion bourbon industry that produces 95% of the world's bourbon, and in 2020, Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries filled 2.1 million barrels of bourbon, according to the Kentucky Distillers Association.
Many distilleries that shut down for a while during the coronavirus pandemic spent the time to upgrade their facilities, work on new products and announce new partnerships. Even if we couldn't see inside, Kentucky's distilleries have been hard at work, and announcements have been rolling out quickly as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
So in honor of our favorite month – and always dependable cocktail – here are six new things happening in Kentucky's bourbon industry:
Bardstown Bourbon Company launches new bottling facility
Bardstown Bourbon Company is opening a new 55,000 square-foot bottling facility that will allow the distillery to bottle hundreds of thousands of cases of distilled spirits per year and create 25 new jobs.
“Our new bottling facility will raise the bar for what we can provide our partners and fill a void within co-manufacturing spirits production,” Justin Willett, executive director of manufacturing operations for Bardstown Bourbon Company, said in a news release announcing the expansion.
The new facility will include a logistics lab, comprehensive testing abilities, component and label flexibility, expert sourcing and an on-site blending lab, according to the release.
In addition to its own spirits, Bardstown Bourbon Company produces custom whiskey for more than 30 customers, including some of the most well-known liquor brands in the world, according to the release.
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Bardstown Bourbon partnered with architect Joseph & Joseph Architects of Louisville and Buzick Construction Inc. of Bardstown to develop the facility.
Barton 1792 Distillery wins big at World Spirits Competition
Out of a record-breaking 3,500 entries from around the world, 10 Barton 1792 Distillery spirits were awarded medals. Each entry was subject to rounds of blind tastings and individual evaluation on both taste and design by judges.
“We are humbled to receive recognition for our spirits,” Master Distiller Danny Kahn said in a news release. “These awards would not be possible without our team’s unwavering commitment to top-quality whiskey.”
Double Gold Medals went to:
- 1792 Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- 1792 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- Early Times Bottled-In-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Gold Medals went to:
- 1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- 1792 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- Thomas S. Moore Port Finished Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Silver Medals went to:
- 1792 Aged 12 Years Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- Thomas S. Moore Cabernet Sauvignon Finished Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- Thomas S. Moore Chardonnay Finished Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Bronze Medals went to:
- Early Times Kentucky Whiskey
Black Bourbon Society teams up with Maker's Mark
Hosted by Samara Davis, founder of Black Bourbon Society, and her husband and BBS partner, Armond Davis, the show was filmed at the Maker’s Mark Distillery as the duo documented the creation of their second custom barrel from the distillery.
“Armond and I are thrilled to showcase the process of creating another Private Selection with Maker’s Mark,” Samara Davis, founder of Black Bourbon Society said in a news release announcing the partnership. “We are grateful for the Spirits Network who has extended their platform to showcase our experience with like-minded spirits enthusiasts around the globe.”
The new bourbon celebrates Diversity Distilled, a nonprofit organization founded by Samara and Armond that advocates and crafts strategies to address the diversity, equity and inclusion of brands – with a focus on the world of distilled spirits, packaged beverages and the alcohol and service industries.
“It’s been a privilege for Maker’s Mark to continue supporting the Black Bourbon Society, especially on this latest program,” Rob Samuels, 8th-Generation Whisky Maker at Maker’s Mark, said in the news release. “The new Private Selection that Samara and Armond Davis created is nothing short of spectacular. However, even more important than this unique whisky is our partnership with them and Southern Glazer's to provide meaningful support for Diversity Distilled this year and beyond.”
Black Bourbon Society’s Maker’s Mark Private Selection: Recipe 2 is one of the first to include the newest Maker’s Mark Private Selection stave, Roasted French Mendiant, which lends milk chocolate, buttery nut and smooth coffee notes.
The bottle is offered at a suggested retail price of $69.99 in various cities.
Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch gets a redesign
Evan Williams Bourbon, the second-largest selling bourbon in the world, announced a major redesign of its Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch.
Named after the year Evan Williams first opened his distillery on the banks of the Ohio River, the bourbon’s new package celebrates Kentucky bourbon’s first licensed endeavor. Returning to the original 90 proof, the small-batch bourbon is the second-highest proof in the Evan Williams Bourbon family, according to a news release announcing the redesign.
Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch will be relaunched in a new glass bottle with the Evan Williams signature blown in across the top. "1783" is prominently displayed in gold foil accent across the top label, as well as "small batch" to signify the bourbon inside is a mingling of 300 barrels or less.
Crafted with Heaven Hill Distillery’s traditional bourbon mash bill of 78% corn, 12% malted barley and 10% rye, Evan Williams 1783 retains an aged quality as it is a marriage of barrels aged six to eight years, providing a smooth, rich and bold flavor.
“We are excited to bring more focus to what is known as the ‘best-kept secret’ in the Evan Williams Bourbon family," Julie Cole, Evan Williams senior brand manager, said in the release.
The new Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch is available for a suggested retail price of $19.99.
Toast National Bourbon Heritage Month with Spiritless
Spiritless is a Louisville-based, female-led nonalcoholic drink company. Founded in 2019, Spiritless distillery has launched Spiritless Kentucky 74, a reverse-distilled non-alcoholic drink that looks, feels and tastes just like bourbon. It's a spirit crafted for your favorite bourbon cocktails, and the company says it's the perfect addition to make any cocktail zero-proof or, for those who want to go low-ABV, mixed “halfsies” – a term the Spiritless team even trademarked – in a 1:1 ratio with bourbon.
Named for Spiritless being the 74th distillery in the state, Kentucky 74 is made with a grain-neutral spirit and select chars of oak for an extraction process to pull the oak flavors into the spirit. What results is an extremely high-proof and intensely flavored spirit that is then reverse distilled to evaporate all but 0.5% of the alcohol. The drink remaining retains the flavors from the oak extraction process and is pH-adjusted for shelf-stability before being bottled, The Courier Journal reported.
For those looking for something new, try this Spiritless New Fashioned, a cocktail crafted by Spiritless Director of Brand Education (and award-winning cocktail expert) Derek Brown.
Spiritless New Fashioned recipe:
- 2 1/4 oz. Spiritless Kentucky 74 (or go halfsies with 1 1/8 oz Spiritless Kentucky 74, 1 1/8 oz bourbon)
- 1/4 oz. Simple Syrup (or try Liber & Co.'s Fiery Ginger Syrup for a spicier kick)
- 3 Dashes Fee Brothers Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters
- Orange peel
Combine in a double rocks glass and add ice. Stir until chilled.
Woodford Reserve Distillery expansion
Brown-Forman Corporation is planning a massive expansion at its Woodford Reserve Distillery to meet the growing demand for the top-selling, super-premium American whiskey. The expansion will double its capacity, including adding three new copper pot stills.
“Woodford Reserve is celebrating its 25th anniversary throughout 2021, and the expansion of the distillery allows us to look to the next 25 years,” Master Distiller Chris Morris said in a news release announcing the expansion. “Woodford Reserve Distillery uses copper pot stills in a triple distillation process to handcraft bourbon, and [this] announcement builds on that legacy.”
In addition to the three new pots stills, the expansion includes a new building that will house the boiler plant; additional fermentation tanks; a grain unloading area; a barrel unloading/storage area; and a conference and training center for employees, according to the release.
Construction begins this spring and is expected to be complete in summer 2022. The site, located at McCracken Pike in Woodford County, will be fully operational during construction.