Friday, May 18, 2012

Daddy's Girl

Some of you know that my daddy is from Kentucky.  So that is half of my roots.  Mom is a Texas/New Mexico kind of girl - so that's the other half.  Kentucky hills meet the west Texas desert.

And I have an affinity for both of these landscapes that goes soul deep.

That's not something that I usually think about or dwell on or affects my day much at any given time.  But when I have been away from either (which is more often than not), a return brings a singing in my soul.  It's like the land welcomes you back.

This week I had one of those home comings when I met The Dog Whisperer for the day.  Just crossing into the state of Kentucky brought a smile to my face.  The familiar landscape made me happy.  I was back in daddy's country.

I enjoyed every minute of the ride.   I enjoyed the day walking through the restored areas at Berheim and the natural areas of forest and hills and creeks and mountains that is also a part of the area.  It felt almost like a big welcome hug.

And after we had our late lunch and it was time for TDW to head back to Tennessee, I was just not ready to call in quits.

Lucky for me we were not even a mile away from the Jim Beam distillery.

Bourbon was my daddy's drink.  It had its place in every home we ever lived in.  It went into hot toddy's when I was sick. It was a smell I grew up knowing and a taste that I liked when I got older. Although I turned trader when I found out I preferred spiced rum to bourbon.  LOL!

So, back to the story.  I decided I could not leave without going to Jim Beam and checking it out. (Plus I've had 5 wonderful months of company at home and a little time to myself now and then is just nice.)

 I used my trusty TomTom to find my way a whole .83 miles from where I was. The distillery is rather impressive and they are building even more warehouses for the aging. The economy might be slow...but apparently bourbon sales are not!
Did you know that white label Beam is the most popular bourbon sold world wide? I did not know that.

Yes, Jim Beam is the number one Bourbon seller in the world.  I also found out some other interesting facts. Like in order to be sold as bourbon, it must be made in the United States (has to to with the limestone springs).  98%  of the bourbon made is actually produced in Kentucky -- again, its about the water.  And Jim Beam produces 50% of that 98%.
I was lucky enough to walk around and find out there was a tour starting in ten minutes. So I wandered the gift shop until time and then took the 45 minute tour. It started at the original Jim Beam house that was actually used up until the '80's.  I think they are on their 7th generation of Beam's working/owning the distillery now.
This is the worlds smallest working still. It is licensed and anything made in it is taxable by our favorite uncle. It was a display made of the 1954 world fair. (I could have that wrong but its what I remember.)
The original distilling process was a much smaller affair than the big guys now.  Unfortunately we were unable to tour the actual distillery. But they are opening that up to the public starting in October.
We did get to tour one of their largest warehouses where the bourbon ages.  Each type ages for a different amount of time.  When a batch is ready they pull out that date and mix them together as the alcohol will be different proofs depending on where it sat in the warehouse.  By mixing all the barrels together they get a more consistent product.  But there is one area called the sweet spot that has perfect conditions and they actually bottle that right out of the barrel under the Bookers name.  It has to have a separate sticker on it to tell you the proof of each batch as it changes.

Now the warehouse was my favorite part.  Before the guide even opened the door I could smell the aroma. Charred wood and aging bourbon.  It was not overpowering as it was in kegs, but oh my goodness. If that was a cologne I'd make my husband wear it. Call me strange but that was like one of the most heavenly smells I've ever smelled.
I know this isn't a great picture, but what you are looking at are trees with black trunks.  Another interesting thing I learned is that there is a certain amount of evaporation that hits the air around a still. This covers the tree trunks and even the buildings with a black residue.  The government actually used this clue to help find stills during prohibition.  Where you find the black trunk trees, you will find a still.
We finished up the tour with some samples. Oh yes we did. And did I mention the tour was free? Well, its rather smart because then you go buy something after that taste test.  Brilliant.  And what did Autumn buy?  Well, remember me telling you about the top shelf bourbon in the sweet spot? The current batch on the shelf was the highest the tour guide has seen it since she's worked there.  Yes, I bought my honey a bottle of the 130 proof.  Should make for a nice celebration!

Then it was time to head back to Ohio and my family.  But I am so very glad I stopped even though I was by myself, yada, yada.  I learned alot and had a good time.

So my friends, if you are traveling alone, don't hesitate to make a stop. Sure it might be even more fun with your family, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it all by your little self also.


  1. That sounds like a blast. I love the history.
    We have hit up several vineyards, both in CA and in NC. It is so fabulous to buy something when you see where it came from. We actually love roadside anything - but fresh peach preserves or pecans aren't quite the same, are they? That is about all we did in GA.
    Thanks for this post. Now I have a bribe to convince Andy to bring me to Louisville! I can see that amazing park, talk you into coming down and meeting me in person, and Andy can get some Jim Beam. Sounds perfect to me!

  2. Bethany- lets plan it. I'm in.