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September 5, 2012

Bar Belle: Napa Valley, meet Bourbon Alley

Last week I took a trip out to the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Ky. I had been once before and forgot how much I loved the quaint Kentucky scenery on the drive past horse farms, roadside farmers markets and towns without Walmarts. The tour I took showed us what life was like at the distillery in 1812 when it was founded by Elijah and Sarah Pepper — and we got to check out not only their original house but the site where the first distillery sat next to the spring Elijah decided to build his business around.

I learned many things that day, including the term “whiskey dyke,” which I now claim as my nickname. I learned even more about the bourbon process, the importance of bourbon not only to the state but the country, and that I wouldn’t much like food in 1812. Everything was either a vegetable or pickled — including pickled vegetables — and there wasn’t much ice around to have a party. In fact, I bet restaurants didn’t even offer to-go boxes, because there was no place to keep sushi from spoiling.

Anyway, after the tour was finished, I was parched from hiking through history. While we got samples of the fine Woodford Reserve and their newest incarnation, Woodford Double Oaked, I noticed there wasn’t a place in the Visitor’s Center where I could order a drink. And this got me thinking about Kentucky’s potential to become the Napa Valley of bourbon. I’ve only been to two other distilleries, but I distinctly remember neither having a room nor even just a bar to enjoy a cocktail or snack. In fact, some distilleries, including Maker’s Mark, are located in dry counties, so you don’t even get a tasty sample. Yikes!

What if our distilleries could become more like wineries and offer a tasting experience along with their historical tours? Don’t get me wrong, I think our Bourbon Trail tourism concept is wonderful and engaging — but I’m thinking there could be more revenue made and opportunities to expand if people were inclined to spend an entire afternoon at a distillery, ordering drinks and cheese trays and listening to music in a picnic-style setup similar to Huber’s Winery in Southern Indiana.

Wild Turkey just announced plans to expand its distillery by putting $4 million into a new Visitor’s Center, so our tourism potential is certainly being recognized. I realize there is probably tons of red tape to navigate when it comes to liquor licenses, insurance, etc., but I do believe we could make our Bourbon Trail rival Napa Valley. (I also hear our distilleries can’t even mail out a bottle to out-of-state consumers.)

There are currently seven distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, with at least two more in the works, including Michter’s Distillery in downtown Louisville and the Nth Degree Distillery in Newport. Just think about it — we could get “Sideways” in our very own state … without spit buckets or $450 plane tickets.

Don’t Read This
Now that I’ve got your attention, if you’re bored Saturday night, you’re welcome to join me on my ninth annual Gettin’ Drunky in Kentucky Pub Crawl. I have a feeling there are going to be a lot of participants, so I tried not to promote it all that much (a girl has to be able to get a drink at a bar in a timely fashion, you know?). But it wouldn’t be right not to invite everybody. So here are the details: It starts at 7 p.m. at the Outlook Inn. We have one drink per bar on our journey to Bearno’s Highlands. There are 14 stops this year, so it isn’t for the faint of heart. You may not only experience dizziness, loss of balance, delusions of grandeur and visions of leprechauns, but you will get wet on this ride (holler!). Hit me up if you have any questions; I may have a few T-shirts left.

Drunk Texts of the Week
• You can quit going to gynecologist. Just go to any Republican.
• I have a crush on Kimmet and not Doug!
• We would have had to bite a fairy to have any fun
• Does he look like he’s going through a meteor shower sideways?
• She’s hotter than a slice of wonder bread in a toaster! 

Send your drunk texts to shavens@leoweekly.com. My blog is at barbelle.leoweekly.com. Word.

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