A Day In the 2016 Kentucky Bourbon Affair
All photos by Maggie Kimberl.
The Kentucky Bourbon Affair is in its third year. For those of you who have never heard of it, The Kentucky Bourbon Affair is basically a week-long bourbon fantasy camp for anyone enamored with Kentucky’s Native Spirit. It’s more than your standard bourbon tourism options. There are exclusive behind-the-scenes events at distilleries all over the state which include the opportunity to spend time with many of your favorite master distillers.
The kickoff event this year showcased many of the craft distilleries in the state, including Copper and Kings, MB Roland, Barrel House, Corsair, Limestone Branch, New Riff, Hartfield and Co., and Wilderness Trail. Bartenders represented three of the distilleries in multiple rounds of judging as the audience sampled cocktails and spirits from the participating distilleries.
Each day of the Kentucky Bourbon Affair features multiple events at multiple distilleries. Guests who purchased one of 50 Golden Tickets get the first shot at choosing their activities for the day, then tickets are offered up for each event à la carte. Guests can choose private barrels from Four Roses, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey, Maker’s Mark, Heaven Hill, or Knob Creek (which won a silver medal in the 2015 NY International Spirits Competition). You can play in a cornhole tournament at Jim Beam. You can have cocktails from around the world with Michter’s. You can dine with Bill Samuels or Fred Noe or The Russells. The list goes on and on.
I chose shooting skeet with Jimmy and Eddie Russell. The history behind this event comes from the naming of the bourbon, which, according to legend, was decided upon during a turkey hunt. The turkey hunt became the namesake for Wild Turkey Bourbon, so the shoot with both master distillers commemorates that historic legend. And honestly, how often do you get to shoot skeet with not one but two legends in the bourbon industry?
We arrived at the distillery first thing in the morning, where Jimmy and Eddie greeted us in the Visitor’s Center. Eddie took us on a tour of the distillery while Jimmy oversaw the preparations at the makeshift shooting range in the field behind the old Visitor’s Center. When we arrived we were divided into two teams, given ear plugs, and began learning how to shoot a moving target from fabulous instructors. Even people who had never picked up a gun before in their lives were able to shoot at least one of the flying clay discs. Many were able to do much better than that thanks to the excellent instructors on site. Not to brag, but my team totally won.
Afterward we were taken into a rick house where we got to sample Russell’s Reserve right out of the barrel, followed by lunch at the Visitor’s Center. After lunch we had another bourbon tasting, this time with Diamond, Master’s Keep, and Decades as both Jimmy and Eddie regaled us with anecdotes about their decades in service to Wild Turkey, rounding out the day by signing bottles and taking photos with participants. The takeaway from this day: your worst day shooting skeet with Jimmy and Eddie Russell beats your best day sitting in your office hands down.
Editor's Note: for 2015 coverage of Kentucky Bourbon Affair, please click here.