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Origin of an American Original

Monday, January 9, 2012 @ 06:01 AM

030Entering our 3rd year of Pop Culture Cuisine, I think it’s time we finally heard from the other member of the PCC team…my husband Adam. He’s always been a big contributor to blog, but this time we hear from him personally. This past summer, he and my father took a trip to the Labrot & Graham-Woodford Reserve Distillery and took a tour; and since I wasn’t along for the trip but think it’s definitely PCC worthy, Adam’s agreed to fly this one solo….Enjoy!

Hello loyal PCC readers! I know…that is a very corny way to start, but I’m not exactly the blogger of the family. Still, I’m very happy to be talking to all of you and share something that is a passion of mine…bourbon! Any of you that know me know I’m not exaggerating on the ‘passion’ part; and what better way to kick off the New Year then how we typically celebrate…liquor. Winking smile

This past summer, my father-in-law and I got the pleasure of an afternoon at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, KY. Originally known as the Oscar Pepper Distillery, it was founded by Elijah Pepper in 1797, making it the oldest distillery in Kentucky, something special in and of itself. However, throughout the years it has come to be known for much more like its origination of the ‘Sour Mash’ and pot still distillation processes so imperative to bourbon making, and more recently as the “Official Bourbon” of the world famous Kentucky Derby. In essence…Woodford is a pretty big deal in the world of distilled spirits; so when Art (my father in law) suggested we go and do the tour…I was in.


Located in the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region, the area where the distillery (actually known as the Labrot & Graham-Woodford Reserve Distillery because of the company which ran the distillery for the majority of its history) is located is absolutely breathtaking, and the old limestone buildings that make up the distillery fit right in. Walking up to the main visitor’s center surrounded by the scenery of the old limestone structures set into wooded hills, I was very impressed and already in the “spirit.” What’s more impressive….the tour we were about to take is only $5.00!



The tour starts off at the old still house where you get a little tutorial about bourbon & the history of Woodford Reserve (bourbon is a heavily regulated spirit that must meet certain criteria to be called such).



Once inside the still house, they have a display of many of the old distilling equipment from the 1800’s which is pretty neat to see. The tour takes you through the still house and the steps it takes for grain & water to become bourbon.


You go from the mash bins, which that day were actually fermenting the mash (don’t get to close or you’ll pass out from the carbon dioxide!)…


…to the pot stills where the actual distilling process occurs…



…the area where they fill the bourbon into charred American white oak barrels for aging…


……the aging house, where the bourbon receives its character and flavor (all bourbon is originally clear before it is aged)…


And finally…the bottling area, where the final product is tested and finishing touches are put on to sell to you and me.



At the end of the day, this tour takes a good 45 minutes…worth every second! Seeing the process up close is kind of amazing and actually gave me a bigger respect for the industry. To stop and think…the process of taking a grain and turning it into a smooth flavorful liquid and something so many enjoy (responsibly) Winking smile is pretty remarkable. I’m just glad I got to see it for myself.


SIGNATURE DISH: Bourbon. Woodford Reserve sells standard (and most common) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky (aged at least 6 years), their Master’s Collection (released once a year), and the Master Distiller’s ‘Personal Selection’ (must be ordered special each year).

TASTE: Although Woodford is not my favorite bourbon, many people swear by it…including my business partner and good friend, Neil Graves. It has a somewhat spicy finish, which is attributed to its above average Rye content. This is mostly what I don’t like about it, although for those that are Woodford drinkers, this is what sets it above the rest and makes it their “go to” drink….wouldn’t you agree Neil?

AMBIANCE: Of all the cuisine/distillery tours we’ve been on, this was easily the best…even better than the Anheuser –Busch tour. Perhaps it is because I’ve grown into such a bourbon enthusiast or the scenery where the distillery is. Regardless, it is a beautiful place and great tour!

PRICE: $5.00…How can you beat that!!! Definitely a bonus in my book…if only Woodford Reserve was that much in the store? Open-mouthed smile

SERVICE: Our tour guide was very informative and gave a great tour of the facility. Also, for those who are new to bourbon, she did a great job of explaining the basics. Finally, the best “service” was at the end, when we each got a free serving of their Straight Bourbon Whisky…and we even got to keep the shot glass!

In short…I really enjoyed the tour, plus it was good time with my father in law geeking out about bourbon & history, something we both really enjoy. So I’ll say it again, this process which allows us to “sip our corn” is kind of amazing…I’m just glad I got to see up close.

As an experience that I highly recommend…I give the Labrot & Graham-Woodford Reserve Distillery & Tour 5 ‘Little Piggies’


3 Responses to “Origin of an American Original”

  1. Neil Graves says:

    Adam what an informative and interesting article, critique and video tour of the site and process. You are a great friend and I think you missed your true calling as a conniseur of the finer trappings in this life as it pertains to fine cuisine and spirits. The gift you brought me (a beautiful decanter that was etched with the most touching sentiments between friends) will always be special to me. Keep up the great work you and Katie do with your blog. And for anyone who has not this nectar of the master distillers touch, there is nothing better at the end of the day than Woodford Reserve in a highball glass with only one icecube. Thanks for the great tour through this distellery.

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  3. […] the first being our excursion to The Woodford Reserve Distillery (which you can read about on PCC here). Right away there is a big difference between visiting Jim Beam and our other distillery […]