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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Bourbon’s Signature

Wednesday, May 16, 2012 @ 09:05 AM

IMG_0458It’s been a little while since we’ve heard from the lesser known member of Pop Culture Cuisine, so I thought this week would be a good opportunity for my husband Adam to tell you once again about one of his favorite things…bourbon.

Hello faithful PCC readers; and welcome to another installment of the ‘Bourbon Diaries’ as I’m now calling them. Yes, I know that is a bit cheesy…but work with me…I’m not the blogger in the family. Winking smile So last November we were down in Louisville for Thanksgiving with Katie’s family; and regardless of the time of year, I always look for an excuse to visit a bourbon distillery when we are down in that part of the country. So, on the day after Thanksgiving, my father-in-law (Art), bro-in-law (Christian) and I made our way down to the Mecca of bourbon…the Home of Jim Beam and Visitor Center in Clermont, KY.

For Art and me, this was our second journey to the bourbon trail to experience where bourbon comes from first hand, 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 visits…they do not actually have a distillery tour. This is changing this coming summer when the folks at Beam will open up the distillery for official tours for the first time (can’t wait!). But on this trip it was…well…I’ll let the good folks at Jim Beam who explain it best tell you…

Start your visit with a guided Heritage Tour of the historic T. Jeremiah Beam home where three generations of Beam distillers lived overlooking the scenic landscape and towering rack houses. You can then step inside the Stillhouse Exhibit featuring our authentic 1800’s copper still, believed to be one of the oldest in America.

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Then it’s time to venture inside our oldest rack house, Warehouse D, built by Jim Beam after Prohibition. You’ll find yourself surrounded by the unmistakably rich and warm smell of Kentucky’s finest bourbon aging in 20,000 oak barrels. It’s the perfect warm-up for a sample of one of our Small Batch Bourbons in our tasting room. And finally, commemorate your visit with a purchase of a variety of Jim Beam® merchandise—including apparel and our world-famous bourbon candy—at our gift shop.

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The whole tour only takes about an hour and has quite a few high notes. First, it’s kind of awe inspiring when you look out across the hillside and see all the aging warehouses or rack houses as they are called. Whereas most distilleries have just a few aging houses, Beam’s houses pepper the countryside. I don’t know exactly how many there are, but it’s a bunch…easily in the 20 or more range! Another neat thing about the view is you’ll notice that all the trees are black…stark black! I don’t know if you’ll see this anywhere else but around an area where they are distilling spirits, because what happens is that the “Angel’s Share” or portion of distilled spirit that is lost to evaporation during the aging process eventually resettles on the surrounding bark as a dark black fungus. It is both an ominous sight and very neat at the same time.

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The tour of the old home of Jeremiah Beam is not much of a tour, just a look at some old pictures and distilling equipment in one room and then a (promotional) video about Jim Beam. Thankfully, this is just a short stop, because it doesn’t really add much to the experience. What does, however, is the walk through one of the oldest rack houses in the bourbon world. This thing is enormous…and full of yummy sweet bourbon! The first thing you notice is how cold it is…temperature controlled for optimal aging. The other is the sheer number of barrels. You can easily see how Jim Beam is the largest distiller of bourbon in the entire world. You know, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the sight of all those barrels in one spot.

Well, although you don’t get an official distillery tour, they do know how to send you out with a smile on your face at Jim Beam…by ending the tour with two tastings of their bourbon. On this day we were served Red Stag (not my favorite) and were fortunate enough to get to try one of the highest-end single barrel bourbons made today…Booker’s, named for former master distiller and 6th generation Beam, Frederick “Booker” Noe.

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Booker actually re-introduced small batch bourbons back onto the landscape some years ago and in 1992, he introduced his own signature bourbon, Booker’s® True Barrel Bourbon. Inspired by a 200-year-old tradition, Booker’s is the first bourbon bottled straight-from-the-barrel, uncut and unfiltered (single-barrel); and let me say it here…this is the real deal! After aging from 6-8 years, Booker’s is bottled anywhere from 121-127 proof, which is very strong; and on this day, we tried a batch that came in at 124 proof. Whoooo! It was just as smooth as it was strong…and it was hella-smooth! 😉 Let’s just say this is definitely a spirit that you sip slowly…or beware the burn, but definitely tasty and worth the trip in and of itself.

SIGNATURE DISH: Jim Beam is the largest producer of bourbon in the world. Not only is bourbon the signature of Jim Beam, but Jim Beam is the signature of bourbon around the world.

TASTE: Jim Beam has a whole family of bourbons, some tasting far better than others. While Jim Beam White Label (standard 4 year aged product) is better as a mixer and not what I’d prefer straight, many of their other products from Devil’s Cut to Knob Creek to Booker’s I’d be happy to sit and sip with you any day of the week!

AMBIENCE: Although they lose points for not having an official tour of the distillery, the surrounding countryside comes close to making up for it. Between the rack houses throughout the hillsides and the black stained trees, it’s a view you’ll appreciate and remember.

PRICE: You can’t beat the price of this tour…free!

SERVICE: Our tour guide was very helpful and informative. You could tell she was a bourbon enthusiast which I appreciated, and her knowledge and love of Jim Beam enhanced the tour.

All in all, I definitely got a little geeked out about visiting the pinnacle of the bourbon world; and although they didn’t have an official distillery tour that day, I’m excited at the prospect of returning to Clermont in the future to see Jim Beam made first hand. But for this trip, I give the Visit to the Jim Beam grounds 4 ‘Little Piggies’

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