Kentucky on our minds

Kentucky on our minds

If you'll excuse the pun, Kentucky whiskey is on a roll at the moment. Dominic Roskrow went on a voyage of discovery that started with selecting his own whiskey and ended at the party to end all parties

Travel | 17 Nov 2003 | Issue 35 | By Dominic Roskrow

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It may have been the sunshine heat, it may have been the exquisite bourbon and it may have been no more than standard festival excitement, but in Kentucky in September there was a real sense that something pretty special’s going on for the bourbon industry right now.Under stunning blue skies, in the lushest of settings and in marquees and halls around Bardstown, the air of excitement was palpable. It’s as if the people of Kentucky are celebrating the fact that the true diversity of American whiskey is finally being understood.Throughout the year there have been signs that the interest in bourbon is growing, and that its influence is reaching out beyond its traditional base.And while much of the evidence for this might be circumstantial, when put together collectively it makes for a pretty compelling and impressive case.From the style bars and top hotels of London, to the interest expressed by some of Europe’s top mixologists, to the displays that have graced the windows of some of our most serious whisky shops, people seem to be taking bourbon seriously. Its reputation for fun is untarnished. Its association with traditional honest blue collar values remain.But there seems to be a growing interest and respect for the qualities that it shares with Scottish whisky; those of heritage, quality and dedication. As the fashion fixation with vodka starts to wane and the trend-setters look for new challenges, bourbon is stepping in to the breach.Style magazines have seen fit to write about the products, top bars are using rarer bourbons for exciting and premium cocktails, master distillers are being interviewed by serious magazines and newspapers from across the world.And it’s a two way street. The Kentucky distillers are bringing our barmen over to work with them on new drinks featuring their products, they are investing time and effort in opening out the sector, and they’re starting to reach out to an audience that until now was vaguely familiar with Jack
and Jim and not much else.It makes for exciting times, so to have the opportunity to travel over to Louisville first to spend time with the folk who make Woodford Reserve and then to travel on to the annual bourbon festival based in Bardstown was too good an opportunity to be missed. And an experience definitely to be repeated.
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