The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

During my travels when I tell people I’m currently living in Kentucky the first thing most often mentioned is bourbon.  Not the bluegrass, nor fast women and beautiful horses…um wait, beautiful horses and fast women…. Oh forget it!  You get the idea, it’s about the bourbon.2055

So began my adventures on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  Now let me say, while I’m not a t-totaller, bourbon is something I know very little about.  I think it uses corn, as does all good moonshine (that’s another post), as a basis for it’s mash.  And they put it in barrels for a really long time.

In the rickhouse at Stitzel-Weller.
In the rickhouse at Stitzel-Weller.

My first stop was the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller.  This is also where I picked up my bourbon trail passport.  This is a guide and record of the distilleries you visit along the trail.

I’m learning that the Whiskey/Bourbon business is competitive, congenial, secretive (very secretive), complex (legally) and almost fraternal in natural.  You see many of the key players have worked at other distilleries, started their own or advised someone else in making fine liquor.  Yet, they all have to play be the same rules.  Yes, like every other business in America they have rules. In fact Congress voted in place one of these rules in 1897.  The “Bottled-in-Bond” became law actually several years before any FDA rulings were past!  In fact during the Prohibition error, sorry Era (must be the whiskey talking) alcohol could only be sold (legally) with a Dr’s prescription.

For medicinal purposes of course
For medicinal purposes of course (Display at Evan Williams Bourbon Experience)

SO, what is bourbon and how do they make it?  Legally, yes there is a legal definition actually passed by Congress in 1964, It must be…

  • a grain mix of at least 51% corn
  • distilled to no more than 160 proof
  • no coloring or flavoring added
  • aged in new charred oak barrels
  • placed in barrel at no more than 125 proof
  • bottled at no less than 80 proof
  • it may be called “straight” is aged for at least two years
  • if aged less than 4 yrs the age must be on the label
  • AND it can be called “bourbon” only if it’s made in the USA!

WOW, I’m not so sure some foods can meet all those requirements.

My tour began in with a history of the distillery and that’s where I began to appreciate the “bourbon community” of master distillers.

At this particular site there is one of the first vertical stills used in commercial production.  But let’s get on to the good part…

The bourbon is stored in the charred oak barrels in a “rick house” to age.  This aging process is done in an environment that is NOT climate controlled.  Trust me, it was quite cold when I was there this February.  The exposure to the elements is essential to the aging process.  As the barrels heat in the summer months the bourbon passes into the wood of the barrels through the charred wood.  Then in the cooler months it returns in solution bringing with it the natural coloring and the flavoring from the barrel.  Charring the wood causes the wood to carmel and add flavoring to the whiskey. Remember, Congress said “no added coloring or flavoring”?  This is how the bourbon gets it color and flavor.  AND, the longer it stays in the barrel exposed to the elements, the more color and flavor.

Now the Bulleit brand bourbon is all “small batch” bourbon.  This means they select some barrels from the first floor of the rick house and some from the seventh floor and a few in between.  Why?  To create the taste for that particular age of whiskey.  Sorry, now that it’s aged we can call it bourbon, well after it is proofed to be bottled.

A look up into the rick house (Stitzel-Weller distillery)
A look up into the rick house (Stitzel-Weller distillery)

But what about the barrels?  Yes they can begin to leak and need repair.

View of the cooper shop (Stitzel-Weller)
View of the cooper shop (Stitzel-Weller)

The barrels are carefully weighed with the scales to the left and then drained into the stainless steel vats on the right.  Each barrel has a serial number so that the starting weight and the ending weight can be veriefed.  Bourbon out must equal bourbon put back in, remember it is under government oversight.  Once the barrel is drained, hoops knocked down then the repair begins.  The cooper uses cattails to place between the leaking staves.  Cattails do not add flavor and they swell when wet sealing the leak.   Then the barrel is placed back into the rick house with the carefully weighed contents to finish aging.

Demonstrating how cattails are used to seal leaks  (Stitzel-Weller)
Demonstrating how cattails are used to seal leaks (Stitzel-Weller)

Now to the best part, tasting the outcome of all that aging!

Remember how there had to be at least 51% corn in the mash?  Well there can also be whiskey made with rye as the grain of choice.  That’s the rye whiskey you hear about. And these folks make a rye with just a touch of malt to take the edge off.

Which was my favorite?

Well the two year-old bourbon was ok, it didn’t burn the mouth yet gave a good warmth afterward.  And the rye did have a slightly different aftertaste with not as much heat in the mouth.  But, the ten year-old bourbon was definitely a better bourbon.  The taste really was  noticeably different.

I will try and post some more from might visit to Evan Williams distillery in the next couple of days.

Before I go one more picture…

I did not mount rooftop ordinance just for the trip to Louisville…van rofftop guns

No this is not a standoff between the SS Phoenix and enemy trucks!

I posted this picture on a vandweller site I frequent and had several comments.  So I had to go back and look at the picture.  It does kinda look like I gottem’ out gunned.

 

As always,  Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure…

Next time Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.

A trek in the desert with friends

This is the day we get to go see Indian petroglyphs and grinding holes thanks to my friend Charlene.

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Charlene knew the location of this rock house, the petroglyphs, and the grinding holes we would be seeing. She majored in archaeology and was a lot of fun to go exploring with. She lead this expedition crew into the desert.DSCN2745DSCN2732 DSCN2733

Layla led the way into this cave that was quite possibly a shelter for some family.

After a short climb to a place above the shelter…

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DSCN2736We were rewarded with a collection of grinding holes where the Indians would grind their seeds and grains.

DSCN2737Using a round stone in these holes they would break and grind the seeds and grains to make a flour or meal that could then be cooked.   We continued on to a place where messages were left.  Can you understand their meanings?DSCN2755 DSCN2754Here’s a link to a little more information on petroglyphs.  Wkikpedia

Charlene described how the appearance of this section of the desert has changed over a very short time. When the water rushes through the wash it removes soil from the area and deposits the debris it brings from the path it followed.  So the desert landscape is consantly being changed year to year.

Time for a little break before we head back.

DSCN2739I hope you enjoyed our trek.   And once again

Get out, Be safe, Go adventure

Cooking and driving,

As with all trips…  Where do we eat, What do we eat, When do we eat, and in some cases can we AFFORD to eat are questions that always come up.

I decided to post the answer to these questions today because of hearing some of these questions at the RTR in Quartzite.

The easy answer…  Cook your own food as you drive.

My donation to the chili supper was 2lbs of chili meat that was cooked across New Mexico and Arizona.   I did this so that it was ready to go in the pot as soon as I arrived.  Thanks to Peter and others the dinner was a huge hit for more than 75 people attending. DSCN2708

This kicked off the RTR for me personally and the next day when Randy gave such an entertaining and thoughtful invocation quoting Whitman, Thoreau, and of course himself to open one of the morning sessions.

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But what about the cooking?     One of the gadgets I use is the Roadpro 12volt slow cooker.Crock pot roast

This is a SantaFe seasoned roast I picked up at Walmart for about $8.  Well it’s half of one, we had already started eating before I grabbed a picture.  This gave me three meals worth of meat. And it was done when I stopped for the night.spaghetti pot

And another easy meal, cook the spaghetti for about 30-45 minutes and then throw in the Sandwich Makers meatballs and sauce.  Since neither of these require refrigeration this is one of the staple foods that stay in my van.IMAG0904

How about some burritos?IMAG0902 Some tortilla wraps, Sandwhich Makers pulled pork, garlic and herb seasoned butter and some shredded cheese make tasty wraps.  Put these in the lunch-box oven and rotate them turn a side down to be browned.  Here’s a link to the oven… Roadpro Lunch Box Oven

 

Well now you know some of my tricks for meal prep while traveling so as always…

Get out, Be Safe and go adventure.

Until next time, which will be my visit to Montezuma’s Castle, be safe.

 

 

Another Indian flute played this time by my friend Vincent

I just got this MP3 from Vincent and thought I’d share with everybody.

Seems Vincent bought a flute from High Spirits, which is the same company as the one I bought.

However, he is much better than I.

Click on the link at the top or under the blog roll to go to Road Noise to have a listen

Once again I’m still on the road and still trying to catch up more than 4000 miles of travels for Layla and I so be patient we’ll get there.

BBQ, History and Reverence in Kentucky

This weekend is the Kentucky State BBQ Festival in Danville, KY.

Come on Layla get up let’s go….

DSCN1180Snoozin’ go away!

Well she doesn’t yet share my enthusiasm, but she will.

She actually scored big at the festival, almost a full rack of rib bones.

A kind fellow saw her sitting and waiting patiently as I ate some of my food. I guess he missed the part where she got some first, before I ever got a bite. But he gave her a pile of bones from the rack of ribs his family had been eating.

On the way to feed our bellies we passed a sign that said there was an event going on at Camp Nelson. Here’s a brief description and link to the Camp Nelson Historic Site homepage.

Camp Nelson website

Camp Nelson’s Portal To Freedom
Camp Nelson provided the Union Army with over 10,000 African-American soldiers, making it the third largest recruiting and training depot for African Americans in the nation. Many of the black soldiers brought their families with them to Camp Nelson and eventually the army established a refugee camp for these individuals. Thousands of African-Americans came to Camp Nelson and it was here that they gained their freedom. Read more.

Today though we walked back in time to where history was looking at us.

Hilltop Union CampHilltop Union Camp

Just over this rise was the camp of the 12th infantry.

fellows in camp

Now we had arrived after a skirmish and the soldiers were regrouped in camp trying to refresh themselves and develop new strategies. This group, the 12th infantry, was actually up here from Florida where they all live. Although, some of them have ancestors who were raised and fought here at Camp Nelson. Many of the 10,000 black Civil War soldiers brought their families to the refugee camp that was here. At one point in time these families were expelled from the camp and their shanties burnt to prevent their return. This lead to the death of hundreds due to exposure in the winter months. Story of sorrow

The event included actors (people like you and I that love history) in period costume to tell the story to us all. Some of them I actually recognized, well their characters at least.

Abe at Camp Nelson
Abe at Camp Nelson

Others helped to portray what life was like “back in the day.

School at Camp Nelson
School at Camp Nelson

The Site housed a museum with story boards and displays of life in the camp. There were archives and artifacts displayed as well.

camp display

While this close I had to visit the national cemetery at Camp Nelson.

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If you’ve never been to a national cemetery you’ll most likely not understand what I’m about to describe.
” I stand on this hallowed ground, this field of unrealized dreams, so that I may give my respect to those that gave their dreams that I might dream and live free.” ~~ Dan ~~

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Thanks for dropping by, leave us a comment or two so we know you’ve been here with us.

Until next time, Layla and I hope you …

“Get out, be safe, and go adventure”

In just a few days we’ll be headed to Tumbling Creek for the weekend.

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