Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Monday, June 16, 2008

Whiskey river trip I

Some university colleagues and I embarked recently on a long planned trip to some bourbon distilleries across the river in Kentucky. We thought Willie Nelson's Whiskey River wouldd be a good theme song for us. We went in two cars with each having a designated sober driver just in case, although in the end we never had enough of the beverage to make us illegal.

Bourbon whiskey production has a long history in the Bluegrass State and each of the distilleries has a particular story to tell. They also each have a particular twist about their whiskey that they believe makes their potion special. Our first stop was at Four Roses distillery. One of the unique things about this was distillery was that the original buildings, constructed in 1910, were done in Spanish Mission style, common in California but unusual in Kentucky. For many decades, Four Roses was owned by a large Japanese company and sold its product exclusively in Japan. But in the early 2000s, they introduced theiir bourbon gradually across the United States. Four Roses's special production aspect is that none of their warehouses where the beverage is held while it is aging in thousands of barrels are over two stories, or about six barrels, high. Because temperature varies in tall warehouses, bourbon at the top where the temperatures are higher, matures faster. Low warehouses, Four Roses says, makes for a more uniform product.
At top, we begin the tour. A stack of whiskey barrels on display. We walk into the little laboratory where the whiskey is tested for quality. Then we walk through one of the newer parts of the distillery and at bottom is one of the huge vats bubbling away.


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