The American Queen Steamboat Company has a new riverboat – The American Duchess. In May she made her first Bourbon cruise from Cincinnati to Memphis. This cruise was different from the one in July for several reasons. First we travelled down the Ohio River instead of up river. This made the cruising speed 12 miles an hour instead of 8 miles an hour. Next the American Duchess is a smaller boat so there were only about 150 passengers instead of the Queen’s capacity of 400. Finally, I was the only onboard speaker due to the lack of cabin space for speakers. It was still a very enjoyable trip and there were many satisfied Bourbon fans who made the cruise.
The cruise started in Cincinnati on a Monday. Passengers started to arrive on Sunday and checked into the Hilton Netherland Hotel. They offered an excursion to the Creation Park before we left but Rosemary and I opted to stay at the hotel and explore the city some. Not far from the hotel is Straus Tobacconist. Rosemary and I walked over to enjoy a cigar from their well-stocked humidor. The place had comfortable seating and a friendly staff. A great place to while away some time while waiting to board the boat.
Our first stop on Tuesday was Madison Indiana. The river was high and filled with floating debris so the American Duchess did not reach its potential speed for safety reasons. This would remain true until we reached the Mississippi River. There was a tour to Buffalo Trace and I gave the first part of my Bourbon history series of talks.
I spent river cruising time with a cigar in the smoking area but Rosemary and I also enjoyed some time on the Sun Deck. The food was excellent and the wine choice with the meal (included with the trip) were very good. Rosemary made some notes during this trip about the bottles and purchased one as a birthday gift for a friend.
The following day we arrived in Louisville. The tours included Churchill Downs, and of course the hop on–hop off bus of downtown Louisville made access to The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Peerless Distillery and Angel’s Envy Distillery an easy excursion. Rosemary and I stayed on board enjoying the Manhattans from the boat’s three bartenders. We had arranged for a contest amongst the bartenders with the prize being an engraved cocktail shaker donated by Michter’s Distillery. Ginny Thompson was one of the bartenders and the favorite going into this contest, as she had won last year on the American Queen Bourbon cruise and again, when Rosemary and I cruised the Mississippi on the American Duchess this past January.
Thursday was a stop in Bandenburg. Rosemary opted to take the tour to Maker’s Mark leaving me to my own resources on the boat. Passengers were offed trips to Jim Beam and an Abraham Lincoln themed tour available, but I spent most of my time with a cigar and a drink on the deck by the paddlewheel enjoying the warm weather. Todd Goldberg, the bartender at the River Club & Terrace bar next to the smoking area served me a couple examples of his Manhattan. I also tried a Manhattan made by the third bartender on the boat, Tyler Boynton.
Friday was a river cruising day and I was put back to work giving the second part of my Bourbon history series. Before we reached Paducah we held the Manhattan contest. We had recruited another Manhattan fan from the passengers and the three of us tasted a Manhattan from each bartender. It was a unanimous decision and the coveted shaker went to Tyler. The day was warm and Rosemary and I spent quite a few hours on the Sun Deck. The passengers also received a copy of the second edition of the Bourbon Tasting Notebook so I spent some time signing books as I enjoyed a cigar by the paddlewheel.
The next day we pulled into Paducah. Rosemary and I walked into town to visit the Paducah Cigar Company where she purchased amongst other things an Arturo Fuente “Eye of the Shark” cigar. We walked down the road to the Silent Brigade Distillery. We had a pleasant talk with the young lady minding the shop but were disappointed that the Distiller was out running errands. We returned to the boat in time for me to do a Bourbon and food pairing showing how different foods change the flavor of the Bourbon. The tasting was Old Forester and Maker’s Mark Bourbons and the foods included dried fruits (apricots, raisins, figs, dates), mixed nuts, and dark chocolate.
We left that night and woke up in Hickman, Kentucky on Saturday. There was an excursion to the Discovery Park of America in the morning but that afternoon we were back on the river. I gave the final part of my Bourbon history series and spent some time with friends on the deck by the paddle wheel with a cigar and a cocktail. The next morning would see us in Memphis. We left the boat by 8:00 AM and took the bus to the airport where we flew home. It was a great experience and a fun trip. I am looking forward to the July Bourbon cruise on the American Queen and hope they invite me back for future Bourbon cruises on the American Duchess.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller