Another summer has passed and it is time to taste the four barrels of Bourbon Bill Thomas and I had Kentucky Artisan Distillery (KAD) make for us. The barrels will be three years old on January 4, 2021 but this is the third summer in the wood. It is summer when most of the activity in the barrel takes place as the heat of the day forces evaporation and increased pressure in the barrel that forces the whiskey into the wood. When the temperature drops at night and the barrels cool down, the pressure decreases and some of the whiskey comes out of the wood, bringing with it the flavors of caramel, vanilla and oak.

Rosemary and I travelled to the distillery on a sunny afternoon on the last day of September. Jade Peterson, the Master Distiller, met us in the gift shop. We were waiting on Maggie Kimberl to arrive so we walked back into the distillery to see the new column still and thumper they recently installed. It is a beauty and the new still has increased their production capability quite a bit. In fact they can distill more than they can ferment at this point, so don’t be surprised to see additional fermenters in the future. Maggie arrived while we were checking out the distillery so we headed out to taste the barrels.

KAD has expanded their warehousing every year. The first year, our barrels were in warehouse “A” and they were building a second warehouse. The second year, the barrels were in warehouse “B” and they were building a third warehouse. This year the barrels were in warehouse “C” and they are building another warehouse. The barrels are on two barrel racks that can be moved with forklifts. The only changes in position is that every March, Jade switches the bottom rack to the top. The other big change is obviously moving the barrels to a different warehouse. This movement has likely agitated the whiskey in the barrel as it is moved along the dirt road between warehouses.

We started with pulling a sample from barrel 4. It was a favorite last year when we tasted the whiskey. It has gotten even better with lots of notes of ripe apple, caramel and chocolate. We then decided to go in reverse order and tasted barrel 3. This was a real cinnamon bomb with notes of caramel corn and cinnamon red hots candies. Barrel 2 was a little more tannic with notes of chocolate and cinnamon spice. Barrel 1 was chocolate, ripe apples, cinnamon, caramel corn and oak. It got better the more it sat and opened up. All four barrels are different and very good Bourbons in different ways.

Bill and I discussed bottling these barrels as bonded whiskey. I guess Bill and I need to have a discussion about whether to bottle them as individual single barrels or as a single small batch. I will say that marrying all four whiskeys together does make a superb Bourbon that in many ways, tastes better than the individual barrels. Fortunately, we have one more fall tasting before we need to make that decision. Hopefully by the time next fall arrives, the pandemic will be over and I will be able to invite some people along to taste this whiskey who can help us make this decision. Lisa Wicker is the first person that comes to mind and Dave Scheurich is another.

This adventure is over halfway finished. It is a fun project that I believe will produce some very unique bottles of whiskey, no matter how we end up bottling it. I know it will give me yet another reason to visit Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington D.C. Maybe the name on the label should simply be “Jack Rose Special Reserve” since that is going to be the only place that will carry this Bourbon. Another great reason to visit Jack Rose Dining Saloon.

(Read more about this project here: part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4)