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Jim and I took The Bourbon Road down to Bardstown via the Blue Grass Parkway and were greeted with open arms by Dan Callaway (Assistant VP of Customer Relations) and Mark Erwin (CEO). We met in the gift shop where shelves are not only lined with their bourbon, but also products of their collaborative partners.
The excitement and passion at Bardstown Bourbon Company is almost overwhelming. Just like the frontiersman that settled in Kentucky, this distillery is forging its own way forward. While honoring the traditions of the past, they also push the limits of innovation with their state of art distillery. With open doors and glass walls, they ensure full transparency with no smoke and mirrors.
Neither of these guys are your traditional bourbon gents with roots in the industry. Dan or “Danny Bardstown” as most know him, comes from the music world where he was a master of the french horn with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. How does a guy like this get all the way from New Orleans to Kentucky? A girl of course! His wife is a bluegrass girl and he followed his heart.
Today Dan focuses on customer relations and is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers to boot. That’s a long ways from the old french horn, but this guy truly knows his stuff. He describes our first pour making it sound like its liquid gold. My mouth is watering as Dan continues to introduce and describe Fusion Series #2.
Fusion #2 is a true Kentucky Straight Bourbon blended from three different bourbons. The mash bills are printed right on the bottle showing that they are truly transparent in all they do. This is a blend of 18% Bardstown Bourbon Company 3 year Wheated Kentucky Bourbon, 42% 2 year 10 month Bardstown Bourbon Company High Rye Kentucky bourbon and 40% 2 year sourced Kentucky Bourbon. The blend creates a smooth and complex pour that gives you a whole new take on bourbon. With floral notes, delicate vanilla and just a hint of oak on the nose. The first sip is almost like a sweet tart apple with just that little bit of baking spices on the back end.
Mark, a retired U.S. Army Colonel with over 26 years of service is also new to Kentucky and the world of bourbon. While he is no stranger to drinking it, he by chance got the opportunity to buy 50 barrels of Bardstown Bourbon Company Bourbon for an investment. Wow, did this guy strike gold or what? He soon found himself positioned to take over as President and CEO. With his successful service background in Army Special Operations you would think he is well suited for the task at hand.
Mark tells us that he expects his staff to think and make decisions for themselves. They seem to love the new CEO and his one team one fight attitude.
Getting back to the bourbon, Dan eloquently describes Discovery Series #2. A delectable blend of 10 year (44%), 12 year (39%) and 14 year (12%) Kentucky bourbons. At 121.21 proof, have no doubt that this is a well aged bourbon blend. With a burst of cinnamon and complex notes of leather and oak, the first sip finishes with a rich flavor just begging you to take another.
Dan and Mark let us know what’s in store for visitors in the future. They will have six rick houses shortly with another three planned. The possibility of a boutique hotel to go along their very successful Bottled and Bond Restaurant will give visitors on The Bourbon Trail a true Napa Valley experience. The BBC has put together a diverse and capable team. With Steve Nally as their Master Distiller and Chef John Castro as Executive Director of Culinary Operations, they seem to have stacked the deck to ensure success.
Their visitor experience is second to none. They have a varied offering of tour options, but the one that grabbed our attention offers a visit to the rick house where you thief bourbon right from the barrel. As far as they know, nowhere else offers this at this time. They will even have a VIP club called the Rick House Bar. This place just keeps getting better.
As we finish up our interview they offer us their Barrel-Aged Old-Fashioned. It is a house blend of Fusion #1, bitters, cane sugar, eucalyptus, garden roses and orange peel. This concoction is aged up to 9 months in a 53 gallon bourbon barrel. This might be one of the best old-fashioned cocktails out there.
We pack-up our gear and take it to the truck for the trip back home. But, before leaving we head back inside to eat at Bottled and Bond Kitchen. We’ll be back soon to do an interview with Chef John Castro and his team, so be looking for that episode in the near future.
For now, just grab yourself a glass and pour a little whiskey. Kick back and sip away as The Bourbon Road takes a trip into the future of Kentucky distillers with Bardstown Bourbon Company.
Mike (Big Chief)