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Issue 75 - Festival time

Whisky Magazine Issue 75
October 2008


This article is 9 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Festival time

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is normally a safe bet.This year,though, there was an unusual excitement to it,too. Dominic Roskrow reports.

There are many words to describe the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, but ‘evolutionary',‘progressive'and ‘dynamic'would not normally be among them.

In Bardstown they pride themselves on tradition and consistency and they don't fix what ain't broken.So in any given year you can pretty much rely on the barrel rolling competitions, the cigars and jazz evening, the cook offs and the grand Gala, which wraps everything up on the Saturday night.

But this year was different.

Perhaps it was the influx of guests down for the Ryder Cup in Louisville;perhaps it was the political backdrop of a looming election; or perhaps a devil-maycare recklessness stimulated by the rocky economic landscape.But this year there was a frisson, an electric under-pulse that I like to think is due to the growing feeling that Kentucky's bourbon industry is undergoing a transformation of epic proportions and repositioning itself off the bottom shelf.

For the producers in Kentucky this requires a delicate balancing act. On the one hand it would be bad business not to service the demand for special bottlings and rarer bourbons. On the other, they need to stay true to their loyal consumer base, much of it used to paying low prices for their whiskey.

To do both means supporting the popular brands while taking the opportunity to put small batch and single cask offerings out when the opportunity arises.

This idea was best on show at Heaven Hill,where a new single cask offering by the name of William Heavenhil...

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