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Issue 88 - From Akons to Oak Barrels

Whisky Magazine Issue 88
June 2010


This article is 8 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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From Akons to Oak Barrels

It might not seem the most obvious of pairings but as Charles K. Cowdery discovers, pig and whiskey is a match made in heaven.

For Chuck Talbot, a retired agriculture professor who once worked for Heifer International, it is all about sustainable agriculture. For Nic Heckett, a former financier, it is all about producing an American ham to rival the great hams of Europe such as Spain's Jamón Serrano and Iberico, Italy's Prosciutto Crudo, and Germany's Black Forest. For your correspondent, it was a chance to eat pig and drink whiskey in the sylvan splendour of western West Virginia in springtime.

Black Oak Holler Farm is not in Kentucky, but you can't tell. By appearances, it could easily be the countryside around Loretto, in Marion County, where the Maker's Mark Distillery is located.

The Kentucky border is about 25 miles west, as the crow flies.

Topography here is somewhere between hills and mountains, what Kentuckians call knobs. Even knobs have hollows, written and pronounced locally as ‘holler,' where a little flat land beside a stream is pinched between two steep, wooded slopes. That describes Black Oak Holler Farm, which consists of a small house, more than 200 acres of rolling, wooded land, and lots of pork on the hoof.

The forest here is oak and hickory, important for the pigs' diet.

Oaks from this region are harvested to make bourbon whiskey barrels.

As whiskey-related tourism grows in Kentucky and Tennessee, many in the region foresee it becoming like California's Napa Valley, with sophisticated locavore cuisine to complement the locallymade drink. There was nothing like that in Ke...

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