Whiskey heaven

Whiskey heaven

It was show time in Kentucky and Damian Riley-Smith found it very much to his taste.

Awards & Events | 16 Dec 1999 | Issue 7 | By Damian Riley-Smith

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The newcomer to Kentucky may be forgiven for thinking he had come to whiskey heaven – for indeed he has. Arriving at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville at 11pm would, for many, be the time to try out its fabulous four poster beds. But not during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. The Seelbach was playing host to chefs from throughout the Hilton Group in the US who were making final preparations for the presentation at the gala dinner on Saturday night.And so, being from out of town, the only hospitality deemed suitable was a late-night bourbon whiskey tasting. Informal and educational, Adam Seger, director of restaurants, and Max Allen, the great bartender of Louisville, brought the Whisky Magazine team up to speed in no time at all. Pappy Van Winkle’s Old Rip and Woodford Reserve were just a part of this detailed introduction to Bourbon County’s finest. This, the eighth Kentucky Bourbon Festival, brought together all the best ingredients that make the drink special: great people (who make it, mature it and market it), wonderful places (the lush fields and hills of Kentucky) and
fantastic flavours.The festival attracted visitors from throughout the Americas and across the world. Whether barrel-making, visiting the Oscar Getz Whiskey Museum, listening to jazz or buying at auction, the tasting of bourbon was never very far away.The focal point of the festival is Bardstown, on the lawns outside Spalding Hall. Here craftsmen, folk artists, barrel-makers, and, of course, the whiskey producers displayed a range of wares, sheltered under canopies from the still-searing Kentucky sun.
And if you attended the Great Bourbon Tasting and Gala on Saturday then you realised that tasting was the reason for being. Each distillery presented its range of whiskeys, and there can be no better way of trying and comparing them all than in such
close proximity. Whisky Magazine was delighted to be able to present a copy of Issue 6, to every guest at the event, and enjoyed the welcome hospitality from Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Barton Brands, Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace, Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, Old Forester, Old Rip Van Winkle and Woodford Reserve. The three-course dinner, with bourbon available at all times, was rounded off with an electrifying band. And an event of the scale of the festival needs an army of operators behind the scenes. It was no mean feat for the main organiser, Dell Courtney, the director, to be seen at midnight rolling posters for all the guests. Hospitality does not come much better than this.
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