Leiper’s Fork has long been a tourist destination for residents and visitors to Nashville with its laid back country vibe, idyllic setting, and celebrity draw. If you’re heading to Leiper’s Fork to check out Puckett’s Grocery’s open mic night or for breakfast at the Country Boy restaurant, you need to drive a little further down the road to check out Leiper’s Fork Distillery. Brought back to life by proprietor and master distiller Lee Kennedy, Leiper’s Fork Distillery is a sight to behold and is worth the trip to see the buildings and grounds even if you are not into whiskey.
Just about every year on Thanksgiving after the family gatherings had all but died down, the football is about over, and the kids are fast asleep, I load up in a pick-up truck with my bourbon hunting brother to camp out in front of Midtown Corkdorks in Nashville for a shot at an allocated bottle of whiskey. I’m one of those guys. Crazy enough to brave the elements to pick up something that is worth way less than the time and energy spent acquiring it. Before I had developed relationships in the retail world, this was one of my best shots at getting a top shelf bottle. My first bottle of Eagle Rare 17 came from showing up in time to be #4 in the queue. I managed a bottle of NAS Black Maple Hill several years ago for a cool $40. If only I had known people would pay $400 today for it, I wouldn’t have drunk half that bottle over the past several years.
So The Whiskey Wash reported yesterday the acquisition of Kentucky Owl by Stoli Group USA, parent company S.P.I. Group. I’m not a real journalist I just play one online, but after surfing around on all of the S.P.I. Group related websites; this appears to be the first whiskey related brand for the company based in Luxembourg. That is saying something considering S.P.I. Group owns over 300 brands. Stoli group is best known for flavored vodka, not a “super-premium bourbon” as their press release describes Kentucky Owl. I like the Kentucky Owl that I have tried. It’s good. It’s overpriced for what it is, but it is good. One problem for me is that Stoli Group USA plans to take this from 15-20 barrels per batch that are sourced and aged distillate to national and international distribution. Where in the world are they going to find that much “super-premium bourbon” you may ask?
About two years ago, I was given a beautiful, hand-blown glass decanter from a family member as a gift. I placed the decanter on top of the whiskey cabinet, and for a while, it sat there empty. I wasn’t exactly sure what to put in it. Do I dress up a bottom shelf bottle by emptying it into the glass display or is a top shelf whiskey a better choice? I just couldn’t decide. A friend suggested that I pour an ounce or two from all the new bottles opened in 2015 into the decanter and let it all mingle together as an experiment. So that’s what I did. Not every bottle that I opened in 2015 was taxed, but every new bottle under about $100 retail made its way into the decanter experiment. I opened nineteen different varieties over the course of the year. After I had filled it, the decanter sat for an additional four months.
While Bardstown may be the epicenter of bourbon, Nashville is quickly emerging as a destination for good whiskey. Jack Daniels and George Dickel distilleries are a short drive south and some established and brand new craft distilleries popping up around the corner from the Broadway honky tonks. If you haven’t visited Nashville, you’re missing out. On October 1st, the Nashville Whiskey Festival presented by Midtown Wine & Spirits kicks off at the Omni Hotel in Downtown Nashville.
It’s Bourbon Heritage Month and my favorite time of the year with fall releases right around the corner. Hunting is a little less enjoyable these days since most of the good stuff never reaches the store shelves. But I am pretty stubborn and enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
My bourbon hunting partner in crime and I recently trekked through half the country on a bourbon hunt in hopes of scientifically cataloging the midsection of America’s liquor stores. I aspired to be able to report back to you in painstaking detail the number of retail stores that will shelf the allocated bottles from those that raffle or even sell at secondary pricing. I even have an excel spreadsheet where I logged notes on store picks, pricing, selection, etc. We visited over 150 liquor stores. At about 75 store visits we stopped logging data and quite frankly I stopped caring about the painstaking detail. Rather than bore you all with statistics, I thought you would much prefer to know the top stops along our epic and exhausting journey. If you really want to see the detail, follow me on Instagram or Twitter and DM me (@mattaself).
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Baseball season is back in full force, and my Chicago Cubs are looking pretty good. I have been a baseball fan for about three decades. I collected baseball cards as a kid, and I amassed what I assume to be the greatest collection of Ryne Sandberg baseball cards on the face of the planet. I still have them, tucked under my bourbon bunker.
The value of my baseball cards is only sentimental at this point. In the late 1980s, baseball card demand grew to epic proportions and the card companies were rushing to catch up. There were new producers, limited edition releases, and elite offerings. Rather than keeping cards in an old cigar box, the quality of the cards became linked to their market value, and we started putting cards in plastic sleeves. One nick and the trade or sale value plummeted.