Welcoming Louisville’s Angel’s Envy Distillery to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®

Welcoming Louisville’s Angel’s Envy Distillery to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®

On a recent Monday afternoon, reporters, camera crews, politicians and members of Kentucky’s bourbon industry all gathered on Main Street in downtown Louisville across the street from Slugger Field to celebrate another bourbon milestone. The excitement was palpable. For many, this was the first visit to the Angel’s Envy Distillery since it had opened for operation and tours late last year. It was hard to believe that this gorgeous distillery, the result of a $27 million dollar multi-year project, was the same massive building that had housed the empty shell of The Vermont American Tool Company for decades. The big news of the day was that Angel’s Envy had officially joined The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® becoming the 10th member distillery to join since 1999.

Mayor Greg Fischer took the podium and spoke enthusiastically of continuing to strengthen Louisville’s place as the gateway to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®. The distillery is the first new bourbon brand to join the program in over two years since The Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience came onboard in 2014. The announcement comes on the heels of yet another record year for attendance for distilleries. In 2016, visitors eager to take part in the modern bourbon boom logged over 1,000,000 stops at distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour ®. With the addition of an Angel’s Envy (and the expansion of the Bourbon Trail Passports to include another page eager for a stamp) that number that is likely to increase.

The excitement for a permanent home for Angel’s Envy has been building for years. The massive facility underwent a long, enormous transformation that started with a groundbreaking by then Governor Steve Beshear in September 2013. But before that, the brand itself captured the attention of whiskey aficionados and casual sippers in 2011 when Angel’s Envy entered the market offering an intriguing industry first: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that had been finished in port wine barrels for several weeks. The stunning glass bottle curved like a pair of angel’s wings certainly helped capture some eyeballs as well. Today the distillery offers tours, tastings, a gift shop and a chance to take home a bottle of their Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Rye (uniquely finished in rum barrels) and Cask Strength Bourbon. As an added bonus, guests can even personalize their bourbon with a date, message or name engraved on the bottle. Finally, a whiskey named after you!

A tour of Angel’s Envy takes you through a distillery that is modern, industrial and beautiful in its simplicity. Knowledgeable guides, many of whom have extensive experience with bourbon, proudly show off every step of the distilling process from the mash tanks, to the gorgeous Vendome still and the unique finishing room. Along the way, century-old walls are adorned with graphics regarding the art and science of distilling. The distillery is open for tours Wednesday through Monday from 10:00 AM (1:00 PM on Sundays) with the last tour at 4:00 PM. Note that tour groups are usually limited to a smaller size than other distilleries, so booking online in advance is requested. Like other stops on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®, Angel’s Envy offers their own signature experience and unique take on America’s native spirit. And, of course, each tour ends with a guided tasting on the second-floor bar area. After all, what would a bourbon tour be without a bourbon tasting? As we enter a new era for Louisville distilleries not seen in over 95 years since the days before prohibition, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson summed up his new home on Main Street best: “I think we have a special place…as one of the only full production facilities downtown. But we’re just one piece of an incredible pie.”

As one of Kentucky’s top destination management company, Mint Julep Tours can create the perfect itinerary for your bourbon Adventure. A stop to Angel’s Envy can be added to any personal custom tour Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online today to begin planning your adventure and get more information on custom experiences

Written by Phil Kollin – Mint Julep Tours Driver & Guide 

Toasting to Bourbon Pioneer George Garvin Brown on his Birthday

 

Toasting to Bourbon Pioneer George Garvin Brown on his Birthday

You probably won’t find too many parents who settle on “Garvin” when naming their children, but that name has a long history and a deep connection with bourbon lore. If you’ve ever enjoyed a single drop of straight bourbon whiskey in your life, you likely owe a bit of gratitude to George Garvin Brown – the man who is credited with revolutionizing the way Americans bought and consumed bourbon in the 1870s. 

9-6-16-blog-post-3A bourbon innovation that was clear as glass.

George Garvin Brown celebrated a milestone birthday this past Friday – The big 170. Born in 1846, he was contemporaries with other notable historic figures born that year such as Buffalo Bill Cody, George Westinghouse and, ironically, radical temperance movement champion Carrie Nation. Of course, Brown is long gone, but whiskey aficionados celebrate his birthday every year. Before Brown came along, distillers sold their whiskey exclusively by the barrel. And since most weren’t keen on the idea of buying upwards of 40 gallons of alcohol at once, many consumers brought their own jugs from home to fill directly from retailer’s barrels. In order to extend supply, less-than-scrupulous saloons and bars were known to add everything from prune juice to tobacco spit to rattlesnake heads to help fill up the jugs. “Rectifying” barrels in this manner was a common practice that allowed retailers to achieve the ideal coloring and consistency without the cost of adding more bourbon.

At the time, George Garvin Brown was a young Louisville-based pharmaceutical salesman. Glass bottles for packaging were a recent innovation and Brown saw potential for whiskey to be sold in pharmacies across the nation next to other medicines. George had a novel idea. A forward thinking idea that would turn the world of whiskey on its head: Put bourbon exclusively into glass bottles. Sealed bottles would assure quality and, 35 years before Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”, it was among the first steps in making sure consumers knew exactly what they were taking home. With this innovation, Old Forester bourbon was born, and an iconic brand was launched.

The beginnings of the Louisville based distillery that’s still growing today

Soon after Brown’s innovation, he partnered with another George – his accountant George Forman – and established “Brown-Forman and Company” in 1870, just five years before the first running of The Kentucky Derby. Fast forward 146 years to today and Brown’s company is among the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies in the world- an incredibly impressive feat since the list of failed Kentucky bourbon distilleries over that time period reads like a laundry list of long lost whiskey brands.

9-6-16-blog-post-2Fred Noe, Master Distiller of Jim Beam Brands, likes to joke that Kentucky is the land of four million people and ten last names. So it comes as no surprise that today you’ll find Brown’s descendants everywhere in the Bluegrass. Louisville’s Frazier History Museum was founded by Owsley Brown Frazier in 2004. And, just two blocks down Main Street, you’ll find the 21c Museum Hotel which is co-owned by Laura Lee Brown. In fact, the current Chairman of the Board of Directors at Brown-Forman is none other than George Garvin Brown IV – George’s great-great grandson.

Break out the cake, candles and rock glasses!

We celebrate Brown’s birthday in September pretty much the same way we celebrate a lot of things in Kentucky: with bourbon. For the last 15 years, Brown-Forman has released a beloved special edition of their flagship brand known as “Old Forester Birthday Bourbon.” The oddly shaped bottle has become a “must have” for whiskey lovers who sample, collect, and trade limited edition releases. Each batch is different, each year brings a unique offering, and each release has earned a reputation as being among the most elusive whiskey for those seeking to find it on liquor store shelves.

9-6-16-blog-post-1This year’s Old Forester Birthday Bourbon release was patiently aged for 12 years (three times as long as the standard Old Forester product) entirely on the 5th floor of a single warehouse. These barrels were filled and then placed near the windows of the warehouse allowing them to soak up the heat of the sun. Master Distiller Chris Morris expects roughly 14,500 bottles to be released. While this year’s release is a smidge larger than years past, The Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is relatively miniscule. It takes timing and luck to stumble across a bottle. Considering most of us are lucky to end up with a cupcake and an off-key serenading of “Happy Birthday”, that is one great way to celebrate a man’s birthday.

And, beyond limited bourbon releases, Brown-Forman continues to grow. Projected to open in late 2017 will be the newest edition to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail: A $45 million Old Forester Distillery located right on Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row steps from where George Garvin Brown began the company. And Brown-Forman, makers of Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniels, Early Times and several other liquor brands, is already planning a celebration for their 150th anniversary in 2020. Now, that looks to be a party that George Garvin Brown would approve of.

So, next time you find yourself near a glass of bourbon, raise it high for a well-deserved toast to the man who had the wherewithal to put all that pure bourbon into a convenient, glass bottle. And we also ask you to consider extending some overdue thanks by considering naming your next offspring “Garvin.” Cheers to George Garvin Brown!

Mint Julep Tours can arrange visits to Brown-Forman’s Woodford Reserve Distillery or Brown-Forman’s cooperage as part of any custom tour. Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online today to begin planning your adventure!

Vendome Copper & Brass Works – Crafting Custom Copper Stills for over 100 Years

Vendome Copper & Brass Works – Crafting custom copper stills for over 100 years

The smiling tour guide at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience stopped walking and gestured to a shining structure displayed prominently on the other side of the glass. “And this is our copper pot still,” she beamed proudly. “This critical component of our artisanal distillery can produce around a barrel of bourbon a day.” Her smile widened as her cheery tone took on just a hint of bragging. “And it was custom made just for us by the Vendome Company.” Similar scenes play out countless times across The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ® and beyond. One common name that you’ll find at more and more bourbon distilleries is the one that’s imprinted on the face of their stills, tanks and other distilling equipment: Louisville’s own Vendome Copper and Brass Works.

IMG_4624Vendome’s headquarters and manufacturing facility is a sprawling urban set up that is surprisingly easy to miss. Located just two blocks off busy Main Street and less than 300 feet from Thomas Edison’s 1866 Kentucky residence, Vendome Corp’s five buildings sit snugly between a city skate park and an imposing Ohio River Flood Wall. The manufacturer is almost always bustling with activity these days. The sound of constant hammering, pounding, and grinding of various components echoes across the street, while workers sporting shirts with the logo “The Power of Our Stills” move swiftly from one building to another. Beneath the downtown skyline, an open garage offers a sneak peek to half a dozen gorgeous, new copper stills of various sizes that are in various stages of completion. Business at Vendome is indeed good.

IMG_7037Building in-demand gear is nothing new to Vendome. The company was formed by W. Elmore Sherman, Sr. at the turn of the last century and has been family owned and operated for well over a hundred years. Vendome has had their share of challenges over their long history including significant downturns in whiskey production, The Great Flood of 1937, and even Prohibition. Over time and with some perseverance, the Sherman family name has become just as familiar among Bourbon aficionados as other industry lineages like the Beams, Samuels, and Boswells of the Independent Stave Company. Vendome’s prolonged success can be attributed to their craftsmanship, flexibility and service. Every single still is custom designed; no job is too big and no craft distillery’s needs are too small. Customers can even choose one of three different finishes for their still including an acid clean, satin finish or a labor-intensive high-polished mirror finish for that perfect distillery tour shine. Beyond visual appeal, copper has been the preferred metal since the time of even the earliest whiskey distillers. The copper generates a chemical reaction between the mash and the metal which pulls out unwanted sulfates and Sulfur. Today, new stills are regularly being installed at distilleries across the country. When The Old Taylor Distillery outside of Versailles, KY needed new equipment last summer as part of its ongoing complete restoration, Master Distiller Marianne Barnes commissioned Vendome. The result? A massive 24-inch copper column still coupled with a 375-gallon copper doubler. Today, far beyond The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Vendome’s copper stills can be found in Guatemala, Canada, Ireland and even Romania. And while Vendome may be best known for their stunning stills, the company also produces stainless steel fermenters, cookers, condensers, coolers, receiving tanks and more. It could be argued that Vendome can build just about everything you might need to start a distillery except the corn, rye, barley and yeast.

IMG_7016Vendome’s roster of clients over the years reads like a who’s who in the world of Bourbon and American Whiskey: Michter’s, Evan Williams, Jim Beam, Angel’s Envy, Maker’s Mark, Four Roses and Buffalo Trace just to name a few. Vendome’s customers further extend beyond alcohol to pharmaceutical companies, confectionary businesses and dairy operators. Today, the waiting list for a custom still may be close to a year. All of this has made Vendome one of the most in-demand brass and copper fabrication plants in the nation.

Next time you visit a bourbon distillery, be on the lookout for Vendome’s signature plaque on new and old gear. Beyond Kentucky’s beloved limestone filtered water and the charred oak barrels, one common element that an increasing number of distilleries are sharing is custom gear from Vendome Copper and Brass Works. And, just maybe, the robust copper construction and a century of craftsmanship could make the bourbon that ends up in the bottle taste a little bit better than others.

 

Vendome Brass and Copper Works is located at 729 East Franklin Street Louisville, KY 40202 and currently does not offer tours to the public. A visit to the exterior building of Vendome may be requested on a personalized, custom tour with Mint Julep Tours. Many of Vendome’s stills and other equipment can been viewed at distilleries on and off The Kentucky Bourbon Trail ®. Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online for more information and to book a tour today!