What Master Distillers Say About Mixing Bourbon

Does a master distiller cringe if he or she sees someone mix soda with their spirits? Is there a wrong way to drink bourbon?

For the most part, they’re just happy you enjoy their product. Here are a few quotes from some of the best on how they suggest you drink it.

Fred Noe, Jim Beam

“Any damn way you please.” More at JimBeam.com.

“There’s no right way or wrong way to drink bourbon,” he said. “And anybody tells ya any goddamn different is full of shit.” More from Supercall.com.

Jim Rutledge, Four Roses

When I was first asked how I mix Four Roses bourbon in a cocktail, my immediate response was, “It does improve the taste of ice.” More from Imbibe.com.

Chris Morris, Woodford Reserve

“What I also love to do is, as we travel, go to a new restaurant or an old favorite — and to see your brand in a new cocktail that they’ve invented using Woodford Reserve, you’ve always got to try that drink. And you discover some great drinks. So I’m open to trying our product in a lot of different ways.” More from GearPatrol.com.

Marianne Barnes, Castle & Key

“Drink it however you like it,” says master distiller Marianne Barnes. “Bourbon purists would shame you for putting bourbon in Coke, but if that’s how you’re going to start to develop an appreciation for the flavors, maybe you start there and then move into some craft cocktails, maybe try a nice old fashioned, and move into a neat pour from there.” More from CNN.com.

Elmer T. Lee, Buffalo Trace

When asked, “what would you get if you mixed this bourbon with Coke?” Lee replied, “You’d get a damn good bourbon and Coke.” More from CharlestonCityPaper.com.

Drew Kulsveen, Willett

“Most of the time I drink it neat. I do enjoy a good cocktail every once in a while. A whiskey sour is my favorite cocktail followed by a Boulevardier. But most of the time it’s neat.” More from GearPatrol.com.

Want to ask them yourself? Talk to someone on the Mint Julep Tours team about setting up an exclusive experience at one of Kentucky’s legendary distilleries during a Custom Tour.

Bourbon’s Best Ambassador – Wild Turkey’s Jimmy Russell

Bourbon’s Best Ambassador – Wild Turkey’s Jimmy Russell

Distiller Jimmy Russell talks about bourbonOn a recent sunny afternoon at the Wild Turkey Visitor’s center, a guest and bourbon enthusiast was idly browsing the gift shop when he suddenly spotted Jimmy Russell. One of bourbon’s most recognizable faces was quietly perched in his usual spot – a tall stool right next to the far window. The excited guest dashed as fast as he could over to the stool in hopes of getting a photo, signature on a bottle or maybe an opportunity to chat with what passes as the equivalent of Kentucky bourbon royalty. As he approached Jimmy with an outstretched hand he said, “Mr. Russell, I don’t know whether to congratulate you on your recent milestone at Wild Turkey or your induction into the Hall of Fame!”

Jimmy flashed his wide signature grin and warmly replied “Thanks” with the slight southern drawl that comes from spending a lifetime in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. In that moment, Jimmy looked slightly bemused at the attention and, frankly, a little humbled. After all, in the remarkable 62 years since he first walked through the door at Ripy Brothers distillery (the Wild Turkey name would come later), he has likely seen it all, done most of it and won nearly every accolade that the industry has to offer. In fact, when he was honored with the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame on September 14th, it was actually his second time as an inductee. The first came as a charter member of the Hall of Fame fifteen years ago. After all, there are Master Distillers, then there are Bourbon Legends, and then there is Jimmy Russell.

Celebrating “The Buddha of Bourbon”

As guests approach the Wild Turkey Distillery, they are treated to an amazing view of the Kentucky River, the distillery and warehouses atop a nearby hill, and a giant billboard installed in 2014 that invites you to “See the House that Jimmy Built.” The bourbon community is notorious for embellishing already tall tales and manufacturing over-the-top lore around historical figures such as Elijah Craig, George Remus and Cassius Clay (not that Cassius Clay). But all would agree that, in this case, it’s not overstating things to say that Jimmy Russell is largely responsible for the success of the Wild Turkey brand today.

On September 9th, 1954, Jimmy walked in the front door of the Ripy Brothers distillery and started as a quality control employee. Jimmy was looking to join the family trade by signing on to one of the four area bourbon distilleries in Lawrenceburg – Ripy Brothers, Old Joe, Old Prentice (today known as Four Roses), and Hoffman Distillery. Under Jimmy’s watchful eye as Master Distiller, a title he’s carried since the late 1960’s, Wild Turkey has grown from filling less than 80 bourbon barrels a day to nearly 600. Today there are over 600,000 barrels aging in over two dozen warehouses across the distillery grounds on the eastern edge of Anderson County. The brand’s line up has expanded from the ever faithful Wild Turkey 101, the only product offered up until the mid-1980’s, to nearly a dozen brands today.

A Wild Turkey by any other name…

A toast with master distiller and whiskey legend Jimmy RussellJimmy has seen four different ownership groups come and go. In this latest era of Wild Turkey, much of the growth has been facilitated by Campari Groups who purchased the distillery from Pernod Riccard in 2009. From the distillery building to the bottling room, staff is working overtime to keep pace with international demand for Wild Turkey in places like Japan and Australia. But Jimmy will be the first one to tell you that as much as things have changed at Wild Turkey, a great deal has stayed the exact same. For example, the staff beams with pride when talking about how the exact same yeast strain has been used for their bourbons for over 60 years. Wild Turkey also shuns GMO grains for traditionally grown corn and rye. There is no more precious word to the seasoned Master Distiller than “consistency”.

These days, Jimmy Russell has a little family help in distilling. His son Eddie Russell works closely with his father as Co-Master Distiller, a role to which he was promoted in 2015. As a boy who once grew up using the giant warehouses as his own personal playground, Eddie started at the distillery in 1981 by mowing lawns. The younger Russell, who likes to joke that he started practically yesterday, has been working at the distillery a mere 35 years. Eddie was honored in June for his service with a tool any distillery worker would drool over – a brand new copper whiskey thief from Vendome Copper and Brass Works. While the duo may not be the only active father/son combo in the bourbon industry, their nearly 100 years of combined experience under their collective belts makes them the most tenured.

Aging to perfection and showing no signs of slowing down

Jimmy Russell poses with a bottle of bourbonTwo years ago, the marketing folks at Wild Turkey decided to declare 2014 “The Year of Jimmy Russell.” A special Diamond Anniversary Bourbon with a high price tag was issued to commemorate this special milestone. But don’t mistake the celebration for a public ease into retirement. At nearly 82 years old, Jimmy still prefers to work six to seven days a week. As he’s fond of saying when asked, “I tell people when it becomes a job, I’ll retire.” It’s hard to miss Jimmy’s image today; his face is plastered on just about everything related to Wild Turkey except the label on the bottle. And, even then, the Russell name adorns their small batch collection “Russell’s Reserve.”

Back at the Wild Turkey visitor’s center, Jimmy was still in the chair hours later signing bottles with his silver Sharpie and answering questions from every angle of the Bourbon spectrum. Each question earned a thoughtful response, with Jimmy speaking slowly and deliberately. As the crowd around him grew, he poses for photo after photos. Three guests huddle in close and one ordered the group to, “Say Whiskey!” Jimmy Russell, flashing his big grin, says, “No, that’s Tennessee! We do bourbon around here. Say Bourbon!”

Mint Julep Tours offers an exclusive experience at the Wild Turkey Distillery as part of a Custom Tour. Guests visit a barrel warehouse where they receive a brief history and are shown the aging process, then travel to the Station Master’s House for a private tasting. Call 502-583-1433 or visit us online today to get more information on this custom tour experience.

Written by Phil Kollin – Mint Julep Tours Driver & Guide 

 

Heaven Hill Distilleries and Mint Julep Tours Announce Heaven & Evan Tour

Enjoy the Heaven & Evan Tour
From Bardstown to Louisville with Heaven Hill Distilleries and Mint Julep Tours

May 5, 2015 Louisville, KY – Having a well-rounded, palette-pleasing bourbon experience doesn’t have to take an entire day. Bourbon lovers can now sign up for Heaven & Evan, a unique exclusive tour and tasting experience organized by Mint Julep Tours. The experience transports you from downtown Louisville to nearby Bardstown and back in just five and a half hours, making it the perfect option for people looking to maximize their time.

For just $175 per person, you have the opportunity to visit two staples of The Kentucky Bourbon Trail—Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, Kentucky, and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville. Along the way, you will interact with master distillers and taste some of the world’s finest bourbons, including some that are exclusive to each of the properties.

Heaven & Evan will take place on Friday, June 19 and Friday, September 25. On both dates, the event begins at 4 p.m. and ends at approximately 9:30 p.m.

The unforgettable experience begins at The Galt House, where Mint Julep Tours will pick you up and transport you to Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center. Once there, you can whet your appetite with heavy appetizers and specialty cocktails before partaking in an intimate bourbon tasting held inside a working rickhouse of America’s largest independent, family-owned producer of bourbon. Master Distiller Denny Potter will lead the tasting, which will include Larceny and William Heaven Hill Bottled-In-Bond, a product available exclusively at the Bourbon Heritage Center. While inside the rickhouse, guests will also be given the rare opportunity to pull and taste Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old Bourbon straight from a barrel utilizing a Whiskey Thief.

“We are excited to partner with Mint Julep Tours to showcase each of the Heaven Hill visitor centers featured on the world famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail®.  Through the Heaven & Evan event, guests will not only develop a deeper knowledge and appreciation for our native spirit, but they will also be provided with a unique opportunity to interact with distillers one-on-one, and enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience complete with behind-the-scenes access and offerings that are not typically available to the public,” stated Larry Kass, Director of Trade Relations for Heaven Hill.

After your experience at the Bourbon Heritage Center, Mint Julep Tours will transport you back to Louisville to the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. There, inside the Prohibition-Era Speakeasy Lounge, guests will be treated to additional heavy appetizers, desserts and specialty cocktails. Artisanal Distiller Charlie Downs will lead a bourbon tasting that includes Evan Williams Single Barrel and two premium offerings: Evan Williams 12-Year-Old, a new product available exclusively at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, and Evan Williams 23-Year-Old, which normally retails for $289 per bottle.

The night wraps with a guided tour of the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, during which everyone will get the opportunity to sign a barrel of bourbon. As a keepsake, guests will receive a complimentary specialty-labeled bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel signed by Master Distiller Denny Potter and Artisanal Distiller Charlie Downs.

Guests will be transported back to The Galt Hotel via a tour bus at 9:30 p.m. Heaven & Evan is limited to 23 guests per night, making it an intimate experience that any bourbon lover will not soon forget. Learn more: http://mintjuleptours.com/exclusive-experiences/

For more information, visit: www.mintjuleptours.com, call 502-583-1433 or email info@mintjuleptours.com.

Heaven & Evan Distillery Tours