Recently, I was given the opportunity to Attend the 29th annual Alltech International Symposium, in Lexington, Kentucky. It was such a great opportunity, I simply couldn’t say “no”. It would, no doubt, be an adventure.
Now, I’ve got a confession to make.
I’m scared of bourbon, whiskey and scotch. Those spirits haunt me. You see them on television as the drink of choice, or so it seems. Myself, I’ve always been a vodka, tequila, or rum kind of girl. I understand them. Vodka has very little flavor (unless infused), tequila is a must have in margaritas, and when in the Islands, who doesn’t enjoy rum?
So, what does this have to do with Alltech?
Among the many branches of their business is their very own brewery and distillery.
While I was in Lexington, I was able to tour their brewery/distillery facility and I get to share my experience with you!
Personally, I’ve always wanted an an answer to the following question:
“What’s the difference between bourbon and whiskey or whiskey and scotch?”
Never fear, I have the 411 and pictures to go with!
The tour was a walking tour, that departed from the Hyatt in Lexington. Our fearless leader, Nathan Canavera, the brand manager for Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company, led us to the brewery/distillery. As an aside, Nathan is awesome and really LOVES his job.
The tour opened with a brief video from Dr. Pearse Lyons, the Founder and President of Alltech, giving us an introduction to the company and the mission of the brewery/distillery.
Here’s the bottling room:
Big brew tanks:
Our passionate guide, Annie, had lots of amazing information for us!
The brewery crafts 5 beers: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout, Kentucky Ale, Kentucky Ale Light, and Kentucky IPA.
Bourbon Barrel Ale, is actually placed in Bourbon Barrels from another local distillery (see photo below), shortly after those barrels are emptied, and that gives the beer a very distinct flavor and a higher-than-regular-beer alcohol content. I can’t lie. I’m kind of in love with Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.
Once through the brewery portion of the tour, it was time to get down to the nitty gritty process of making bourbon, and whiskey. Or in other words, my questions were about to be answered.
In order to be considered a bourbon the spirit must meet the following 5 criteria:
1. It must be made from at least 51% corn.
2. It must be made in America. In 1964 America declared it our “official” spirit.
3. It must be aged in a NEW white oak, charred barrel. When wood is charred it tries to heal itself, and as such, sends natural sugars to the “injury” and those natural sugars add to the flavor of the bourbon.
4. It must age in the barrel for a minimum of 2-4 years and even then it is still considered a “baby” bourbon.
5. It must go into the bottle at no less than 80 Proof or 40% alcohol by volume.
The distillery hand-bottles all of their Town Branch Bourbon, and why not? If you’re going to do something, you just as well do it right! Below you can see the bourbon sitting in the oak barrels, becoming happy. Very, very, happy.
Let’s now answer the million dollar question. Okay, so maybe it’s not truly a million dollar question, but it is the question I want answered:
What’s the difference between bourbon and whiskey?
Whiskey is only made with ONE GRAIN! Hello. *smacks head* Could that be any easier? And, to take it further, if we were making a one grain spirit and we were in Scotland, it’d be called Scotch. I was seriously making this harder than it needed to be.
The Lexington Brewing and Distilling company, makes a bourbon and a whiskey.
The Whiskey was their premiere spirit and is distilled in dual copper pot stills, from Scotland. It’s called Pearse Lyons Reserve, after the founder of the company.
At the end of the tour there was a tasting. Honestly, isn’t that the reason we take these types of tours in the first place?
They also make a type of Irish Coffee called Bluegrass Sundown. It’s actually a dark coffee infused with Kentucky Bourbon and sugar. It’s designed to be served warm, with cream on top. If I had had room in my suitcase, rest assured, I’d have taken bottles home with me. It may be heaven.
The passion of the staff on this tour was immense, and I think that adds to the wonderful wonder that make up the products from the Lexington Brewery and Distillery. I learned a lot, met some great people, and as a beer fanatic, came away with additional beer choices.
Now, I know I can’t buy the spirits in South Dakota, but it’s rumored I can buy the beer, however the local liquor store can’t get it for me. I guess I’m gonna have to chat with Nathan and see what we can do about that!