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25 Apr 2023 | Jeremy Dugan


It’s always around this time in April I get real nostalgic for Louisville Kentucky. I remember when I found out my Freshman Year at The University of Louisville that our semester was over half way through April I was ecstatic. “School is usually out sometime in May if not early June, why do we get out so early here?” I asked a friend who was a Louisville local. “Because we have Derby here man.” Was all they had to say. The Kentucky Derby, the event that kicks off the race for the Triple Crown, is not only seen as one of the biggest races every year for Horse Racing fans around the world, but it is the biggest event in the state of Kentucky every year (besides when the Cards and Cats meet in the Final Four that is). While the race happens the first weekend of May there are events two weeks before and up to race day celebrating a 2-minute race. My favorite pre-Derby event happened over this last weekend (Saturday April 22nd), Thunder Over Louisville. Which is a giant Air Show and Firework show to kick off the fact that the Kentucky Derby is happening soon. All of Downtown Louisville is blocked off to drivers, all of Old Louisville is full of block parties and celebrations. And this is just to celebrate that The Kentucky Derby is coming.  

I have seen friends dress better for a Derby Party than for weddings. I have seen women in sundresses and giant hats walking elegantly to their seats for the races while also seeing college students stomping barefoot in the mud in the infield as happy as can be. I have even seen the most Zen individuals lose their mind watching the horse they bet on come around the last corner. At The Kentucky Derby you see all types of people from all over the world. And while all those folks might be different, one thing everyone shares on Derby Day is Bourbon.

Just like the people who go to The Derby, Bourbon comes in a lot of forms. And while those in the Bluegrass State will tell you that Bourbon must come from Kentucky, it is America’s Spirit! As long as the mash bill is over 51% corn (rye, wheat and malted barely can make up the rest), the liquid is aged in new American charred oak and is aged in The United States, it can be called Bourbon. Whether you’re a Derby regular, a first timer or not a fan of racing at all, there is a bottle of Bourbon for you. Here is a list of Bourbons I would suggest you enjoy while watching The Kentucky Derby.  

Chalk Bourbon- These are the Bourbons that everyone can always bet on being a winner. You can put your money behind these bottles and know you'll win every time. 

Stellum -This bourbon is a blend of 3 bourbons with different mash bills (MB), MB1: 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley, MB2: 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley and MB3: 99% corn. The bourbons 3 different mash bill bourbons are aged between 4-16 years and on top of those 3 bourbons, 8-16 year bourbon from Kentucky and Tennessee is blended in as well. The result is bourbon that up front has savory tea leaf characteristics with some rich caramel. Subtle toasted vanilla and dark coco add to the depth of the spirit. Returning back to savory on the finish vibrant oak spice comes out at the end.-$62.99 per bottle

Barber Lee- Just like in food, you can tell when the ingredients are better. Trying this Heirloom corn Bourbon can show you the difference between Barber Lee and the Big Brands. Elegantly layered, toasted cinnamon and bright green apple. Caramel and butterscotch pair with floral rye. Light notes of coco nibs give it a soft sweet finish. $68.99 per bottle

Broken Barrel- An easy drinking Bourbon with some a combination of fruit and "sweet" characteristics. Toasted vanilla and soft notes of coco. Hints of stone fruit leads to light oak spice on the finish. $40.99 per bottle

Handicapper's Favorite- When it comes to Horse Racing, not many know more than the people who watch the horses all year. It's usually a good idea to listen to a Veteran like Andy Beyer to see what favorites he likes before the race. These might not be Bourbons people will recognize off the bat, but they'll remember them after they've had them.

Laws Whiskey House Four Grain -Notes of toasted vanilla along with vibrant cinnamon flavors bring a light dessert like feel to the spirit. Lighter notes of coco continue that feel then a pop of baking spices comes along to balance it out.-$58.99 per bottle

Town Branch- This Bourbon is aged for 7 years in Lexington Kentucky before it is released. It is worth the wait. Brown sugar, caramel and dark coco. Vibrant baking spices breaks up sweetness, soft apricot on finish.-$40.99 per bottle

R6 -Rich but light in body. Maple syrup, brown sugar and vanilla. Vibrant baking spice with red apple skins. Tea leaf and baking spice on the finish.-$45.99 per bottle

Dark Horse Bottles- These might be overlooked by people because they don't come from Kentucky, Indiana or Tennessee or because they are a younger brand. but don't sell these short! They might turn out to be your favorite bottles.

Devils River Small Batch- Vibrant pop of rye up front leads to baking spices (bold cinnamon). Toasted toffee and butterscotch round out the finish. $32.99 per bottle

Lost Republic- Maple syrup and vibrant oak spice balance each other very nicely. Delicate coco pairs with red apple characteristics and shortbread cookie to continue the balancing of flavors. $34.99 per bottle

Frey Ranch- This Nevada Bourbon has a Mash Bill of 66.6% non-gmo corn, 11.4% winter cereal rye, 10% winter wheat and 12% two-row barley. Honey creates a coating mouthfeel on the palate. Rich notes of caramel and hints of shortbread cookie add to the decadence of this Bourbon. While floral rye characteristics cut down some of the richness on finish. $48.99 per bottle

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