By Doc Lawrence –
LOUISVILLE, KY-This great river town is on a roll, garnering praise as a haven for gourmet restaurants, a first-rate arts center, home of an easy-going lifestyle and the epicenter of Bourbon and the mystique attached to it. Walking around here is an urban pleasure made possible by wide sidewalks, and if you have a drop of romantic blood, you will feel the presence of Louisville greats Muhammad Ali, Gonjo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, TV news legend Diane Sawyer and even the fictional Jay Gatsby. Stop in either of the famous hotels, the Brown or the Seelbach, order an Old Fashioned cocktail, and the spirit of Louisville will embraces you.
Add Michael Veach to the list of Louisville luminaries. Widely known here as Mr. Bourbon, the city’s leading Bourbon historian has perfected a highly entertaining and interactive Bourbon class. I attended one while Veach was a curator with the renowned Filson Historical Society headquartered in downtown Louisville. The ornate meeting room was packed with nicely dressed professional and business types, almost equally men and women, who hung on every word as Veach led the audience from Bourbon’s fascinating roots to its exalted status as today’s red hot beverage.
George Washington, our first president earned a distinction in the business world as America’s first truly successful whiskey maker, producing barrels of rye whiskey at his Mount Vernon distillery. The next time you enjoy an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, salute President Washington, the Father of American Whiskey, with a toast of gratitude. Whiskey is made in many places, but the better varieties come from the South. The names are part of America’s vernacular: Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam, George Dickel, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses and Michter’s are just a few examples. Whiskey folklore maintains that the first cocktail came out of New Orleans, created by a French Quarter pharmacist Antoine Amedee Peychaud, who also concocted a gourmet bitters bearing his name, still sold today.
More than a heralded Bourbon historian, Michael Veach is also one of the most respected authorities on Bourbon enjoyment. That means the preferred way to bring Bourbon into an individual lifestyle from purchase to drinking. Earlier this year, Veach, responding to many requests, founded the Bourbon Country Institute in Louisville a natural extension of his past efforts.
The one-day, fun-filled seminar is graduate school level, a trip into history and heritage with curriculum and course materials, plus the rare advantage of learning the ins and outs of Bourbon by journeying through the top-tiered brands to increasing Bourbon enjoyment. Veach, who is universally respected by Bourbon’s master distillers and is a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame, maintains the independence of a scholar that gives him commendable credibility.
Kentucky offers the most accessible Bourbon destinations. Bourbon is in fact whiskey, but with a legal definition that includes mandatory minimum corn content, proof parameters, barreling and aging regulations. Kentucky Bourbon centers like Louisville and nearby Bardstown will keep a thirsty tourist occupied.
Bourbon, according to Veach, is made in America, aged in new, charred white oak barrels, and made from at least 51 percent corn with no additional coloring or flavor. Congress designated bourbon as a distinctive product of the United States, and it remains the only spirit produced in this country to enjoy such protection. Its history stretches back almost to the founding of the nation and includes many colorful characters.
A successful author, Veach’s critically acclaimed landmark book Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage (University Press of Kentucky) provides a thoroughly entertaining examination of Bourbon’s evolution. Veach collaborated with Susan Reigler to publish The Bourbon Tasting Notebook (Acclaim Press), a logbook for bourbon lovers. With over 200 featured brands, the book documents the flavors, proof, age, style, price, taste, nose and finish of each Bourbon along with full-color photos of each bottle. I never shop for Bourbon without this book, the most reliable Bourbon guide available today.
When the Bourbon Country Institute was launced in Louisville, it was heralded for its education and entertaining components (there is the tasting experience). Everyone gets a diploma and a chance to obtain one of Mr. Vetch’s collectible books and have it autographed. My copies occupy a hallowed place on the gourmet bookshelf at home. The Bourbon Country Institute, already a top-tiered event for Bourbon enthusiasts, is headed down south this summer with stops in Atlanta, Nashville and at least one Florida city. The one-day seminar is a must for those who love good Bourbon and want to know more about it. Details about locations and dates? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.