7 DON’T TREAT YOUR BOTTLES LIKE TROPHIES. Collecting is, of course, about rarities, amassing the most eclectic array of bottles you can and, for many, completing sub-collections within your collection from the different bourbon families. One of the most notable sub-collections is Blanton’s, with collectors aiming to find all eight, uniquely shaped, metal horse- and-rider bottle stoppers, which are also stamped with a single letter so that, when the collection is complete, the stoppers spell out “Blanton’s” and show a horse race from start to finish. As tempting as it is to treat these über-special bottles like Fabergé eggs, don’t do it. Enjoying your bourbon collection is half the joy of having it. 8 WATCH THE RELEASE CLOCK. Bourbons are released on their own specific timelines. This means that if you’re serious about the hunt for the latest bottles, you must be aware of the release clocks for the bourbon of your dreams. If the latest from Elmer T. Lee was released in August and you’re beginning a search for it in March, that’s a real newbie move. 9 CHECK OUT ESTATE SALES (SERIOUSLY). One of the greatest joys of bourbon collecting is finding older, diamond-in-the-rough bottles that people have perhaps overlooked for decades. Once you know the timelines for new releases (see Step 8), it’s wildly enjoyable to head in the other direction as well, and dive deep into one-off bottles found in the least likely places. This means attending auctions and estate sales where you might find an über-rare bottle of vintage bourbon a family didn’t even know they had. Or it can mean visiting an out-of- the-way liquor store in a smaller town that might not be as hip to the whole bourbon boom. If you decide to expand your collection in this way, it’s also helpful to be able to decipher what the bottle itself is trying to tell you, including learning how to interpret the bar code, the label and the stamp on the bottom of the bottle. If you’re going to be a serious collector, there’s a little detective work involved, too. 10 CHASE THE UNICORNS — WHEN YOU’RE READY. When you’ve completed all other nine steps on the list, now it’s time to hunt after those elusive “Holy Grail” bottles that, perhaps, got you into bourbon from the start. Like Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, you’re now ready to pour energy into trying to get your hands on a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, or whatever other “unicorn” of the bourbon world makes your heart skip a beat. Just don’t forget to keep building as the search for the big guns gets underway — your collection needs to continue to grow with a little something new, a little something

WOODFORD RESERVE DISTILLERY A recent count of working distilleries in Kentucky put the number at more than 70, with most of them offering educational tours that include plenty of opportunities to sample the wares. But for Cary Robinson, store director of Rouses Market in Covington, deciding which distillery to visit was easy: Woodford Reserve Distillery in the regally named town of Versailles, Kentucky. “I wanted to visit Woodford because it is the preferred bourbon of my choice,” says Robinson. The distillery is nestled in rolling hills where you’ll see thoroughbred horses

grazing in pastures, reflecting Woodford Reserve’s picturesque location an hour down the road from Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby. Visitors to the Woodford Reserve Distillery are promised the chance to see such marvels as a 500-foot-long, gravity-fed barrel run, as well as historic, century-old copper pot stills. For Robinson, the biggest lure was the opportunity to witness Woodford’s unique triple-distilling process. Overall, Robinson describes the vibe at Woodford as “very classy meets rural”— and special tours include the opportunity for lunch and dinner reservations with meals prepared by the James Beard-nominated Chef Ouita Michel. (Special holiday dinners include bourbon- glazed ham and whiskey chicken a l’orange.) For Robinson, choosing a taste highlight of his trip was as easy as choosing which distillery to visit: He still remembers sipping a glass of rye that was paired with a dark chocolate, pecan-topped bourbon confection. “It was an absolute adult dessert,” he says. – MICHAEL TISSERAND ANGEL’S ENVY handcrafted, small-batch bourbon from Louisville Distilling Company uses the unique process of finishing their bourbon in used port wine barrels for an added layer of flavor and complexity. Lincoln Henderson, a master distiller and the creator of Woodford Reserve, designed the process. Angel’s Envy Rye is finished in rum barrels. BELLE MEADE BOURBON , from the reincarnated Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Tennessee, uses a blend of four barrels per batch using two different mash bills and yeast strains. Each barrel is aged between six and eight years. Belle Meade has a high rye content and a 90.4 bottling proof. ROWAN'S CREEK is one of several small-batch bourbons produced at the Willett Distilling Company (Kentucky Bourbon Distillers). The name derives from the creek that runs through the distillery grounds. Noah’s Mill is another.

old and a few special bottles along the way to properly pay homage to your bourbon collecting personality.




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