that the favorite bottle in his collection is a Blanton’s Gold Edition that was signed by each of his groomsmen from the trip to Kentucky. The relationship between Richard and Barbera speaks to the heart of what the bourbon community knows so well: There’s a sense of connection in every bottle of bourbon that requires thoughtful, reflective consumption among friends — not just sticking it on a bar cart somewhere to gather dust. “I usually try to buy two of every bottle. I want to save one, maybe pass it down to my family if I ever have kids. But I like to have another one to enjoy the moment. Bourbon was meant to be enjoyed with others.” Barbera echoes Richard’s spirit of hospitality. “I would rather have the memories that the really good bottle of bourbon provided for my friends and family together than any amount of money that

these bottles could be worth. Of the 125 or so bottles in my collec- tion, about 100 of them are open.” One rara avis bourbon that both hope to one day add to their respective collections is the Colonel E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving Bourbon: an extremely difficult-to-come-by bottle that, as the name implies, comes from barrels that weathered a tornado. (A quick search shows only one bottle available for a cool $3,900.) “A very bad storm came through in 2006 at Buffalo Trace, and one of the warehouses had its roof and wall ripped down from the wind, exposing the barrels to the elements. While they were trying to repair everything, they discovered a really unique flavor in the bourbon in the barrels that had been exposed,” says Richard. “That’s an act of God sort of thing. It’s never going to happen again; you can’t reproduce that. I can’t wait to taste it. I always talk about it — it’s my Holy Grail.” For those looking to dip a toe into the blood-pumping, borderline- obsessive world of bourbon collecting, Barbera suggests learning what you like, not what others tell you is supposed to be “good.” “When you want to start a collection, try different things at first. If there’s a tasting around, go, and try out different distilleries and mash builds. Soon, you’ll find what you like, and then you’ll find similar bottles to try. You’re not going to find something you love just because someone else likes it. Everyone’s taste is different. You have to trust what you like. For example, I like corn and wheated stuff — I’m not that into ‘high rye.’ But I do keep some rye bottles at my house for when friends come over who might prefer that.” Bourbon has the ability to seamlessly connect yesterday, today and tomorrow for drinkers, as they sip little glasses of history while making memories today that will last a lifetime. “You know, you open a bottle, and you start having a conversation, and you start joking around, and you start telling stories, and then a couple hours later, you realize that that bottle’s gone,” says Barbera. “That bottle may be gone, but the memories that you have from that night — the stories that you told — they’re never going to go away. When you get a good bottle, you want to make sure and enjoy it.”

EVAN WILLIAMS STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY is named for the man who opened Kentucky’s first commercial distillery along the banks of the Ohio River back in 1783. There’s a smooth, easy-to-drink 86 proof black label version, a 100 proof white label version and an 80 proof green label, which is a value bourbon, but it offers quality way beyond its price point. Heaven Hill Distillery in Louisville produces both Elijah Craig and Evan Williams.

ELIJAH CRAIG’S bourbon is sourced from 200 barrels or less. Its namesake was the Baptist preacher often credited with first putting distillate into charred oak barrels. Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old Single Barrel is one of the oldest single barrel bourbons in the world.



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