Kentucky legislators are still seeking a new state liquor law, a leading lawmaker says. If they don't, a bottle of bourbon may be as close as the corner gas station.Last year, a federal judge threw out Kentucky laws that don’t allow groceries and gas stations to sell wine or hard spirits, saying it was unfair. Kentucky pharmacies — which often sell grocery items — can sell the hard stuff.That same judge stayed his ruling — and headed-off a liquor free-for-all — to allow the General Assembly to re-write the law. So far, no coalition has brought a proposal to would fit the judge’s ruling, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says.“Everyone hopes that there will be some sort of reasonable proposal from the entire industry that takes in consideration the court’s ruling," Stumbo says."To date I haven’t seen that. What I have seen is a proposal that I believe flies in the face of what the court’s judgment was. And I’ve told the proponents of that so. I believe what the judge said was there has to be a uniform law that everybody of this class is covered by.”Stumbo says he interprets the court’s ruling as a desire for a uniform law for groceries and pharmacies, which are classified under similar liquor laws. Lawmakers will have to achieve such a law in the 2013 session or the judge will put his ruling into effect, which would instantly allow gas stations and grocery stores to sell other alcoholic beverages beyond beer.
A Louisville man is claiming that the Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge at Fourth Street Live refused to allow him to host a party at the venue because all of the party-goers would be African-American, says a lawsuit filed this week in Jefferson Circuit Court.Andre Mulligan alleges that the Maker's Mark Lounge "officials" asked him about the "'ratio' of 'black people' to 'white people' at the planned party during a meeting, the lawsuit said.When Mulligan responded that all of the attendees would be African-American, the lounge's staff told him the party could not go forward, the lawsuit claims.Mulligan and others showed up on Aug. 18 -- the day of the event -- anyway and were denied service, the lawsuit claims. Cordish security staff then allegedly told Mulligan he was trespassing while white patrons were entering the lounge "without incident."The August situation represents a violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, the lawsuit claims.Lawsuits represent but one side of a incident, of course. Voicemail messages to Fourth Street Live and the Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge were not immediately returned. A voicemail message and e-mail to the Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, which operates Fourth Street Live, was also not immediately returned. When they respond, we'll update.Community activists held a forum soon after the incident to discuss concerns about racial discrimination at Fourth Street Live.Meanwhile, this week's lawsuit led a writer for the alternative news website Alternet to ask on Thursday if the lounge is "the most racist restaurant in America?"Update: The Maker's Mark distiller has issued a statement, noting that a Cordish company operates the Marker's Mark Bourbon Bar and Lounge. The statement is signed by chairman emeritus Bill Samuels Jr. and chief operating officer Rob Samuels:Maker’s Mark licenses its name and trademark to a third party appointed by Cordish Operating Ventures, LLC, which is solely responsible for the ownership, operation and management of the Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge in Louisville Kentucky. Maker’s Mark has no ownership or involvement in the Lounge whatsoever. Maker’s Mark was unaware of the complaint filed by Andre Mulligan against the Lounge until it was covered in the media and, contrary to a published report, no one from Maker’s Mark has had any dealings with Mr. Mulligan.“The allegations in the complaint are extremely serious and, if true, reflect behavior that is abhorrent and unacceptable, as well as absolutely contrary to the core brand values of Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark does not accept, and will not tolerate, discrimination in any form, and has so notified and warned the company which is solely responsible for the operation of the Lounge. While not involved in the litigation, Maker’s Mark will continue to monitor the situation closely and will take all actions it feels necessary under the circumstances.”They're likely referring to the Alternet story, which implied that Maker's operated the bar.Update: Cordish Operating Ventures is named as a co-defendant, along with Louisville Bourbon LLC, which does business as Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge. A Louisville Metro spokeswoman said Cordish operates the lounge, but a Cordish spokeswoman says that's not true. Here's a statement from Fourth Street Live spokesman Mike Leonard:This is a matter between a third party tenant and an individual. Neither Fourth Street Live! nor The Cordish Company nor any of their employees were involved in the alleged situation. The tenant has vigorously denied the allegations and stated they are totally false. In addition, we have conducted an independent investigation of the allegations and believe them to be without merit.
For Louisvillians, the top domestic travel destination next year should be Fairbanks, Alaska, says Lonely Planet, the big travel guide publisher.For everyone else, go to Louisville.Lonely Planet cites the food and drink on NuLu, the shopping on Bardstown Road and the gobs and gobs of available bourbon in putting Louisville atop its 2013 list of top U.S. travel destinations. "Could it be that the new Portland is in... Kentucky?" the travel guide asks.Lonely Planet adds:Bourbon reigns in Louisville. This is the traditional jump-off for the Bourbon Trail; with bourbon’s current wave of popularity, new upstart microdistilleries, including some in and around Louisville like the small-batch Angel’s Envy, are giving the old names in bourbon a run for their money. "Our 2013 picks are literally all over the map: once-in-a-lifetime northern lights, new top-tier museums, moose trails, Polynesian paradise and barrels of bourbon." said Lonely Planet's U.S. Travel Editor Robert Reid in a statement announcing Louisville's selection.Lots of Bourbon, which is true.1. Louisville2. Fairbanks, Alaska3. San Juan Islands, Wash.4. Philadelphia, Pa.5. American Samoa6. Eastern Sierra, Calif.7. Northern Maine8. Twin Cities, Minnesota9. Verde Valley, Ariz.10. Glacier National Park, Mont.In the statement, Reid said these are places people should "add to their wish lists" once the new year hits.About Fairbanks. Why, no, Lonely Planet, we haven't seen the aurora borealis. A pub paddle? That sounds great. But getting there is not cheap.
A elusive Kentuckian named Pappy has New York City hearts aflutter.On Tuesday, the New York Post's website ran a story bearing the headline, "This Season's Most Wanted." The story was about bourbon -- bourbons from the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, to be exact -- that's made in small batches and confronting big demand.Other stores don’t even bother with a list: Paul Bressler, the spirits buyer at 67 Wine and Spirits on the Upper West Side, used to keep one, but it led to too much frustration, he says.“You’d have 50 people on a waiting list, then 10 bottles come in, and you have 40 unhappy people,” says Bressler. “Everybody wants it, and nobody will accept the fact that they’re not going to get it.”Poor New Yorkers, coveting Kentucky's signature drink with no satisfaction, right? Well, you're not much likelier to get a sip of Pappy, as aficionados call the various bourbons produced by the Kentucky distillery.The bourbon -- in any variety, but especially the most coveted Family Reserve 23 Year -- is difficult to find in any populous area, said Chris Zaborowski, co-owner of Westport Whiskey & Wine in eastern Louisville. "They want anything with Van Winkle on it," he said.And, no, Westport Whiskey & Wine doesn't have any in stock.Zaborowski's shop had a small shipment near Election Day, but all of the bottles were quickly claimed. Pappy seekers may have better luck at a small town liquor store, where others aren't thinking to look, he suggested."I'm talking country," he said.Kentuckians are into bourbon -- but New Yorkers despairing over an inaccessible bottle isn't so common. A few years ago, whiskey publications gave rave reviews to Pappy's Family Reserve 23 Year and set off the frenzy, Zaborowski said.That's great news for the Van Winkles, except that bourbon isn't an iPhone -- production can't simply be accelerated to meet the demand.Bourbon is aged -- the youngest Van Winkle bourbon is aged 10 years. The really good stuff is aged 23 years.It's difficult to predict demand 23 years out; the bourbon market was slumping when this year's 23-year batch was sent to the barrels, Zaborowski said.About 7,000 cases go out, the New York Post reported, and that's that.The other option to get Pappy, besides heading on a road trip to nowhere, is finding a seller on Craigslist.I found a couple of listings recently posted to Craislist.com's Louisville page. A listing out of Middletown asked $500 for a bottle of the 23 Year. Another listing to the Louisville page asked for $600 for the 23 Year, $400 for the 2o Year and $300 for the 15 Year -- and with this caveat: "Must be picked up in Chicago."
It's hard to believe there was a time when it was illegal to produce, sell and ship alcohol. Then again, in some places Prohibition might well have never been repealed. I lived in a dry county (Pulaski) myself, where I had to drive 50 miles to buy wine. The inhumanity! My delight at moving to Louisville, a block from Old Town Liquor, must have been something like the elation tipplers felt on Dec. 5, 1933, when the experiment known as Prohibition was repealed.Prohibition may have made it difficult for those who liked to step out to the store for a pint of their favorite drink, but it also created a cocktail renaissance of sorts. "Some people say Prohibition was the greatest thing to happen to liquor," says Colin Blake, creative director at Louisville's Distilled Spirits Epicenter. "After Prohibition, everything changed." People developed a taste for sweet drinks during the years that sugar and fruit juice was added to home distilled spirits. Evidently, bathtub gin didn't exactly taste good. We see that legacy now in contemporary cocktails like the lemon drop and cosmopolitan, as well as in the mid-century explosion of Tiki bar culture, when returning WWII soldiers helped exotic rum drinks, now cocktail bar staples, cross over into the mainstream. By the way, if you think—like I did—that people were brewing up tubs full of spirits, that’s not the case. People filled jugs with neutral grain spirits they sourced from local stills or Canada, according to Blake, and topped them off with water. The bathtub was merely the only spigot tall enough to fit the jug. (Besides, a bathtub full of juniper-scented liquor would've been a dead giveaway that something nefarious was going on.)To make these home concoctions palatable, the would-be mixologists of the time created punches heavy on sugar and fruit. At speakeasies around the country folks imbibed in sweet creations still drawing fans today."They're so fruity and delicious," Blake says of Prohibition-era punches. At one point, some 30,000 speakeasies served drinks in New York City alone, Blake says. And plenty of stills fueled the appetite for spirits. I wondered how people knew how to distill liquor back then—it’s not as if they could watch a YouTube video to learn. But working on the still was just another farm chore from our nation's earliest days, Blake says. In fact, some 10,000 distilleries dotted the original 13 colonies.Today the Epicenter carries on the tradition with their Greasemonkey Distillery. Enthusiasts who would like to learn more about the spirits of Prohibition can come to the center's Moonshine University. A two-hour class on Repeal Day, December 5, from 6-8 p.m. will focus on bourbon, gin and cocktails of the era. The class is $100.For those who'd rather celebrate than take a history and science lesson, local bars offer a chance to toast the end of Prohibition.December 3. Housed in a former bourbon distillery, the St. Charles Exchange (113 S. 7th St.) will host a Repeal Day Party from 5-7 p.m. Period attire is encouraged. They'll feature a Prohibition-era cocktail, the Opera—with a twist. It’s aged for about a month in a bourbon barrel from Bluegrass Barrels. The drink is an experiment, as it’s the first time beverage director Colin Shearn has aged a cocktail. He’s optimistic though. “It was good going in!” he says. The drink features gin, Dubonnet and maraschino liqueur. December 5. At Proof on Main (702 West Main St.), bartenders will create a one-day-only special list of classic cocktails inspired by the Speakeasy era. Costumes are encouraged and mustaches will be provided. A soundtrack of Twenties and Thirties music will frame the mood. Festivities begin at 4 p.m.December 5. Rye (900 E. Market St.) will serve up classic cocktails side-by-side with their own take on the original so guests can compare the two.
One of the most prominent names associated with Kentucky bourbon is Beam.The Beam family began making whiskey in 1795, but it was Jim Beam who put the product on the map, building the brand bearing his name after Prohibition.Today, Jim Beam bourbon and the company’s other varieties of spirits are among the most popular in the world.Jim Beam’s great-grandson, Fred Noe, has documented the colorful history of the family business and his rise from bottling line worker to Jim Beam master distiller.(Read an excerpt here.)“I thought about doing some other things but in my heart, I think, the bourbon making was there," he said.His book is called Beam, Straight Up: The Bold Story of the First Family of Bourbon. It was co-written with family friend Jim Kokoris.Fred Noe spoke with WFPL’s Rick Howlett.
A new exhibit at 21C Museum Hotel features the work of ten graduate students from the Yale School of Architecture. The students were challenged to design a distillery for a proposed site on Main Street. Their projects take into consideration concerns over Louisville’s agricultural and manufacturing climate as well as the mechanics of the distillery process.Scale models line the north and south walls of the gallery. A garage door that takes up the east wall was open to the street on the evening of the exhibit’s reception. Posters with schematics, artistic renderings and infographics hang behind each structure.The projects are not intended for development, but serve as inspiring proposals for the kinds of manufacturing facilities that could provide viable job alternatives to the city. Production facilities offer economic diversity in Louisville’s predominantly service driven market. The end results are both innovative and striking.Seema Kairam’s River Bend Bourbon facilitates a three-tiered system of production in which craft distillers and amateur enthusiasts are accommodated alongside an industrial process. Shared expenses and equipment remove hurdles for fledgling entrepreneurs while cultivating an atmosphere of engagement between the industry leaders and the public.Alley Industries by Diana Nee is designed to span the alley between Main and Market. The building’s design allows for the continued use of the alley for “service functions” and also includes the use of waste materials from the distillation process for energy production.Margaret Hu designed her facility as a branding device where the “direct circulation for the flow of materials contrasts against a highly choreographed path for the flow of visitors.” A massive wheel in one corner of the structure delivers bourbon barrels between floors.The exhibit runs through September 24 in Gallery 4.
Kentucky's whiskey fungus lawsuits are getting some national attention. The New York Times ran a piece yesterday about the fungus--scientifically called Baudoinia--that's prevalent on the outside of distilleries and homes near them. The lawsuit charges that the fungus germinates on ethanol which is released during fermentation.From the article:In June, home and business owners in and around Louisville, part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, filed class-action lawsuits in federal and circuit courts against five major distilleries, charging property damage and negligence. In September, with the help of lawyers in Britain, the plaintiffs’ Louisville lawyer, William F. McMurry, plans to bring a similar suit in Scotland, where the fungus is so rampant that it almost seems like part of the architecture.“Every distillery that we’ve tested has had it, as far as I know,” said James Scott, the University of Toronto mycologist who helped identify and name Baudoinia.Mr. McMurry wants the courts to order distillers to simply “stop off-gasing ethanol,” he said, adding: “This is not going to affect their bottom line and the flavor of whiskey.”When whiskey is aged in barrels, about 4 percent of the ethanol evaporates--that's commonly called the "Angel's Share." The class action lawsuit was filed against Brown-Forman, Diageo and Heaven Hill. They contend the fungus is naturally-occurring and unrelated to whiskey.
As interest in Kentucky bourbon grows, construction has begun on a $4 million visitor center for the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg.The AP reports:Gov. Steve Beshear was among officials who attended a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for the facility, which is expected to open in April, ahead of a new 125,000-square-foot packaging facility, which is set to open next fall.Officials said the center will tell the about the history of the brand, which traces its roots to the 1800s, and broaden Wild Turkey's role in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a tourist attraction that highlights six distilleries in the state.The building itself was designed by Louisville architects De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop, who say:The design concept is inspired by local building, material and craft precedents specific to the Kentucky region and the Wild Turkey Bourbon brand. By alluding to these conceptual precedents in an abstract manner, the Visitor's Center design presents a building that is simultaneously familiar and new-bridging tradition and modernity. In a similar vein, the material palette for the project places an emphasis on conventional elements and construction techniques. Through careful detailing and assembly, humble materials have the potential to become extraordinary. Here is more information from the architects.
The University of Louisville has begun raising funds for an $8 million academic center for student athletes. The project is getting a boost from Maker's Mark. The bourbon maker is donating proceeds from a commemorative bottle featuring U of L football coach Charlie Strong.More than 8,000 of the bottles went on sale at retail outlets last Friday and quickly sold out.Maker's Mark Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels says the company will donate up to $500,000 for the center over a three-year period.U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich says he has no qualms about accepting donations from a company that makes an alcohol product."Not at all, because they’re an iconic company in the state of Kentucky much like Churchill Downs is. I don’t look at Churchill Downs as a gambling facility," he said.Jurich says another, anonymous donor will make a seven-figure gift. The academic facility will be located at the south end of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.Jurich says the center will help student athletes build on their academic successes. They just posted their highest overall grade point average in school history, under Associate Athletic Director for Student Support and Diversity Marvin Mitchell."We’ve raised that bar every single year, and that’s a credit to Marvin Mitchell," Jurich said. "I don’t want to sit here and take any of it. He’s come in and really given this department a great vision for academics and we’ve been able to grow and grow and grow, and this is just going to be another piece in his arsenal."U of L student athletes posted a GPA of 3.11 for the spring semester.
A federal appeals court has ruled that Maker’s Mark holds the trademark on the dripping wax seal atop its bottles. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a lower court ruling granting the Kentucky bourbon maker a trademark on the seal, which serves decorative purposes only.The decision comes in a case brought by London-based Diageo North America and Casa Cuervo of Mexico, which used a dripping red wax seal on special bottles of its Reserva tequila.
The students from the Yale School of Architecture who visited Louisville in February have unveiled their designs for an urban distillery downtown.The students studied the region on their visit, with a specific focus on Louisville's downtown and the bourbon industry. Their task was to each design a distillery that could stand near First and Main streets, across from the Whiskey Row buildings.
Heaven Hill Distilleries today announced plans to build a downtown Louisville attraction based on its Evan Williams brand of bourbon. The $9.5 million Evan Williams Bourbon Experience will be housed in a company-owned building in the 500 block of West Main Street.Evan Williams was a Welsh immigrant who settled in Louisville and set up a distillery in 1783, along what would become known as Whiskey Row.