Kentucky 2015 – Day 1: Out for a Walk

There's a lot of drankin' history on display just about everywhere you look in Louisville. Not five minutes after we had stumbled out of our hotel on to the street we unwittingly came upon the legendary Pendennis Club—a long-established Kentucky gentleman's hall dating back to the 1880s where the Old Fashioned cocktail was supposedly conceived. The current clubhouse was built in 1928 and is still home to some of the most legendary post-Kentucky Derby parties on the planet. The Pendennis is also known for its boxing events, which once sported a young Muhammad Ali rising through the ranks. I can only imagine the incredible debauchery that has taken place within those walls.

Hanging a right on Main Street we turned on to what was once Whiskey Row, and hopefully will be again. As you may or may not know, however, the plans to rebuild the once-thriving section of Louisville hit a snag this past July when a fire partially gutted the renovations and halted Brown-Forman's quest to bring the Old Forester distillery downtown. You can see the myriad of beams on the right bring used just to keep the facade of the building upright and stable. The distillery had been hoping for a 2016 opening date, but the tarp hanging over the wall now reads "Opening in 2017". I'll be back to talk a bit more about this later, as we have a date with Brown-Forman while we're here in town.  

Now and again I get the feeling that, for some of today's more fashionable whiskey fans, drinking everyman Bourbon is kind of like reading the New Yorker, or going for a hike on the weekend—it's something people like to say that they do (and even take a certain amount of pride in "doing"), but it's rarely something they ever get around to. My favorite thing to do when I come to Kentucky is to go to a bar and order all the inexpensive things we don't see in California, rather than hunt down the rare stuff. As we sat in the lounge near our hotel last night, I ordered a glass of Very Old Barton and the waitress just stared at me for an uncomfortable few seconds, before saying: "You want Barton?" 

"Should I not want it?" I asked insecurely.

"No, you most definitely should!" she answered with a huge smile. "It's so cheap, but so good! Most people don't order it." 

"Are you saying I'm cheap?" I said, teasing her at this point. Then she leaned in, glanced quickly over her shoulder towards her manager at the bar, and whispered to us:

"You know you can get this stuff for $8 a bottle across the street at CVS. You're better off doing that and drinking it in your hotel room."

"No....", David and I both responded in unison. It couldn't be that inexpensive, could it?

I immediately got up off my chair and told her, "If that's true I'm going to buy a bottle for us, and one for you too." David laughed as he took a sip of his drink, and I told them I'd be right back after I investigated. The liquor shelf at CVS was towards the back, so I moseyed down the aisle towards the Bourbon and, sure enough, there it was: Very Old Barton on sale for $8 a bottle. But the shelf was empty (unsurprisingly). Not to worry, however, because right next to that gaping hole were 1.75 liter bottles for $17. I grabbed two of the gigantic Weller-shaped monstrosities and headed back to the bar across the street. I handed one to the waitress ("Oh my God, I can't believe you actually did it!") and kept one for David and myself.

We drank a few more glasses while talking business back at the hotel before calling it a night. Four Roses awaits tomorrow.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll