Bottoms Up! It’s National Bourbon Heritage Month
September isn’t just tailgate season; it’s also National Bourbon Heritage Month. To do our part to celebrate bourbon as America’s “Native Spirit”, we’re turning to Louisville (also known as Bourbon Country) for a chat with Maggie Kimberl, who may just have the coolest job this side of the Mississippi. A professional Whiskey Writer, this Louisville lady contributes regularly to whiskey and spirits publications like The Whiskey Wash, Alcohol Professor, and Whiskey Magazine. She also blogs about cocktails, Kentucky bourbon, and life in Louisville—the town the country’s best distilleries and bourbon bars call home—at Lougirl502.
How did you get to be a Bourbon expert anyway?
When my kids were little I worked evenings at my local liquor store. It was there I met former Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge, who sparked my interest in Kentucky bourbon whiskey. From there I began writing about bourbon tourism and heritage, learning all the way. I’m geographically blessed!
What’s the biggest misconception people have about bourbon?
We often hear people say that bourbon has to be made in Kentucky. While it’s true we make 95 percent of the world’s bourbon and we have more bourbon barrels aging in rick houses than we have people and horses combined, bourbon can legally be made anywhere in the United States.
Best resource for bourbon novices to get a basic education?
I recommend two books to anyone wanting to learn more about bourbon. The first is [bourbon historian] Michael Veach’s Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage. The second is [bourbon expert and writer] Fred Minnick’s Bourbon Curious.
How have bourbon tourism and bourbon culture evolved in Louisville over the past few years?
In Louisville just a few years ago, you could walk into a bar and only find a dozen bourbons on the shelf. [Now, thanks to the creation of] The Urban Bourbon Trail in Louisville, a collection of bourbon bars and restaurants that have a minimum of 50 bourbons on the shelf. . . we have bourbon events every night all over town. Distilleries have opened urban distilling operations. You can do every type of bourbon tourism imaginable without leaving Louisville!
Personal favorite way to enjoy bourbon?
Typically I like to drink my bourbon neat, though I do enjoy the occasional Old Fashioned or Manhattan.
Three must-visits for a bourbon fanatic on a visit to the Louisville area?
The first time you visit Louisville, you have to check out The Bulleit Experience at Stitzel-Weller for the heritage (this is where Pappy Van Winkle set up shop after Prohibition), The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience for the amusement park bourbon experience, and Kentucky Peerless for an understanding of how Prohibition gutted so many Kentucky families’ livelihoods and how those families are making distilling comebacks. Those three places will give you a balanced overview of the bourbon industry without having to leave Louisville.
Anything in particular going on for Bourbon Heritage Month that we can’t miss?
Every distillery in Kentucky has special events for Bourbon Heritage Month, but you can catch them all the The Kentucky Bourbon Festival.