Hawaii Beverage Guide
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Wild Turkey and
Barrel Trip 2018
It is my pleasure to share with you a little taste of American culture, a review of my adventure to the heart of bourbon country, the Wild Turkey distillery, Lawrenceburg Kentucky. Through the United States Bartending Guild Honolulu I was able to apply for a once in a life time trip to the Wild Turkey distillery the North American headquarters of the Italian company, Campari. After being selected and arranging my ticket in a whirlwind one week planning hurricane, before I knew it after a Thursday Mangos shift I was on a plane (well three planes) and by the next day at 5 pm in a bus from Louisville to Lawrenceburg, Kentucky with 35 other bartenders selected from around the country. We were greeted by barrel tasting with one of American bourbons living legends, Mr. Jimmy Russell. Jimmy is a 64 year practicing master distiller and is assisted by his son, Eddie Russell, a 34 year master distiller and his grandson, Bruce who has been distilling Wild Turkeys rye blends for a short 8 years himself!
Jimmy greeted us by barrel tasting whiskey in the original rick house, a building used to store and age whiskey, this one in use from 1870! The rick house is located less than 100 feet from the Kentucky River, famous for its limestone which is said to give its bourbon a unique clean filtered flavor. Jimmy hung out and talked story with us for dinner before we retired to our tents for the evening. It was a privilege and an honor to listen to his stories and tales from over the years. The next day we were treated to skeet shooting (with lessons for those like me that needed them) and then an amazing step by step tour of the distillery hosted by Eddie himself, from brewing vats through to the 52 foot copper distil that all Wild Turkey comes through. The new distillery build by Campari as their North American headquarters is clean and huge as Sky vodka is also bottled at the site. After an obstacle course to keep us on our toes we headed to Louisville to the bourbon museum and an amazing crafted course dinner at a local speak easy.
The final day was a tour through the bottling part of the distillery and then we got to blend whiskies trying to match the Russell’s Rare Breed, a blend of 2 year, 6 year and 12 year whisky! The Russell’s smelled and tasted the final mix and awarded prizes to the team with the closest match (not my team but an amazing experience!). The weekend ended with a Thanksgiving style dinner overlooking the river and we were again joined by the Russell family. As a bartender, I was so grateful to experience the personal family touches that each bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon gets from the Russell’s and I will do my absolute best to pass that aloha on to every drink featuring Turkey. I love their over proof bourbon and if rye is more your style they do a great job! In closing, what made the experience unforgettable was the hospitable hosting by the Russell family, feeling more like we were having a family outing at their house then a tour put on by a big company. They may call it southern hospitality but I know it to be true aloha.