Before yesterday I was not a fan of whisky or whiskey and hadn't much cared to understand Bourbon. I learned a lot.
My wife looked up the options as we drove north out of Tennessee and she came up with a little place still busy making room for itself in a Bourbon world dominated by big names.
Willett Distillery is a family business built we are told without loans or partners and they are building their distillery one barrel at a time by hand. It's very intimate and down to Earth. Our tour guide Evelyn looked the dumb blonde but she was smart as a button very well informed, funny and interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed her tour.
The distillery didn't make it easy for her with all the noise of machinery and additionally the construction - the sign of expansion...
We saw the mash fermenting and when it's fresh it's like sweet runny oatmeal but when it has started to ferment the mash is disgusting and vinegary. The actual color is sandy yellow but the light messed the camera a bit...
The Willett still is patented and brilliant (of course) and looks the part, built in Kentucky.
We worshipped it dutifully:
And they sell whiskey in a bottle made to resemble the pot still. They admire it that much!
Let's be honest, I got the bullet points about whiskey making but this was my first ever visit to a distillery (why?) and the process is not simple. Google will help if you need the details. I enjoyed it all.
The marks above are made by full barrels rolled into the wooden floor where they crease they manufacturers marks in the planks from the pressure of the weight of the whiskey within. The plumb line below indicates if the whiskey barrels are stored correctly in the warehouse called a "rick." If the plumb is off the building could tip...!
Great fun. Highly highly recommended. Then we tasted and bought a bottle. My wife then urged me to drive at speed to Old Barton before they closed. A gloomy industrial place.
We entered from the wrong end but the workers laughed and redirected us without the shadow of a frown. Great place.
Our taster explained the bourbon helped us taste it and explained the value of water. Sounds stupid? It worked. Her patience converted me.
They gave us directions to a local eatery which was great, the Rickhouse tucked out of sight.
I tried a Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich, an over the top local speciality of turkey ham bacon tomato and cheese. Absurd.
Rusty's day was one of walks and fun and naps in the air conditioned car. I think he had fun.
I guess Kentucky was worth the drive by...