Out on the east side of Bardstown, Kentucky – which calls itself the bourbon capitol of the world – the Bardstown Bourbon Company is changing the landscape with its stunning and ever-growing headquarters.
And, now, Wisconsin whiskey lovers can rejoice, because the respected distiller is finally bringing three expressions to Badger State retail – thanks to a partnership with Capitol Husting Distributing – changing the landscape of the whiskey shelves of a number of area retailers.
The three whiskeys that will introduce BBC to Wisconsin are all parts of series launched by the distillery.
These include the second installment of an ongoing collaboration with California’s Phifer Pavitt Wine, and the fourth installments in its Discovery and Fusion Series.
The 2019 Phifer Pavitt Reserve – one of BBC’s first releases – earned both Double Gold and Best in Class for finished bourbons at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. This year’s expression is a 10-year-old Tennessee whiskey finished 18 months in cabernet sauvignon barrels from Phifer Pavitt.
Discovery Series #4 is a blend of three Kentucky bourbons aged between 10 and 15 years – including a 13-year high-rye – and it’s rich in spice and caramel with a nice dried fruit note. It’s 115 proof and opens a bit hot but that fire fades nicely into a lovely complexity.
It was created by Bardstown Bourbon Company Kitchen & Bar executive chef James-Stuart Plush.
The Fusion Series also showcases blends created by members of an in-house team from all departments and chosen in a blind tasting. This latest one blends a sourced 13-year Kentucky bourbon with two house-distilled three-year bourbons to create a gorgeous nutty and honey base with a layer of crisp apple on top.
It was created by visitors experience representative Vince Metcalfe, who led the tasting and tour of the distillery when I visited.
“I am really honored that my blend was chosen by the panel, especially since it was my first time having been part of the process,” said Metcalfe.
“Being part of the visitors experience team, I get to see people try our products for the first time every day, so I am excited for others to try this blend.”
Once we’re all traveling again, Bardstown Bourbon Company is something to see.
The 100-acre campus out on the edge of town sprawls with traditional-looking rickhouses with a modern flair and more either under construction or planned. There's also an absolutely stunning modern distillery with a shop and the large, open and airy Bottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar. Outdoor seating abounds.
When I was there, construction crews were working hard on a large new bottling facility at the site, too.
In addition to making its own whiskey, which it has been blending with older sourced whiskey as it stockpiles its own juice for future bottlings, Bardstown – founded in 2014 – also makes and blends whiskey for a number of other brands that you likely know, including Jefferson’s, High West, Belle Meade and Hirsch, among others.
The distillery is part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and offers tours. Try to get a peek into the “secret” room lined with priceless bottles of whiskey.
When the BBC whiskey arrives in Wisconsin for the first time, it will mark something of a homecoming for VP of Brand Sales and Marketing Herb Heneman, who is a Wisconsin native that lived for a time on Milwaukee’s upper East Side when he worked for MillerCoors for many years.
“We are thrilled to be rolling out in Wisconsin this year. Bardstown Bourbon is currently available in 13 states, and as we looked to grow that footprint, we wanted to expand on the huge success that we saw in Chicago in 2020,” says Heneman.
“As a native of Wisconsin, for me, selfishly, this is a huge step for us. I grew up in Madison and spent more than a decade with MillerCoors before making the jump from beer to spirits. With great distribution partners in Capitol-Husting, bourbon lovers should expect to find our products in (southeastern Wisconsin) to start, and across the state as we get into 2021.”
These initial forays into the market will land on shelves by late January at both Discount Liquor locations, Ray’s Wine & Spirits, Otto’s localtions, Piggly-Wiggly stores, Consumer Beverage, Timer’s, Muskego Beer & Liquor, Total Wine & More and Albrecht’s Sentry Foods Delafield.
Area Woodman’s stores will also stock them, but because each location has its own buyer, it’s not clear yet if every Woodman’s will carry all three whiskeys. While it is likely they will, you may want to call ahead if you’re seeking one in particular at your local Woodman’s.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.