Obama Visits Controversial Cleveland Bourbon, KDA Responds


March 19, 2015

President Barack Obama put a little Cleveland Bourbon on his thumb and jabbed it in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s eyeball. Figuratively.

Obama, who said last year he would enjoy a Kentucky Bourbon with McConnell, visited the makers of Cleveland Bourbon as part of his Cleveland trip. I don’t cover politics, but I can’t help but think this visit was a strategic slight toward Kentucky bourbon-loving McConnell. (Yes, I know this visit was about innovation.)

I reached out to the Kentucky Distillers Association for comment about this visit. After all, the president visited an Ohio bourbon facility before a Kentucky distiller. The KDA’s executive director Eric Gregory tells me Obama has a standing invitation. “In Kentucky, we put our money where our mash is. We’re proud of the $1.3 billion in capital investment and thousands of high-paying jobs that our signature industry has created and committed. We hope President Obama visits the Commonwealth soon to learn why Kentucky is the one, true and authentic home for Bourbon,” he said. “We’re happy he chose a Kentucky team to win the NCAA Tournament. He should plan a trip to the Bluegrass to toast the world’s finest Bourbon and basketball when the big trophy comes back home.”

Aside from Gregory possibly jinxing his beloved Wildcats, the prepared statement was a politically correct gesture, but fans were not as kind.

Of all the bourbons in this country that could tick off passionate consumers, Cleveland Bourbon is the No. 1 hated product amongst old school bourbon lovers.Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 2.14.50 PM

Cleveland Bourbon draws criticism for its over-oaked style. It’s aged for one week using the founder Tom Lix’s technology. Since this product hit the market a couple years ago, I’ve noticed the taste went from licking a broken tree branch to licking an empty barrel that’s been sitting in the yard for a couple days. In other words, Cleveland Bourbon has improved, but I still prefer the old-fashioned way of making bourbon. Then again, Cleveland Bourbon gains widespread attention in the media because people consider this whiskey “innovative” and the market clearly accepts his product.

Nonetheless, I am sure Obama’s visit will be a big boost for the small brand. Lix sent Obama home with a couple bottles and encouraged him to share with Congress.

If he does, McConnell will likely discard it in a potted palm. Because if he’s not compromising on political issues, he’s certainly not compromising on bourbon.