Since its founding a few years ago, the Kentucky Bourbon Affair has given whiskey lovers some amazing experiences. This year, it’s June 6-11 and tickets are still available for once-in-a-lifetime events: compete in the Jeptha Games, where folks are throwing axes (seriously, I’m going just to see what happens); pick Russell’s Reserve Rye Barrels with Eddie and Jimmy Russell; or a train ride through Kentucky while you’re sipping Jim Beam.

This year, the Kentucky Bourbon Affair included a single ticket all-day “proof expo,” in which you take elite level classes on bourbon. I’m teaching a class that combines my passions of rum and whiskey. RUM AND WHISKEY: OF LOVE AND WAR digs into how Americans pitted whiskey distillers and rum importers against one another in the 1800s, and whiskey was victorious through legislative efforts. But as you can imagine, the author of three whiskey books and Rum Curious believes there’s space in your cabinet for both rum and whiskey.

The fact that the Kentucky Bourbon Affair is allowing me to present this and taste rare rums to bourbon consumers just shows how much the event organizers care about non-marketing education. Tickets are available at Kentucky Bourbon Affair.

If you care about advancing your bourbon knowledge, you won’t want to miss these June 10:

DARK FIRED DISTILLING IN WESTERN KENTUCKY

Western Kentucky is known for three things: Barbecue, burgoo, and dark fired whiskey. Discover the secrets and science of the dark firing process, and get hands-on with Paul and Merry Beth Tomaszewski, Co-owners of MB Roland Distillery. Taste and compare samples of fired and non-dark fired distillate to gain a real appreciation for how this smoking process influences MB Roland’s products.

EXPLORING YEAST, FERMENTATION, AND OTHER DETERMINANTS OF FLAVOR IN BOURBON

Think you know flavor? You don’t know yeast. Dive into the world of this complex organism with Dr. Pat Heist, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-owner of Wilderness Trail Distillery. Take a look at Bourbon through the eyes of a microbiologist in this entertaining and highly informative session. Dr. Heist takes you on a fascinating journey through the metabolic life-cycle of nature’s magician and unlocks the flavors and faults produced during fermentation. Improve your Bourbon IQ – it’s the most fun you’ll ever have in science class!

HIGH PROOF BOURBON: THE TELL-TALE HEARTS

Creating a single barrel, barrel proof Bourbon is a detailed process. So many variables affect the final product, and only so many can be controlled. Examine the pieces of the process with Wade Daniels, Owner and Master Distiller at Wadelyn Ranch Distilling. Discover sensory analysis methods and their importance to ensuring quality and consistency. Learn how Wadelyn Ranch approaches this process including mash bill components, barrel characteristics, proof, and the division of head, hearts, and tails.

ORPHAN BARREL: TALES AND TASTING

The Orphan Barrel Distilling Co. was started to share barrels of delicious and rare whiskey, hidden away and nearly forgotten in the back of rickhouses and distilleries. Diageo’s Master Whiskey Educator Doug Kragel takes you behind the scenes at this private Orphan Barrel tasting with the tales and secrets of these rare selections. Discover the unique flavors and personalities inside each of these expressions before they are gone forever.

TASTING THE GRAINS: THE MAGIC OF CORN

By law, Bourbon must be made of at least 51%  corn. But why corn? Of the cereal varieties, corn is not necessarily the most outstanding. Yet, dig a little deeper, and the grain indigenous to Kentucky has a fascinating role to play in the world’s best Bourbon. Join Joyce Nethery of Jeptha Creed Distillery as she discusses the role corn plays in fermentation, distillation, and finished Bourbon, its flavor contributions, and the way heirloom varietals, such as Jeptha Creed’s own Bloody Butcher Corn, can impact the distillate.

SESSION 2  |  10:45 – 11:45am

BALANCE AND COUNTER-BALANCE: AN INTERACTIVE FOOD & BOURBON PAIRING FOR THE ADVANCED PALATE

Science can be delicious! Spend some quality time with Bourbon Master Taster and Founder of Bourbon Women Peggy Noe Stevens as she presents an advanced and proven method for identifying flavors and their intensity levels in Bourbon.  Broaden your flavor dissection skills with selections of Kentucky Bourbon paired with culinary offerings from local chefs as Peggy leads you through unusual food and Bourbon combinations.

BOURBON FOR WINE LOVERS

Who says you can’t love both? Open up your palate and discover the complementary flavors in wine and Bourbon. Master Sommelier and Executive Bourbon Steward Scott Harper invites you to explore the similar flavor profiles of wine and Bourbon and guides you on proper selection of  Bourbon according to wine preference. Train your palate to detect subtleties and connect profiles, and enjoy a whole new way to experience Bourbon as you pair it with white and red wines.

SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM

Since its opening, Corsair Distillery has been enthusiastically pushing the limits in the whiskey category through experimentation with grains, malting, distillation, and aging. Geek out with Senior Head Distiller Clay Smith as he dives into the innovative experimental techniques and methods that distinguish Corsair as a leading craft brand, and taste a number of samples that will surely enhance the appreciation of whiskey-making for all guests.

YOU COMPLETE ME: UNLEASHING FLAVOR THROUGH PAIRINGS

Rev up your taste buds and prepare to polish your palate with this delectable series of whiskey and food pairing exercises. Experience the bold flavors and discover the subtle notes of country ham through whiskey as Andrea Wilson of Michter’s Distillery and author Steve Coomes team up to take your flavor detectors to the next level. Learn the art of complementing and enhancing flavors through pairings in this delicious and fun seminar.

SESSION 3  |  1:00-2:00pm

PARKER’S HERITAGE: A DECADE OF DECADENCE

Each year as part of the Parker’s Heritage Collection, Heaven Hill Distillery selects a special whiskey to be released in the name of their late Master Distiller Parker Beam. Join Heaven Hill’s National Whiskey Brand Ambassador, Bernie Lubbers, as he reviews the origins and history of this acclaimed annual series of  American Whiskey. Sample both this past year’s 24 Year-old Bottled-In-Bond offering and three no longer available prior editions, including the 5th, 6th, and 8th editions. Help us honor Parker’s legacy and enjoy a rare opportunity to taste critically-lauded whiskeys from this groundbreaking collection.

PEERLESS CALIBER

Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. is alive and producing fine Bourbon and rye whiskey for the first time in generations. In honor of the first whiskey release in 100 years, Corky Taylor, 4th generation owner of the distillery, will share the irresistible story of his family’s journey through Kentucky’s rich distilling history. Be one of the first to taste their rye whiskey, released May 20th of this year, while Head Distiller Caleb Kilburn discusses the blend of tradition and innovation he used to honor the family legacy in this first release from Kentucky Peerless.

RUM AND WHISKEY: OF LOVE AND WAR

Once, whiskey distillers and rum importers were locked in legislative battle to decide which spirit became this country’s drink of choice. It came down to the base–American grown grains or imported molasses. Whiskey won. Today, the same wars are playing out, but not in Congress. Rather, consumers are making their choices known–rum or whiskey. But why not both? The two spirits greatly complement one another. Experience Bourbon and rum in an entirely new context as author Fred Minnick takes guests on a tantalizing  adventure through American spirits history.

SINGLE BARREL BOURBON SELECTIONS: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT EACH DISTILLERY’S PROCESS

Explore the single barrel selection programs offered by Heritage distillers with Chris Zaborowski, owner of Westport Whiskey & Wine. You will be able to taste and evaluate the carefully chosen flavor profiles distinctive to each barrel. Throughout your tasting, Chris will share tips about how to secure a selection date and the process to choose the perfect barrel.

VINTAGE SPIRITS: HISTORY IN A BOTTLE

Dive into the world of vintage spirits with the owner of the largest whiskey collection in the Western Hemisphere. Join Bill Thomas, Owner of Jack Rose Dining Saloon, and Jared Hyman with Bourbon Source for a robust discussion of the history, evaluation, and collection of vintage whiskeys. Taste some of Bill and Jared’s rare findings, and settle in for some personal time with two of the country’s greatest collectors.

SESSION 4  |  2:15-3:15pm

BRANDY ROCKS!

Meet the guy that distills for a brandy company in the middle of the Bourbon Boom. Join Master Distiller Brandon O’Daniel of Copper & Kings Distilling Co. for an exploration of Cask Strength American Brandy and the role different barrel maturation vessels play in creating unique individual brandy expressions. Get a real taste of innovation and experience the way different cooperage can impact the flavor of brandy while sampling barrel pulls of brandy aging in Bourbon barrels, sherry casks, new oak, and whatever else Brandon decides to bring along.

FOUR ROSES: 50 YEARS YOUNG

Four Roses Brand Ambassador Al Young is celebrating 50 years with the company this year, and to commemorate this milestone, Four Roses is releasing a special 2017 Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Small Batch Bourbon in his honor. Master Distiller Brent Elliott and Al worked together to select four of Four Roses’ 10 unique Bourbon recipes to create the final product. Join Brent Elliott as he discusses the flavor profiles, ages, and the selection and mingling process while tasting the individual recipes used to create this special release Small Batch Bourbon.

MAKE AN OLD FASHIONED – LOUISVILLE’S OFFICIAL COCKTAIL
​The Pendennis Club in downtown Louisville has long claimed the invention of the Old Fashioned cocktail in the 1880s. It was popularized by club member and Bourbon distiller Col. James E. Pepper, who would go on to introduce the cocktail to the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, which led to its widespread popularity. In 2015, Louisville’s Mayor declared the Old Fashioned the city’s Official Cocktail, making Louisville only the second city known to have proclaimed an official libation since the Louisiana House of Representatives named the Sazerac New Orleans’ drink of choice in 2008. Perfect your cocktail skills, and enjoy some local lore as you learn the secret to the perfect Old Fashioned.

RUM AND WHISKEY: OF LOVE AND WAR

Once, whiskey distillers and rum importers were locked in legislative battle to decide which spirit became this country’s drink of choice. It came down to the base–American grown grains or imported molasses. Whiskey won. Today, the same wars are playing out, but not in Congress. Rather, consumers are making their choices known–rum or whiskey. But why not both? The two spirits greatly complement one another. Experience Bourbon and rum in an entirely new context as author Fred Minnick takes guests on a tantalizing  adventure through American spirits history.

VINTAGE SPIRITS: HISTORY IN A BOTTLE

Dive into the world of vintage spirits with the owner of the largest whiskey collection in the Western Hemisphere. Join Bill Thomas, Owner of Jack Rose Dining Saloon, and Jared Hyman with Bourbon Source for a robust discussion of the history, evaluation, and collection of vintage whiskeys. Taste some of Bill and Jared’s rare findings, and settle in for some personal time with two of the country’s greatest collectors.

SESSION 5  |  3:30-4:30pm

AMERICAN LIQUORS: GET YOUR DUSTY BOTTLES & WHISKEY TREASURES APPRAISED AT THE KENTUCKY BOURBON AFFAIR

Ever wonder what that dusty old Bourbon bottle in your grandmother’s attic is worth? How about the history of a long-forgotten brand on a timeworn advertising sign in your basement?  “American Liquors” will offer advice and appraisals on rare Bourbon items as the finale event of the Higher Proof Expo.  With so many questions from people with Bourbon memorabilia who don’t know what they have or what it’s worth, this event will be a perfect opportunity to learn the history and value from the experts themselves.  Bill Thomas, owner of the Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C., will lead the appraisal session.