April 23, 2014

The Pilgrimage to Bourbon Country - A Miraculous Day in Kentucky Part I: Four Roses

Kentucky in April was one of those magical experiences that we'll remember for a lifetime (& hopefully repeat again next year!).  We started on Friday at Keeneland, a beautiful place to see the races.  

Then on Saturday we were off down The Bluegrass Parkway deep into bourbon country.  

If you haven't been to Kentucky this time of year, it's simply ideal.  The flowers are out, the weather is a crisp high sixties during the day and forties at night.  The bourbon trail takes you past horse farms, rolling hills, and through a beautiful pass over the Kentucky River.  Our first stop:  Four Roses Distillery.

Obviously we're huge fans of Four Roses.  We've reviewed all the limited releases we could get our hands on in our War of the Roses Marathon.  We got a taste of this year's Limited Edition Single Barrel a couple of weeks ago at Whisky Live.  It's all been pretty stellar.  So we were brimming with excitement to see where all the magic happens.

Since Four Roses uses three primary ingredients: corn, rye, and barley, it starts with three huge and appropriately labelled bins.

The recipe is then soaked in warm water to produce mash.

And we're talking a lot of mash:

Then things get start to get hot as the temperature goes up and the yeast is added.

It's hot in there...

Real hot!

It gets so hot that they only actually run production in the spring and fall and shut down in the summer.  (Another reason to go in April!).

Once the yeast does its job converting sugars into alcohol, you've got beer.  The beer goes into the beer still.  Here's what it used to look like. 

Here's the modern version (holds a lot more beer!):

What comes out of the beer still goes into the big still, aka the doubler.

They make their cuts.  The tails come out here:

The heads come out here:

And then go in here:

The hearts go into the barrels and end up here:

Pretty neat stuff.  But our miraculous day in Kentucky was just getting started.  Tune in next week as it starts to get really special with part 2!



  1. Great photos, Steven. Thanks for sharing. I'm currently planning a distillery trip in July, with Four Roses being my first stop as well. Now I'm looking forward to it even more. Cheers!

    1. Thanks! It just gets better from here (spoiler - we got a private tour of Willett from the master distiller and that's our article for next week). Read your Liquor Shelf story today. Good stuff! http://whiskyinformative.com/2014/04/24/the-liquor-shelf-stare-down-getting-to-know-some-basic-brands/