Sunset in PV

Sunset in PV

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 28, 2013 – “The Bourbon Trail”

We did it; The Bourbon Trail! Now we await our trophy which will proclaim victory; a free(?) T-shirt. When we visited the first distillery, Makers Mark, we acquired a passport. To be victorious, you must visit all seven of the distilleries on the “Trail”, and get your passport stamped at each one. After completion, you mail the passports to the Kentucky Distillers Association, and wait for 4 – 6 weeks to receive the shirts. To complete the “Trail” we spent $34 each for admission fees, while all are not free, Wild Turkey and Four Roses are. (As usual, click on any image to enlarge.)

First on our list was Makers Mark in Loretto, KY. The winding narrow road traverses through the rolling hills through some dense forests that are completely shaded even on the sunniest of days. Once you arrive, you can proudly proclaim you are in Hillbilly Heaven.

The process for making all bourbons is basically the same, but each distillery alters or tweaks some of the steps or processes to make each unique. All bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons. Congress enacted legislation in 1964 outlining what criteria are needed for a whiskey to be labeled Bourbon.

In order to be labeled bourbon, the whiskey must be made in the US and contain in its recipe at least 51% corn. It must be distilled to less than 160 proof (80% alcohol) from fermented grain mash, and matured in new charred white oak barrels at no more than 120 proof. Nothing further can be added, except water, and must be bottled at 80 proof or higher. Maker’s Mark introduced a new bourbon recently, Makers 46, which is actually the char level of the barrel, and added internal staves of a different char level, to add depth and dimension to the finished product.

Maker’s is a relatively small distillery, and has remained with the same family for eight generations. The tour was very informative, considering this was our first distillery, and culminated with a sampling of their products. By law, they cannot serve over one ounce in total of all the samples; about ¼ ounce per sample.

Next, we decided on Jim Beam. What a difference, as Beam is the largest bourbon distillery in the US. By comparison, Maker’s Mark bottles 3,000 cases per day, and hand dips each bottle in wax, while Jim Beam’s automated line is running 30,000 cases per day!

I, for one, was surprised by the number of brands under the Jim Beam umbrella; not being a bourbon connoisseur. By comparison, Maker’s Mark has two products, and pictured below are but a sampling of Jim Beam’s offerings.

The entire bourbon making process at Beam is automated, and monitored by 2 – 4 employees in the control room. Each step is carefully scrutinized, and samplings are taken often from each step to ensure quality control.

And so we did, sample that is. Here at Jim Beam, they give each guest a debit card with a two sample balance on it. You have the opportunity to sample any two of their products you choose at automated kiosks; very high tech. Again, less than ½ ounce per sample.

Shortly after prohibition ended in 1934, Heaven Hill Distilleries was founded by a group of Bardstown area investors and the five Shapira brothers. The company had 12 employees at the time of its founding. Today, the company is the largest independent, family owned and operated producer and marketer of distilled spirits in the country. According to industry analysts, Heaven Hill is now the seventh largest spirits supplier in the US, and second largest holder of aging Bourbon whiskey in the world with an inventory in excess of 900,000 barrels. (Each barrel holds 53 gallons); that’s almost 17 million gallons of bourbon!

CC and I were somewhat disappointed with this tour. Their distillery is 40 miles away in Louisville, and the bottling plant here was not part of the tour. They do have a nice museum/heritage center, so the only actual thing we were able to tour was one of the many rick houses where the bourbon is aged. For the $5 tour cost each, not a great value for your money, IMHO.

The sampling room was very new and modern, and our guide let us sample two of the four choices available. As CC and I were sniffing, sipping, swirling, and tasting, I was interested in the design aspect of the tasting room and my thoughts wandered to my past career. As my eyes moved from one design feature to the next, I was for a moment perplexed as to why the Star of David would be incorporated into the ceiling’s design at its highest point, and then it hit me; the reason, not the bourbon. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, so you are probably one step ahead of me. 

The oldest and smallest distillery in Kentucky traces its origins to 1797 when Elijah Pepper began distilling in Woodford County. This National Landmark crafts Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select, the Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, along with their new expression Double Oaked. The only distiller to utilize copper pot stills and triple distillation process used to handcraft Bourbon today.

All whiskeys, including Bourbon, begin with the grinding or crushing of grains and malted barley. If it’s bourbon, it MUST be a minimum of 51% corn, and usually rye to add flavor. This mash is cooked for 3 -4 hours to break down the starches in the grains. The mash is slowly cooled to around 120 degrees and the malted barley is added. The barley contains an enzyme that converts the starches into sugars. This sour mash is transferred to the fermenting tubs, and the yeast is added. The fermentation process converts the sugars into alcohol and as a byproduct of that process, carbon dioxide is released. The sour mash is allowed to ferment for 3 – 4 days. Sound like making beer? It should as they are almost identical. Each distillery has as another flavor enhancer, the option of using a variety of materials for their fermenters; some use stainless steel. Woodford Reserve uses cypress, and they claim it adds another layer of flavor to their bourbon(s).

After fermentation, the mixture is filtered, and transferred to large holding tanks waiting to be distilled. Again, each distillery uses a different style of “still”, but they all accomplish the same thing. The mixture is heated and as the steam (alcohol) rises it is condensed and collected. This condensed product is now referred to as “low wine” at around 120 proof. The low wine is run through a “doubler” still and the product is now referred to as “high wine” somewhere around 150 – 160 proof. The high wine is now ready to be placed in barrels for the aging process. However, Woodford Reserve is the only distillery we toured that uses a triple distillations process. So the high wine is distilled one final time before barreling. Just another example of what makes them different from the rest, and one they feel can justify a higher cost to the consumer for their product(s).

Woodford Reserve is small, by comparison, and uses different chars on their barrels, depending on the product to be aged. Below are four different barrels that are used. The char level is increased moving from left to right. They obviously would not divulge which barrel is used on what bourbon. Another marketing ploy, or does it actually change the flavor profile?

We were allowed to sample three different bourbons (their choices). CC and I both liked the Distillers Select, but honestly my taste buds are not sensitive enough to taste much of a difference. We could both identify which sample had the greatest percentage of alcohol, but as far as taste difference; not so much. Maybe that is why neither of us are fanatical about the beverage. IMHO, everything they claim sets them apart from the other bourbon distilleries, is just that; claims. Overall the tour was great, and the distillery is one of the only ones constructed from limestone. The $7 tour cost was relatively cheap entertainment for the hour and a half tour.

Founded in 2011, Town BranchDistillery is owned and founded by Dr. Pearse Lyons, an Irishman. He came to this country and founded Alltech, a company that specializes in the production of industrial yeasts. A natural offspring, Alltech Brewery followed, and in 2011 came the distillery.

This is by far the smallest distillery on the Bourbon Trail, and we had to ask ourselves why this one would be included, while Buffalo Trace is excluded. I’m sure it has to be the yeast connection, as while Town Branch is new, and the only distillery in Lexington, the tour at $7 each is IMHO, the worst value on the Trail. It is so small, that the fermenter and copper stills are located in the same room.

The two cypress fermenters at Town Branch, by contrast to Wild Turkey’s 26, look like they have barely been used in their two years of production.

Wild Turkey is a brand of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey distilled and bottled by the Austin Nichols division of Campari Group. The distillery is located near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and the tour is complimentary.

The onsite grain elevators are constantly being re-filled. The large one on the right is corn, and it contains enough corn for one day of production. The smaller one for rye, and hold about five day’s worth of production.

Wild Turkey offers nine different bourbons, and three different whiskeys.

The 30,000 gallon fermenters are stainless steel, and for cooling the mash, they draw water from the Kentucky River, which flows through the cooling coils inside the fermenter. Interestingly enough, the reason this tank is empty, as is all their fermenters this time of year, they cease production when the water levels in the river drop, and the temperatures increase. Production will begin again in the fall, when water levels rise and temperatures fall. This is a normal practice for all of the distilleries we visited.

The new, year old distillery, is the most modern, high tech one on the Trail. Almost every aspect in the process is mechanically computer controlled. Humans are used to steam clean the fermenters between batches, and perform routine maintenance on the equipment.

Every step in the bourbon making process is taste tested. On the left are samples of low wine, high wine, and “White Dog” (moonshine). On the right are samples of bourbons being considered for bottling, provided they match a specific flavor and color profile.

On our way to the sampling room, CC pauses by a mega-barrel of this distilleries namesake.

Just down the road from Wild Turkey, we make our way to our final stop on the Bourbon Trail; the Four RosesDistillery, and for the first time will tour two distilleries in just one day, and this tour is also complimentary. YaHooo! This distillery has a unique style of architecture, one usually not associated with bourbon; southwestern adobe complete with clay tile roofs.

Four Roses was at one time, the “Premier” bourbon of choice. It was sold to Seagram’s, who over the process of ownership managed to take it from number one, to one many bourbon drinkers referred to as “swill”. Now, under new ownership it is slowly building its way back to the top, and in 2012 was named “Bourbon of the Year”; old school in every aspect of production, right down to the cypress fermenters.

This is a good visual representation of the distillation process, which occurs in the still, aptly located inside the stillhouse.

Most commercial stills are two to five stories tall, and the one at Four Roses is no exception. Here, an exterior picture of the “Stillhouse”; all five stories.

Well folks, that completes our requirements for The Bourbon Trail. We are only about 15 miles from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, and will more than likely take that one in as well, since we are so close, AND, it is complimentary as well. Double YaHoo!! Thanks for taking time to stop by, and see what a couple of fulltimers do on a day to day basis. It is not for those that are faint of heart, but we do live a blessed life. Until next time, take care and stay well…………………

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25, 2013 – “Houston, we have lift off”

The inverter arrived yesterday afternoon, and after a brief rainstorm here, we were able to re-install it. Between the two of us, we “got ur done” around 7:30 pm. CC’s smaller hands were invaluable and her contortionist abilities were challenged, as anyone who has worked on an RV can attest. All that is left to do is button everything up, double check the connectors and clamps, and replace the safety cover panel.

Happy hour was indeed happy last night!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

June 16, 2013 "Murphy Returns - Georgetown, KY"

Mere minutes had passed since our last post on June 2, when at the door a knock was heard. Not a strange one, but one we knew all too well; Murphy was back! Why he has to show up and rain on our parade when we have plans is frustrating, to say the least. CC was in the process of preparing a gourmet meal of frozen pizza, when the lights went out….BAM! I’m thinking either power outage of blown main circuit breaker. The neighbors had power and our breaker was not tripped. Hmmmm……………

We also had no DC power, and the voltmeter indicated 10.5V, which had shut down the inverter due to low voltage. Hmmmm……….A check of all circuit breakers on the rig showed no signs of tripping. Hmmmm……….All I’m trying to do now is to quickly find the problem, get it solved, so CC can continue baking our dinner, as it is now approaching 7 pm. Ah…..start the generator and that will power the oven…..NOT! Double Hmmmm……….No power, AC or DC anyplace in the rig. AH!!! Start the engine and let the alternator quickly charge the batteries, but there was barely enough juice left in the chassis battery to turn over the diesel. Finally it started, but running the inverter to power the oven wasn’t going to happen. I’m getting hungry, and I tend to not think very straight when my blood sugar drops. GET THE PIZZA COOKED!!!!!!

So, I grab an extension cord from the basement; plug it into the 110V 20A outlet on the shore power pole and the other end directly into the oven cord, thus by passing the outlet. HALLEUIJAH!!!! Now we look like the Beverly Hillbillies with an extension cord running out the front door. At this point who cares? CC finally is able to finish baking the pizza, which by this time doesn’t look very good, but at this point I am hungry enough to eat a shoe.

Now that my blood sugar levels have returned to normal, I can think more logically. But what the hell is going on; I am definitely perplexed. It is now close to 8:30 pm on Sunday night, so calling ANYONE, anywhere in customer service is not an option. I am quickly running out of options. AHH!........Get on the internet you idiot! Right, I’m on it. Now close to 10:30 pm, and I’m no where closer to finding the problem than I was when Murphy first reared his ugly red head; he has really outdone himself this time.

Luckily for us the weather is cool enough that we don’t need the air conditioners to sleep, and my thinking, at this point, is maybe if I sleep on it, a solution to the problem will present itself. Hell, I’d be grateful to just isolate the problem, and then work on a solution to resolve it. CC reminded me of one of my favorite sayings, “Problems don’t exist, but situations that need to be corrected do.” OK Houston, we have a situation.

The following morning, I was up early, again searching the internet for troubleshooting the situation. I sent an e-mail to the engineers at Winnebago, and upon sending it immediately got a reply e-mail notifying me that they would respond within 48 hours. Well isn’t that just great. So I try calling them, and get some rookie in customer service that spends the first 20 minutes telling me to check what I have already checked, as she is obviously just reading off a checklist. I once again tried to explain my problem, but she was more interested in completing her checklist. OK, we’ll do it her way. By now 45 minutes into our call, we have completed her checklist, she informs me she will pass along my information to their engineering department, as she hasn’t a clue what might be causing me to have a “situation”.

One thing I’m sure of, the four 12V coach batteries are drained. They are the originals, and they are four years old, so I make the decision to replace them. I called a local NAPA and ordered replacement Group 31 AGM’s with a capacity of 200 amp hours each, as the originals were wet cells with 150ah. The local NAPA didn’t have them in stock, so they will have them shipped down from their Indianapolis warehouse. So far Murphy’s visit has cost me ten Benjamins, and I still haven’t isolated the “situation”.

OK, the microwave oven worked when plugged into an extension cord, would that possibly “fix” the refrigerator as well? Only one way to find out. VOILA!!! Houston we may have come one step closer to a solution.

What we have so far, no AC power coming to the AC outlets in the rig from our 50 amp shore power cord. The only way the microwave/oven will operate is though the inverter, thus draining our coach batteries, AND the charger on the inverter is not charging the batteries. When the Winnebago engineers designed this rig, they put a 120VAC sub-panel in the breaker box, and there are three breakers; (1) Receptacles, (2) Microwave, (3) Refrigerator. Hold on Houston, we’re getting close!

Next verify from the Dimensions Inverter Manual what might be happening. By cracky, I think we may have isolated the “situation”. I send an e-mail to Dimensions, outlining my predicament, and within two hours they reaffirm my evaluation; the external AC relay/switch on the inverter has malfunctioned. Their only solution, return the inverter to them in St. Paul, and they will repair and return it within two weeks. Gee, thanks Murphy, another six Benjamins.

Oh, what about that return call or e-mail from the Winnebago engineers you asked? E-mail actually, and I did get one, with a .pdf attachment. Of what you asked? The wiring diagram of our rig. And yes, I did have a few expletives to describe what I thought of them. Other owners of Class A’s tell me Winnebago is one of the best. I must admit, they are; at passing the buck!!!

So, here in Georgetown, KY, just north of Lexington we live, at Whispering Hills RV Park; waiting for our inverter to be returned, hopefully by week’s end, but most likely the next. While we wait, CC and I will once again, be on our quest to conquer “The Bourbon Trail”. 

Until next time, take care and stay well.......................

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 2, 2013 – “Nashville, TN to Louisville, KY”

Our time in Nashville passed much too quickly, and to be honest, CC and I were unsure of exactly where we wanted to go. I have never been a car fanatic, probably because I could or would never spend that kind of money on transportation, but since we are here, the National Corvette Museum was calling my name, about 50 – 60 miles north of Nashville in Bowling Green, KY, right off I-65, adjacent to The GM Factory where all Corvettes are born.(As always click on any image to enlarge, or click on underlined to expand the topic.) 

Upon entering the facility we were both impressed; they spent a fortune on this place. We bought our tickets ($8 each for seniors over 60), and also inquired about taking the GM tour of the Corvette Factory, and were told the tour is not running due to GM changing manufacturing equipment necessary for the Gen 7 Corvette. Production is scheduled for sometime in July, and the first ones off the line will be built for employees. This is when, if there is a problem, GM can correct it before the Corvettes go into full production, at which time the factory tours will, once again, be open to the public. Oh well, just my luck. It seems I’m always a day late or a dollar short. OK, on to the museum, a brief history of the Corvette. 

Generation 1 – 1953 to 1962 and Generation 2 – 1963 to 1967

This 1953 is one of the museums most valuable, serial #60 and in mint condition, said to be worth 7 figures.

Generation 3 – 1968 to 1982 and Generation 4 – 1984 - 1996

Generation 5 – 1992 to 2004 and Generation 6 – 2005 to 2013

Side by side; 2003 versus 2013. Which Vette gets your juices flowing?

If you are ever in the area, I would highly recommend this museum. We spent about two hours, and only left because we were hungry for lunch. They do have an on site café, but we thought we would try someplace “local” in the Bowling Green area.

After lunch, we traveled 25 miles north to our home for the next week, Singing Hills RV Park just outside of Cave City, KY. Upon arrival CC and I were pensive due to mixed reviews, but after we settled in, and realized we were far enough away from I-65 to not be bothered by the noise, and would have to rate it a high 7 or a low 8. The next morning it became VERY apparent just how they came up with the name. 

CC has been wanting a “lap-puppy” since we embarked on this odyssey 3 years ago, and I being the frugal one, have nixed her desires. But today, during happy hour, something occurred that must have been heaven sent; CC’s “lap-kitty” arrived out of nowhere. She says it not the same, but I say, “You can never have too much kitty!!!”. She has yet to name it and claims one kitty in this house is enough. Time will tell………………..

Next time, we will be on a mission to conquer “The Bourbon Trail” in central Kentucky. While we’re here in Louisville, we’ll visit three distilleries; Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Heaven Hill.  Then we will move the home to Lexington, and visit the other four. Until next time, take care, stay well, and thanks for dropping in……………………