“Whiskey is Liquid Sunshine” – Two El Gaucho Teammates Recap Their Trip to Kentucky

Two of our Spirits Captains – El Gaucho Seattle’s Dasha Mulein, and El Gaucho Bellevue’s Lonnie Anderson, were invited to visit Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark Distilleries in Kentucky. Not only was it an educational trip, they created a custom barrel of Knob Creek Rye, which will be available for our guests to enjoy within the next few months. Dasha and Lonnie recap their trip.

Whiskey Trip Lonnie and Dasha in front of Jim BeamDasha: When I was 25 years old, my friend bought me a bottle of Black Maple Hill 23 Year for my first father’s day, and I have been a huge fan of bourbon ever since. Recently the opportunity arose to select a barrel to be bottled exclusively for El Gaucho Restaurants, and Lonnie (El Gaucho Bellevue’s Spirits Director) and I jumped at the chance to visit the epicenter of American whiskey.

A 1973 Rip Van Winkle Bottle that Lonnie and Dasha were thrilled to try

A 1973 Rip Van Winkle Bottle that Lonnie and Dasha were thrilled to try

Lonnie: Let me first say, or declare, rather, that I’ve never been a bourbon drinker. At least that was the way I was before my visit to Jim Beam Distillery and Marker’s Mark.

Dasha: We arrived in Louisville, checked into our hotel, and headed out to dinner, where we enjoyed a round of Kentucky Mules. As you might guess, these are Moscow Mules, but made with the finest of Kentucky brown spirits. After dinner we headed to a bar called simply “Bourbons.” The proprietor of this establishment has an extensive collection of old bourbons and ryes ranging back to the early 1900’s – yes, that’s pre-prohibition! We got to see and sample a ceramic decanter of 1972 Old Rip Van Winkle. I then sipped 25 Year Michter’s Rye while he educated me on the way things used to be before bourbon became so popular, and where he thinks things are going. It was an amazing experience, to say the least.

The old Jim Beam Rackhouse is 5 levels, with varying degrees of temperature.

The old Jim Beam Rackhouse is 5 levels, with varying degrees of temperature.

Dasha: We awoke in the morning feeling a little hazy, yet excited, and headed to Jim Beam. Our first stop after checking in was Warehouse K, where we got to sample barrels of Knob Creek of different ages and from different locations in the rack house. It was fantastic to be able to see first hand the things that we had only previously read about. After each of us bottled our own bottle and marked the sealing wax with a thumbprint, we had a fantastic barbeque lunch and headed back to the hotel.

Lonnie: The Jim Beam Stillhouse was incredible. The interior looked like it was built in the 1800’s and hadn’t been touched since. We went up a couple of floors, and experienced the difference in temperature of each floor. I was a little uncomfortable because we were walking on wooden planks that were five floors up – a little scary, especially because I’m afraid of heights! We learned the science behind the storing of bourbon on different levels and temperatures of the rackhouse. Basically, the higher you go the hotter it is, which will age the bourbon faster than storing the bourbon on the much cooler floor level. It depends on what the master distiller is looking for with regard to flavor and alcohol, as to how he decides to age his craft.

Lonnie and Dasha were able to personally bottle their own whiskey.

Lonnie and Dasha were able to personally bottle their own whiskey.

Dasha: Day three began bright and early as we headed to Maker’s Mark for the most informative tour I have ever received. We saw everything from the corn being sorted to barrels being unloaded to wax being dipped. We even got to taste their closely guarded yeast strain! Our Maker’s tour concluded with an hour-long bourbon class, where we tasted and compared Maker’s side by side with its Kentucky, Tennessee, and Canadian counterparts, as well as got a bourbon science lesson. After dipping our own bottle in the famous red wax, we headed to a local Kentucky “hole-in-the-wall,” and I enjoyed the best fried-chicken sandwich I’ve ever had, aside from the one on El Gaucho Bellevue’s lunch menu, of course!

A full comparison taste test!

A full comparison taste test!

Lonnie: Our tour began in the visitor’s center at Maker’s Mark. Our tour guide explained the Samuels family story, and the recent generations of Bill Samuels, Sr., who created Maker’s Mark.

Dasha hand-dipping Maker's Mark bottles

Dasha hand-dipping Maker’s Mark bottles

Dasha: All in all, this was an amazingly fun and educational trip. Not only did we get to hand select a great product to bring back to our guests, but we had the opportunity to see first hand the care, craftsmanship, and years of experience that goes into that product. Our barrel of Knob Creek Rye will be on our back bars in the next few months, and we will be bringing our guests delicious cocktails to highlight it.

More photos from our trip:

Jim Beam building

Jim Beam building

Barrels, barrels, and more barrels!

Barrels, barrels, and more barrels!

Family tree at Jim Beam

Family tree at Jim Beam

Beautiful barrels!

Beautiful barrels!

Jim Beam old warehouse

Jim Beam old warehouse

Barrels to taste at Jim Beam

Barrels to taste at Jim Beam

Knob Creek testers  to taste

Knob Creek testers to taste

Jim Beam - the masher

Jim Beam – the masher

Blog Jim Beam units to add yeast

Lonnie tastes from the barrel

Lonnie tastes from the barrel

Knob Creek labels

Knob Creek labels

Maker's Mark grounds

Maker’s Mark grounds

The old days of transporting whiskey

The old days of transporting whiskey

Maker's Mark building

Maker’s Mark building

Drink Whiskey, of course!

Drink Whiskey, of course!

Menu showing the offerings of rare bourbons

Menu showing the offerings of rare bourbons

Warehouse K at Knob Creek

Warehouse K at Knob Creek

whiskey trip tasting glasses whiskey trip sample whiskey bottles whiskey trip Dasha and Lonnie's personal bottles

Dasha making his own Knob Creek

Dasha making his own Knob Creek

The thumbprint

The thumbprint

A personally made and signed bottle by Dasha Mulein!

A personally made and signed bottle by Dasha Mulein!

The tag that will adorn the El Gaucho Barrel when it arrives next month

The tag that will adorn the El Gaucho Barrel when it arrives next month

Whiskey Trip Maker's Mark whiskey trip masher

The Maker's Mark wax ladies

The Maker’s Mark wax ladies

Maker's 46 barrel - extra waffers for 18 months.

Maker’s 46 barrel – extra waffers for 18 months.

Maker's Mark quality control room

Maker’s Mark quality control room

Chihuly glass ceiling adds some color to the store room at Maker's Mark

Chihuly glass ceiling adds some color to the store room at Maker’s Mark

A bit of Seattle at Maker's Mark - Chihuly glass

A bit of Seattle at Maker’s Mark – Chihuly glass

whiskey trip Maker's Mark comparison tasting

Notes from a bourbon lesson at Maker's Mark

Notes from a bourbon lesson at Maker’s Mark

The Maker's 46 process

The Maker’s 46 process

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