This past weekend saw the debut of an event aimed at bourbon connoisseurs: the Bourbon Classic. Held at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in downtown Louisville, the Classic brought together a great blend of master distillers, top-notch chefs and other bourbon experts for two days of tasting, learning, mingling and shopping.
I was out of town and had to miss Friday night’s festivities, in which eight master bartenders paired with noted chefs for a cocktail/small plate competition. But I had the good fortune to attend on Saturday, soaking up two of the educational sessions and then sampling a variety of bourbons – including the new Barrel Proof Elijah Craig 12-year-old – from 14 sponsoring distilleries in my official Bourbon Classic Glencairn tasting glass.
I’ll share more specific details in coming days, but my overall impression was quite favorable. With its elegant setting and focus on fine food and bourbon pairings, the Bourbon Classic itself is a natural urban pairing for its country cousin, the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, Ky.
I was glad to see that, like the Bourbon Festival, the Classic offered a variety of bourbon education opportunities in its “Bourbon Classic University” – from how-to sessions on pairing bourbon and chocolate, entertaining with your own bourbon tasting, and crafting cocktails to panel discussions of the bourbon barons of the past and the bourbon trends of the future. In fact, there were so many intriguing options that I was sad I could choose only one of four in each of the two time periods. I would suggest starting a bit earlier to add a third time slot and repeating a few of the options next time. The sessions I attended were full, and everyone seemed pleased with the information and access to panelists like Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe and cocktail master Josh Durr.
I also enjoyed visiting with master distillers and other distillery notables during the Ultimate Bourbon Experience that followed the sessions – and tasting lots of bourbon, of course.
Cheers to the Bourbon Classic. I look forward to seeing what they mix up next year.
(Full disclosure: I am a regular contributor to The Bourbon Review, one of the event’s sponsors.)