The Bourbon Social: The Main Event | Tips For Bourbon Tasting Events

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Over the last week (October 6-9), there were four amazing events called, The Bourbon Social. The Bourbon Social is a festival celebrating the craft and culture of Bourbon and Southern food. Earlier this year, in February, April, and June were The Bourbon Social Presents... events (see: Beer, Bourbon, and Bacon Garden Party). Out of the four events, I attended two; the one on Saturday and the one on Sunday.

What The Bourbon Social is about…

“Located in the heart of the Bluegrass, The Bourbon Social is a series of events celebrating Bourbon craft and culture, and the great people who share a love of America’s native spirit. Mix in a little Kentucky hospitality and the tasty foods we’re known for and you’ve got one helluvah party.

This series boasts a variety of events, for the bourbon enthusiast and the newcomer alike…. (and even something for those who were brought along, despite their not liking Bourbon)…. {yes, those people do exist} . From demos to tastings, pairing dinners and distillery brunches, tours and seminars, and so much more – there’s something for everyone and every budget. And if all this wasn’t enough – Kentucky is THE place to be each Fall, from picturesque Horse Farm tours, perfect weather, and the Keeneland Fall meet…. you won’t have enough time to cover all the sights!”

On Thursday, October 6, the event was Bourbon and Bites. This event allowed you to sip and sample six non-Kentucky bourbons and whiskies. Each were paired with small plates indicative of their state. The states included: Tennessee, New York, California, Montana, and even one from Canada. This event was held at Arts Place, and there was live music by Ben Lacy.

On Friday, October 7, the event was A Day at the Races. This event offered indoor and outdoor seating, brunch buffet, open bar, bourbon tastings, croquet and other yard games, live music by the great Ben Lacy, handicapping with expert Ellis Starr, and more. Cocktails and tastings were Basil Hayden’s, Jim Beam Double Oak, Jim Beam White, and Knob Creek. Tickets also included VIP parking at the track, general admission entry, and a program. This event was held at Keene Manor at the Keeneland Racetrack.

On Saturday, October 8, the event was The Main Event. There were over 100 bourbons, whiskies, and other barrel aged beer, wines, and spirits available for you to try. You could try as many or as little as you wanted. There were also local small plates and sweet treats made by some of Lexington’s best chefs. There was also live music, as well as bourbon-inspired fun, signature cocktails by Jim Beam. This event was held at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky.

On Sunday, October 9, the event was the Buffalo Trace Brunch. This event featured brunch with bourbon pairings, a tour of the distillery, and a tasting. This event was held at the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

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The Main Event started at 7:30pm and ended at 10:30pm. There were several tables lined up around the room, and each had food or various spirits that you could try. Some tables were even set up where they could make you a cocktail, such as a Manhattan or an Old-Fashioned.

You could just stop by at whichever table that you wanted. The point of the event was to go at your own pace. You could try all of the spirits at the table, or only one, if you wanted. This type of event is great, because if there are particular bourbons you want to try, you are able to without making the commitment to buying a whole bottle.

We had been wanting to try Bib & Tucker, ever since the Beer, Bourbon, and Bacon Garden Party, back in June. At the event, they used Bib & Tucker to make Kentucky Mules, which were the best Kentucky Mules that we have ever had. We forgot to ask to try a sample at the event, and they ended up running out because the Kentucky Mule was so popular that day. Bib & Tucker ($55) was one of the many bourbons that was available to try that day. Most of the bourbons there for this night were from micro-distilleries.

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Tips for attending an event of this magnitude:

1. Since there were over 100 bourbons and spirits to sample, it would be impossible to try to taste them all. Even though the samples are very small, it still would not be something that is a feasible goal.

2. It may be a good idea to bring a small notebook with you. This is so you can write down the name of the bourbon or spirit, and the type you tried. Some things that you may also want to make note of are the appearance, aroma, taste, and finish. If you are trying several different bourbons, it could be rather difficult to remember one from the next. Writing all of these things in a notebook can help you remember which ones you preferred, so you could buy a bottle later, if you choose to do so.

3. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of a notebook, taking pictures is a good alternative. Just snap a shot of anything you found particularly enjoyable.

4. Usually, there are dump buckets at each table. If you plan on trying a lot, I would make use of this. You can still taste the spirit, but you will spit the rest out in the dump bucket, since you won’t be swallowing it. That way you’ll still be able to remember the night.

5. When tasting the bourbon, be sure to use the technique referred to as “The Kentucky Chew.”

6. Have fun!

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  • This sounds like a great time! Thank you for sharing your tips from your experience. I’m sure it would help many people who are trying to attend this type of event!

  • This sounds fun! I am not really a bourbon girl but my husband is and I know he’d love to check out an event like this!

  • Jen @ Saving with Spunk

    This sounds like my dream. Over 100 bourbons! I am dying over here!

  • This sounds like so much fun!