Commence au Festival!


I recently attended the Cigar, Bourbon and Beer Fesitval in Fredericksburg, Virginia. If the title of the event wasn’t enough to give you an idea of what the day entailed then let me provide a little insight. It was a day of cigars, bourbon and beer. There, how was that? The cigars and beer I didn’t concern myself with too much. I am The Bourboneer and bourbon (whiskey) was the reason for my attendance. So from that point of view, here is how it played out.

First of all, it was a cool and comfortable 93 degrees with what seemed to be an equal percentage of humidity. It was like the much cliched “sauna” outside. All who paid the rather steep ticket price of 43$ received a commemorative shot glass of the event (not the standard 1 oz glass but the monster 4 oz glass) and the opportunity to enjoy live music, great food from local establishments and, of course, unlimited samples of showcased whiskey, bourbon and rye. The crowds were manageable, there were sufficient locations to get out of the heat and the vendors were kind and extremely helpful.

The bourbon or whiskey portion of the festival was sponsored by Brown-Forman, a Kentucky based production/marketing company of well known wine and spirits. Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve and Old Forester were their labels on display. Jim Beam Distillery provided their small batch bourbon collection of Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Booker’s and Baker’s. Bulleit, Buffalo Trace and Jefferson’s rounded off the out-of-state offerings. The “made in Virginia” distilleries were on prominent display boasting the Old Dominion’s whiskey making chops…rightly so! The already established larger distillers like Filibuster, A. Smith Bowman and Belmont Farm took top-billing, but it was the smaller, regional/local Virginia distillers I desired to sample most. All were new to my palate. They included: Virginia Sweet Water, KO, Catoctin Creek, Copper Fox, River Hill and Reservoir.


So much whiskey so little time. Where to begin?

As with any seasoned Bourboneer faced with such imposing odds, a well thought out plan of attack was critical. Without a viable means of securing each objective my assault would be woefully ill-prepared and fall flat on it’s face (literally). Channeling my inner Sun Tzu, I marshaled my options by subdividing my attack to places not expected. My objective was simple: Impose my will upon the whiskey and not allow the whiskey to impose it’s will on me. Simply put, I spent the greatest portion of my time focusing on the bourbon I had not yet tasted and saved any remaining time to enjoying the offerings I had.

To spare any unnecessary length to this article and belabor my experience with a summary of every sample, I will tell you there were two (2) whiskies I would be proud to add to my collection. Of note and first to be considered the selection of the day was Virginia Sweet Water Distillery’s award winning War Horn Whisky. War Horn is a corn and barely whisk(e)y at 42.5% ABV or 85 proof. It retails for about 30$ depending on location. Very affordable. Not only was it pleasurable to the taste, highlighted by its sweet oak and slight fruit profiles, but the warm and mellow sensation made the finish delightful. What impressed me just as much as the whisk(e)y itself was how War Horn pays tribute to our military with the sale of every bottle and that always “stands tall” in my book. When you get a chance look up the War Horn story. It’s truly inspirational and I highly recommend the whisk(e)y.


Secondly, I thoroughly enjoyed the award winning Reservoir Bourbon from the Reservoir Distillery out of Richmond Virginia. What I found interesting about this bourbon was the mash bill was strictly 100% locally grown corn, bottled at 50% ABV or 100 proof. No other grain was involved in the production. Because the mash bill was composed of only corn the profile was softer and sweeter than traditional bourbons. It retails at about 85$ a bottle. The Reservoir representative kindly gave me the equivalent of two samples in my monster shot glass. They were ice cold, smooth and delicious with no after burn. Perfectly refreshing on such a hot day. I was thankful. If you have the opportunity to buy a bottle of Reservoir Bourbon, don’t hesitate! It’s worth the price.



Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Basil Hayden’s KSBW, 40%ABV or 80 proof (artfully aged) Kentucky Springs Distilling Co., Clermont-Frankfurt, KY.

References: The Art of War, Sun Tzu.


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