When I began this Bourboneer experiment back in August I did so with a conviction to not only learn as much about my favorite spirit but to also share what I have learned with others in a manner that was entertaining and easily digested. As I wrote in a past article, “I am a bourbon drinker who likes to write.” So writing stories, sharing experiences and imparting knowledge became the cornerstone in the foundation of the Bourboneer and it’s development moving forward.
In my inaugural article, I defined the Bourboneer to be an advocate, an enthusiast and a proficient imbiber versed in the knowledge, heritage, art and culture of bourbon, it’s production and with an understanding of it’s unique characteristics. Additionally, each Bourboneer could also classify themselves in one of three categories or levels: #1) Imbiber – the casual bourbon consumer, self educated in the subject with a facile knowledge of bourbon and it’s production. #2) Operator – the regular or daily consumer, formally educated and trained in the subject. Someone who is well read in bourbon heritage, art, culture possessing an extensive knowledge of bourbon and its production. Or #3) Master – the regular, daily consumer formally educated, trained in the subject but makes bourbon a profession. Someone who has a comprehensive and practical knowledge of all things bourbon and a refined palate.
For many years I’ve blissfully drifted along as a Bourboneer Imbiber, contently consuming bourbon of all kinds and casually storing tidbits of trivial bourbon knowledge. Not enough to make me dangerous, mind you, but enough to know why I loved it so much. However, this past weekend that all changed. That’s right…I graduated! I can know comfortably consider myself a Bourboneer Operator. How you ask? Well, let me tell you.
November 11-14, 2016, I spent my weekend in Louisville, Ky. My cousin and I made the long, much anticipated pilrimage to Bourbon country to soak up the experiences the region had to offer. We also soaked up quite a bit of bourbon. Our days were filled with distillery tours and our evenings were spent partaking in the local establishments proficiency in serving up Kentucky’s native spirit. (Many of our adventures will be documented in future Bourboneer articles so you will just have to wait for that). As fun and as exciting as visiting bourbon’s birthplace was, It was not specifically the reason we went. You see, the main objective for our excursion didn’t revolve around merely enjoying bourbon, but rather learning about it. Yes you are reading this correctly. We in fact traveled nearly 1/4 of the way across the country to go to school. Bourbon school that is. Executive Bourbon Steward school to be precise.
The Stave & Thief Society in Louisville, Ky, offers a “premier training and education program established to promote and uphold bourbon’s unique and distinguished culture through hospitality channels by preparing establishments and individuals to deliver on the premise of the authentic bourbon experience.” Phew! That’s a mouthful. In layman’s or Bourboneer terms, The Stave & Thief Society educates the crap out of you in all things bourbon. This was exactly the learning experience my cousin and I had been craving. So we signed up and took the course.
To say the lesson was intensive is an understatement. The course could have easily filled 2 or 3 days, however, it was crammed into a little over 8 hours. The course topics covered such subjects as bourbon history, classification and standards of identity, grain selection, aging, mingling, sensory skills relating to mashbills, proof, congeners yet not to ignore brand awareness and assessing flavor profiles. Oh and there was a 50 question exam at the end to score your proficiency. It was a pass/fail course so not making the cut meant you weren’t worthy enough to become a steward or even be a part of the Stave & Thief Society.
Despite the stress and mind-numbing uncertainty, the course was worth every penny (and that turned out to be aout 50,000 pennies in all actuality) And it was even more worth it when we passed the exam with flying colors. See the proof below.
So to get back to my point and to the reason as to why I now consider myself a Bourboneer Operator. I am happy to report that I am now a certified Executive Bourbon Steward! As a result of this in depth training, I better understand the art, history and culture of bourbon. I am able to discuss bourbon confidently and accurately in a conversational manner, as well as assess a bourbon consumer’s preferences and make recommendations based on their specific taste.
Now armed with my new education, I am here to answer any of your bourbon questions. So ask away.
Before I close, I just wanted to pay a special thanks to all of the staff at the Stave & Thief Society (Moonshine University). They were truly professional and made learning so interesting and fun. I learned so much and I am very thankful for the opportunity to be part of the Stave & Thief Society. Additionally, and more importantly, I want to thank my cousin. He practically bank rolled our entire trip and I am blessed for his consideration to include me in such an endeavor. It had sincerely been a long time since we had the opportunity to hang out in such a manner. I am truly grateful for his generosity and friendship. I look forward to our future bourbon education.
Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Larceny KSBW, 46% ABV or 92 proof (NAS) Heaven Hill Distilleries, Bardstown, KY.