You Don’t Have to be a Snob!


In my education of bourbon over the last several years, I’ve witnessed multiple acts of snobbery that have, quite frankly, turned me (and others) off from enjoying bourbon to the fullest. There have been several disappointing incidents my memory can recollect but, very recently in fact, I can recall patronizing a well known bourbon establishment on Louisville’s Whiskey Row. A customer ordered an Old Fashioned and requested that Blanton’s be the bourbon of choice in the very popular cocktail. The bartender, shaking his head and smirking in disgust, immediately questioned the customer’s selection imparting that, in his opinion “using Blanton’s in an Old Fashioned or any cocktail, is a waste.” Inferring that Blanton’s is too good, too fine of a bourbon to be watered down in a cocktail.

Wait a minute! Now I certainly agree that Blanton’s is a fine, fine bourbon. It’s actually in my top three, and I prefer it with just one ice cube. But I thought a bartender’s responsibilities were to make drinks, gently guide customers and more importantly make money for the establishment that employs them? No?

I understand the bartender’s underlying intentions may have been to steer the customer into making the best selection possible (I am sure he was uber knowledgeable and has forgotten more about bourbon that I will ever know). I also took into consideration that we were in Kentucky where bourbon is king and flows as abundantly as the water, so choosing a bourbon from the thousands of offerings could be quite daunting. I get all that, I really do! However, that’s not where I had the issue. No matter how educated or bourbon savvy the bartender may have been, his delivery came across as elitist and, well, quite snobbish. His approach lacked tact and  alienated the customer without taking the time to understand their level of knowledge before deciding to opine his own. Not to mention that his recommendation cost the bar money and a decent tip for himself. But maybe I am looking at this the wrong way. Maybe his comments saved the customer money. Maybe he was just having a bad night. Hard to determine. But no matter how you look at it, I feel the encounter could have been handled more professionally.

As the Bourboneer (and as an Executive Bourbon Steward (EBS)) it is my job to teach about and promote America’s native spirit. We know that bourbon was born here. We know that it was regulated here, perfected here and represents a prominent thread intricately woven into the fabric of our great history. Therefore it clearly should be protected and most importantly, championed here. Bourbon is part of our culture and thankfully this culture is on the rise once again. Those of us who truly consider ourselves bourbon lovers are members of an inclusive society. We are passionate advocates, enthusiasts and proficient imbibers versed in the knowledge, heritage, art and culture of bourbon. We are Bourboneers! Our promotion of bourbon is crucial in preserving and growing it’s popularity as we move forward.

All bourbon is good, some is just better than others.

As an EBS, my role derives itself from the education of bourbon and of course the hospitality that goes along with the offering of a memorable learning bourbon experience. Teaching others or imparting my knowledge in a welcoming, respectful and professional manner is my strength and in fact an honor. Being hospitable and providing the best experience to those thirsty for knowledge is my primary concern. Not just for the interested, but for the efficacy of expanding the love of bourbon as America’s distinctive spirit. I feel the bartender I refer to in this article, failed to consider this. If you focus on where he actually was employed and where this establishment was located, I know more was expected by not only me, but more so by the the customer served.

So having said all of that, I believe there should be no hard and fast rules to drinking bourbon. It doesn’t only have to be served “neat” to enjoy. Or on the rocks, or with water or in a cocktail. It doesn’t have to only be from  Kentucky or aged more than 4 years to be considered good. Bourbon is to be enjoyed by all. Remember, individuals will drink what they enjoy and what taste best to them no matter how much you may expand their bourbon IQ. Not everyone has the same preferences, is adept or is interested in the intricacies of bourbon and its characteristics. You don’t have to be a snob! You don’t have to stick your nose up in the air if someone wants 20 year old Pappy Van Winkle with diet ginger ale. If that’s truly what they want then that’s what they should order, even if just the thought of that concoction makes you cringe. The idea is to promote bourbon not isolate it. My personal experiences and preferences should not dictate anyone’s taste. I don’t ever want the enjoyment of bourbon to be tainted strictly by my own opinions. Individuals need to decide their own preferences. If done correctly and with hospitality, the bestowing of my knowledge and my experience will be the catalyst to their long love of bourbon. And that is what loving bourbon and being a Bourboneer is all about. Right?

-The Bourboneer


Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Why Blanton’s of course! Blanton’s KSBW, 46-1/2% ABV or 93 proof NAS) Blanton Distilling Company, Frankfurt, Ky.

Executive Bourbon Steward


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.

-The Bourboneer

Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Larceny KSBW, 46% ABV or 92 proof (NAS) Heaven Hill Distilleries, Bardstown, KY.