Bourbon Classic appears to have been a big success.
It was preceded for journalists (and me) by a two-day 'bourbon boot camp' that visited six producers (Four Roses, Town Branch, Buffalo Trace, Maker's Mark, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam) in two days.
We were driven around in a bus. We drank. I recommend it. Thanks Mint Julep Tours.
The Bourbon Classic itself began Friday evening and continued Saturday afternoon though Saturday night. It is a joint production of The Bourbon Review Magazine and FSA Management Group, with support from the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. All events were held at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. Everybody did a fantastic job. It was well conceived and well organized. The Bourbon Classic is intended to be an annual event.
Both evening events were held in the main lobby of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, an exceptionally beautiful space highlighted with major works of visual art. Pictured above (below the projected Bourbon Classic logo) is The Coloured Gates of Louisville by John Chamberlain (1988). The space also includes major, large-scale works by Jean Dubuffet, Louise Nevelson, and Joan Miro.
Both evening events were reception-style. Guests wandered from table to table and socialized along the way.
On Friday, the participating bourbon producers were paired with restaurants, whose chefs prepared special dishes--on the spot in many cases--and whose head mixologists created compatible cocktails using the products of their bourbon company partners. There was a competition, if you care about such things. Mostly there was an evening of truly exceptional eating and drinking.
Satuday evening was similar, except for the addition of live music, a full dinner buffet with Kentucky specialties such as corn pudding, shrimp and grits, benedictine cheese spread, country ham, and roast tenderloin (both beef and pork). Local restaurants brought special desserts and the bourbon makers offered both cocktails and straight pours.
There was an after party in the The Kentucky Center's bar and an after-after party at a nearby restaurant.
Saturday began in the Bomhard Theater, with eight master distillers each interviewed individually in the style of 'Inside the Actor's Studio.' That was followed by Bourbon Classic University. Attendees had a choice of three different programs for the first :45-minute session and four for the second.
The weekend's stars were the bourbons and bourbon-makers, and Louisville's most exciting and innovative chefs and restaurants.
And the Louisville Cardinals advanced to the Sweet 16.
In short, the Bourbon Classic was exactly what it should have been. Congratulations to everyone on a wonderful first-year event. Bourbon Classic 2014 can't come soon enough.