First, some news. I've long wanted to do a Chuck Cowdery-guided tour of bourbon country and it looks like that's going to happen. Imagine it: you, me, in a bus, with a couple of bottles. We'll hit some distilleries, but also a lot of other cool places nobody else gets to see. (You don't need me to do distillery tours.)
More details as they become available.
Meanwhile, the distillers continue to make their visitor experiences worth the trip. Jim Beam, which has spent millions over the last few years to create a world-class visitor experience at its Clermont distillery, has just made another major addition, an on-site restaurant called 'Fred's Smokehouse.'
Fred Noe is no stranger to smoked meat. There's a fine smokehouse out behind the house where he grew up with his dad, Booker Noe. It was built when Jim Beam, Fred's great-grandfather, lived there. Booker liked to make his own ham and sausage. He once freaked out a Fortune Magazine reporter by butchering a hog on the dining room table. (He put down papers first.) Fred Noe continues to stock the family smokehouse. I doubt they'll serve any of his meat at the new restaurant (a Louisville caterer is doing the food), but Fred genuinely knows his way around smoked meat. Just like he keeps an eye on the whiskey, I'm sure he'll pay close attention to what they're serving at his first (maybe not last?) namesake restaurant too.
The menu is inspired by the bold, rich flavor of some of Beam’s best-selling whiskies. It features items such as Devil’s Cut Pulled Pork BBQ on a Brioche Bun, Aunt Mimi’s mouthwatering bourbon baked beans, and a signature homemade chocolate bourbon pie with Graeter’s Jim Beam Bourbon ice cream. Most everything is from Kentucky. (Graeter's, technically, is from Cincinnati.) Menu prices range from $1.49 to $8.99.
It's a good thing they used Aunt Mimi's bean recipe and not the one Fred's mom used when she blew the door off the oven, not once but twice. It contained a little bit too much bourbon!
Fred’s Smokehouse is open daily 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Sunday (March 1 – November 1) and will have limited hours November through February. For more information, visit www.AmericanStillhouse.com.
Louisville Stoneware has created a commemorative Fred's Smokehouse Decanter that's available in the adjacent American Stillhouse gift shop.
You don't need to do a tour to stop in at Fred's for lunch.
If you're visiting Beam and you're a nature lover, allow some time to visit Bernheim Forest. It's right across the street from Beam. Bernheim is a 10,000 acre park and nature preserve. Some of it's landscaped, some of it's wild. There are several ponds with ducks and swans. There are hiking and bike trails. It's really a beautiful place.
Bernheim Forest is owned and operated by a private foundation, but is open to the public.
Bernheim Forest has a bourbon connection. It was a gift to the people of Kentucky from Issac Wolfe Bernheim, who was a successful 19th century distiller and whiskey merchant. Descendants of I. W. Bernheim still sit on the foundation board and help manage its endowment. Bernheim created the I. W. Harper bourbon brand (using his own first two initials for the name), which is sadly no longer sold in the USA, but is popular in Japan and other places. (It's owned by Diageo.)