The man who introduced the world's first single barrel bourbon has died at the age of 93. Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee passed away Tuesday morning following a brief illness.
Lee's connection to Kentucky's signature spirit began in 1949, when he started working in the engineering department of the George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort. In 1966, Lee was promoted to plant superintendent, and three years after that he became plant manager.
Lee's most lasting contribution to the world of bourbon came in 1984 when he introduced the first-ever single barrel bourbon, called Blanton's. Taking a cue from the scotch industry that gained popularity in the U.S. through single-malt varieties, Lee honed the technique of identifying and cultivating the best bourbon that could be produced in his distillery's warehouses. He took into account where the barrels were located in the warehouse, how often they were rotated, and how long the whiskey aged in the barrels.
In 1986, Buffalo Trace honored Lee by naming a line of single barrel bourbons Elmer T. Lee.
Kevin speaks with Cole Phelps about the history and proper preparation of the mint julep.
The mint julep stands proud as the beverage known as Kentucky's signature drink. Unless you're new to the area or haven't been paying attention, you know the julep is synonymous with the Kentucky Derby.
What you might not know, however, is that the mint julep's history traces back to a rose water drink in the Middle East.
WKU Public Radio's Kevin Willis in 2010 visited the famous Seelbach Hotel in Louisville to learn the history and proper preparation of the famous drink. Cole Phelps, who at the time served as the head bartender at Max's Bar on the hotel's second floor shared his favorite recipe for drink:
The amount of bourbon produced by Kentucky distillers has topped 1 million barrels for the first time in nearly 40 years.
Officials with the Kentucky Distillers' Association said Monday that 1,007,703 barrels were filled in 2012. The last time the total went over a million was in 1973 when 1,004,877 barrels were produced.
The group's president, Eric Gregory, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Kentucky's distilleries are experiencing double-digit sales growth and seeing landmark production levels while investing in new facilities.
The group says bourbon production is up more than 120 percent since 1999.
Michael Veach is a man who knows his bourbon. Not just because he enjoys Kentucky's signature spirit, but because he's also one of the nation's foremost bourbon historians.
Veach is associate curator of special collections at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, and the author of the new book Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Tradition. In his recent interview with WKU Public Radio, Veach told us about the many tall tales he had to debunk surrounding the history of bourbon.
Here are a few web audio extras featuring Veach that we didn't have time to include in the interview we aired this week: