For those that have followed us for a while, we are (obviously) lovers of bourbon but we also love travel, food and the finer things in life. Our jobs take us routinely to interesting places and we try to leverage those opportunities to eat and (most importantly) drink local. As I was trying to decide which bourbon/whiskey to drink tonight as I watched the NCAA basketball tournament, I had a thought…what if hunting bourbon/whiskey could be more than a challenge to find the rarest, most valuable bottle? What if it were to diversify one’s collection and drinking options to include a mass- or micro-distilled bottle or bottles of whiskey from every state? The saying is that, in life, the journey is more important than the destination. In the bourbon/whiskey world that journey could include opening horizons to local or regional products that are not routinely available in one’s local store, restaurant or bar. My inner scientist loves this as well. How do the stills, the type of barrel, the climate, even the building materials of the rickhouse affect the final product?
Having been a drinker and collector for many years now, I have amassed a collection of nearly 350 bottles of whiskey. Nearly 100 of those bottles are currently open and being enjoyed, in moderation, over time. While I settled on a ‘bottom shelf’ but truly outstanding Kentucky bourbon tonight (Heaven Hill 6 year white label), I found myself looking at the bottles and thinking about the state of their distillation. Most were obvious: Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Colorado, California, Utah, etc. Most bottles are from large, well known distilleries. However, some of my favorites come from the off-the-path places, including the whiskey from Alpha Tango craft distillery in Indianapolis, IN. That whiskey in particular may not garner the highest score from Whiskey Advocate but the story is important to me. I’ve written about Alpha Tango before. A distillery owned and operated by a disabled veteran. A female master distiller willing to stop her work at the still to give me a tour and talk about a shared love of whiskey. A small building that I’d driven by 100 times and never bothered to stop. As I sip their whiskey, which is, don’t get me wrong, a quite solid and very nice sipping whiskey, I feel more connected to the story than I do when I pour a dram produced by a mega distillery and available on every local store shelf. I hope that the challenge of the journey does more than check a box that says that I achieved my goal. I hope it brings more stories and memories, like Alpha Tango, that connects me to the distiller’s art into which they poured their heart and soul to create.
There is a quote from Shawshank Redemption that says, “If you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further.” Maybe you, the reader, is willing to become an active participant in this journey. While I haven’t catalogued my collection to know what states I have and which I am missing, if you have a favorite local bourbon/whiskey (preferably a craft distillery), please feel free to respond in the comments, to Tweet us or to email us. In return, we’ll keep you posted here with a tally of which states we’ve completed and a review of our finds.