Untitled Super Club (Chicago)

While sitting at the bar at the Berkshire Room, I had a nice conversation with a few locals who told told me I had to go to the Untitled Super Club before I left town – a self-described “Contemporary revival of a Prohibition-era Chicago Supper Club” combining fine dining with a classic social club-feel complete with live music and Cabaret-style entertainment.

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The club has a very nondescript entrance, as you might guess. Once inside the door are stairs down to the basement. Behind the stairs is a big glass case filled with whiskey bottles.

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Once downstairs I was bombarded with the ambiance of the surroundings –  comfortable lounging areas and fun art. On each side of the stairway are two large bars with a spectacular display of whiskies. They claim to have one of the largest collections available. I cannot dispute that fact.

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What made the experience even greater was the hospitality of the bartenders. Mick, who asked what I would like, greeted me. I judge a bar by their cocktails and I usually start with an Old Fashioned. Mick was a terrific bartender. He was attentive, knowledgeable and knew his whiskey.

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We started talking about what kind of bourbons I liked and I had tried. He suggested I try the Garrison Brothers Single Barrel. It was quite good. I still have not figured out the nose but I said burlap, Mick said top of the rick house.

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We then we moved on to a discussion of Japanese Whiskey. I said the ones I had tried did not impress but I knew they were not the best. He suggested the Yamazaki 12 year-old Single Malt. Once again, he hit it right on. I would try this again and I am not a single malt person.

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The last one I tried was Widow Jane from New York. Another great selection and bourbon. I will add a bottle to my bar.

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We ended the night when Mick brought out the Cynar for those left at the bar. Cynar is an artichoke based bittersweet liqueur known for its distinctive flavor. Its taste is enriched by an infusion of 13 herbs and plants. The name of the drink derives from Cynar scolymus, the botanical name for artichoke. Try it sometime; it’s very appealing.

The Untitled Supper Club is definitely worth a stop when visiting Chicago. I’m looking forward to visiting again when I’m in town next.

The Berkshire Room (Chicago)

I am in Chicago this week for work and the concierge at the hotel suggested I try the Berkshire Room. So, last night, I grabbed a cab and headed to Ohio Avenue and a bourbon lovers paradise.

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The Berkshire Room feels like you are walking into a Speakeasy. It is small, intimate and very well appointed. What makes it even more special is the bartenders know how to create incredible cocktails. On the menu, you can ask for a “Dealers Choice-Cocktail.” It is fun because you pick the glass style, the type of liquor, and your flavor preference – and leave it to the bartender!

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I chose a rocks glass and bourbon. They asked what style drink I like and I said I like Old Fashions and he took it from there. What I got was an amazing cocktail made with the following:

2 oz. Ancient Age Bourbon
1/2 oz. Averna
1/2 oz. Walnut Liquor
1/8 oz. House Falernum
Three Dashes of Angostura Bitters
Garnished with an orange peel

I was enjoying the drink so much I decided to order the “Pick Any Tree” Chef’s Rotating Artisan Charcuterie & Cheese Selections with Crostini. It was a generous sized appetizer for two before dinner (I made it dinner). I was enjoying the meat and cheese so much I ordered another “Dealers Choice” to enjoy with it.

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I like to sit at the bar, especially when traveling alone. You get a lot of conversation and I tend to learn a lot. Several locals were very knowledgeable about Chicago whiskey bars, bourbon, and the Berkshire Room. I found out it is so popular that two guys got a place very close to the bar so they can have a drink after work on a regular basis.

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The Berkshire uses a lot of Buffalo Trace products. They had the full Antique Collection and all years of the Pappy Van Winkle Collection. They had a selection of probably 150 bourbons and ryes behind the bar. They also have a selection of very old bourbons from the 80’s, all the way back to the 40’s.

When in the windy city, stop in The Berkshire Room for a unique whiskey experience. You will be taken back in time. It is a very relaxing experience.

Eating Along the Bourbon Trail

There is no shortage great food in Kentucky and Tennessee (where we began our most recent trip). Here’s a rundown of places we have eaten along the Bourbon Trail.

Nashville

Martin’s BBQ Joint
We started our trip in Nashville and were really only there the day we arrived. We stayed at the Doubletree right downtown. The staff could not have been nicer and more helpful (you forget how truly heartwarming southern hospitality can be). The concierge gave us several ideas of where to eat, and go for entertainment after dinner.

We decided on barbecue at Martin’s BBQ Joint downtown. The BBQ was incredible. We got the sampler of brisket, ribs, and pulled pork which is served on a big tray with your sides. The have a full service bar so you can get anything you want to drink with your dinner. Coincidentally, the night we were there the local sports station had a satellite broadcast with a couple of Tennessee Titans who were about to play the Patriots for a Super Bowl Berth. After dinner we strolled over to the Tin Roof for some live music and an after dinner drink.

Edley’s Bar B Que  and Jack’s Bar-B-Que
Our concierge at the Doubletree also suggested Edley’s Bar B Que. Others we spoke with suggested Jack’s Bar-B-Que. I don’t think you can go wrong. The BBQ in Nashville is so well known and fantastic. Another place to eat is Acme Feed and Seed for live music and southern fare.

After Dinner
Off to the Tin Roof to listen to some music and have a drink. The bands were good as were the drinks and they were reasonably priced. After Tin Roof we headed to B.B. Kings Blues Club for some blues to finish off the evening. There are so many places to listen to music, stroll around, with the open windows when you hear a band you like pop inside for a drink to relax. The rain which became snow was just beginning as we strolled back to the Doubletree. Reminded me of a Dan Folgelberg song!

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 Lexington

OBC Kitchen
We had dinner at OBC Kitchen (“Old Bourbon County”) which was not far from our hotel. That turned out to be a good thing. We were in short sleeves in Nashville the night before and got several inches of snow on our car while dining at OBC Kitchen. OBC has over 400 bourbons behind the bar. If they don’t have it, you didn’t want it anyway. We did not have reservations and when we arrived they said they were pretty full despite the weather. But John Calipari’s table was available since the Kentucky Basketball team was in Nashville. What a treat to sit at the table with his nameplate on it.

The menu at OBC challenges you to tough decisions about what you want to eat. There are so many good choices on the menu it’s tough to pick one. We started with bacon in a glass. Decadent thick sliced honey bourbon sugar glazed bacon. There were 4 pieces served in a tall cocktail glass. This was a meal of its own. I had the cola braised short ribs with grits. Oh my, welcome to the south. We ended with the warm buttermilk donuts, finished with cinnamon sugar. They are served with chocolate ganache, raspberry melba, and salted caramel dipping sauces. You really don’t need the sauces; these donuts stand on their own merit. These are to die for and reminded us of the donuts they serve at the Homestead Resort in Virginia.

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Malone’s
Malone’s was another restaurant recommended to us. It is part of the Bluegrass Hospitality Group which also owns OBC. Everyone we spoke with said to go there if you don’t go to OBC. Just looking at the website made me hungry. The original is on Tate’s Creek Road. If you go to OBC and can’t get in there is one a few doors down in the same parking lot.

 Louisville

Brown Hotel
In Louisville there are far too many dining choices. If this is your first trip you must have Louisville’s most famous dish the “Hot Brown” created at the Brown Hotel in the 1920’s. Go for lunch or dinner to have a hot brown. It’s open faced turkey served on oven browned bread, covered in a mornay sauce, bacon and sliced tomato. It is then browned on top in the oven. Worth every calorie, worth the wait.

The Seelbach Hotel

Milkwood
We decided this trip we wanted to eat at dinner Milkwood. Chef Edward Lee merges Southern food with Asian flavors and bourbon cocktails at this hip venue. Lee collaborated with Jefferson’s distillery to help create the “Chef’s Collaboration Bourbon.” He wanted a bourbon he could serve with his spicy dishes. A lot of very creative dishes, and fun environment. Lynn had the sorghum glazed rabbit and I had the pork shoulder. Both were excellent, very creative, very fun. This is the last thing you would expect on Main Street in Old Louisville. We had a wonderful experience.

The Silver Dollar
After dinner we took a cab to Silver Dollar. Everyone we spoke with said you had to go there for a drink. A little loud for my taste but they have an amazing bar. What impressed me was they have vintage whiskey as old as 1941. I tried a 1986 Sunny Brook Bourbon. It was only $25 for a pour and well worth it for the experience, it really was ethereal. Older bourbon has a unique taste everyone should experience. You can also get southern classics here lick chicken and waffles, baby back ribs, and a fried oyster sandwich.

The Silver Dollar Bar

Proof on Main

For lunch in Louisville I recomend Proof on Main. It in the fun 21c Museum Hotel. As we were walking by there was a little boy playing with one of the big red penguins in the window. They have a great bar and locally sourced southern fare.

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I could recommend 30 restaurants in the cities we visited, and there are so many good places to eat. I haven’t had a chance to experience many of the new ones. Definitely try local restaurants and something new when you’re travelling along the Bourbon Trail. This is about the experience and pleasures all Kentucky and Tennessee. Most of all don’t worry about the calories. “The Diet starts next week,” you are in the south, enjoy every minute.

Bourbon Trail Day 3: Louisville

We started Day 3 on the Bourbon Trail at Angel’s Envy where we made a reservation for later in the day and drove a few short blocks to Peerless Distilling. Peerless was a pleasant surprise. What a beautiful tasting room and bar!

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They have done a great job of restoring the building. Peerless is a name that has been around since 1890 but the distillery had closed in 1917 during the war effort. Corky Taylor wanted to resurrect his family distillery. In 2014 they were able to buy back the original license and Peerless name and began construction restoring a 114 year-old building in Louisville. They filled their first barrel since 1917 in March of 2015.

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Peyton Beall directed our introduction to Peerless and our tasting. She was very knowledgeable about the distillery and its history.

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They do their tasting with a delicious piece of chocolate, and what a difference that makes. Peerless Rye was just selected by Whisky Advocate Magazine as # 15 in the top 20 whiskies in the world.

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Our next stop was Angel’s Envy. You will be in awe of their distillery and tasting room. They have spared no expense. Another facility in a restored old distillery building in downtown Louisville. The effort to restore a lot of the old buildings has paid off with beauty and great old history.

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This tasting was also done with chocolate. It enhances the senses and experience and takes it to a whole new level.

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After the tour and tasting we hung out in their bar and had a cocktail. They make all their own bitters, syrups, and mixers. Do take the time to relax and have a drink with them. It’s well worth the experience.

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Our last stop of the afternoon was at Evan Williams. They are open until 6:00 which helped us extend the day a bit (others close earlier). Their tour will take you through a diorama of the life and history of Evan Williams which also takes you through the history of whiskey and bourbon in Kentucky.

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The tastings are done in one of several bars set up with period design and furnishings from different time periods. Ours was from the ‘60’s. It is a most informative tour and learned a lot about the history, distillery equipment, a mock barrel warehouse.

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It was a great way to end the day before dinner! This was our 5th distillery on Saturday having begun in Lexington and ended in Louisville. It was time to sit down and relax.

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The next morning we drove out to Bulleit Distillery from downtown. Bulleit is a step back in time. “Originally opened on Derby Day in 1935 and reopened to the public in 2014, the Stitzel-Weller Distillery is one of the true cathedrals of the American Whiskey industry.”

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They won’t tell you on the tour but all the Pappy Van Winkle up until a few years ago came from this distillery. The day we were there they were baking Girl Scout Cookies at the adjacent property. They had about 4 inches of snow on the ground. It made for very pretty pictures against those corrugated steel barrel houses.

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The tour was really well done, probably the best we had along the way. I learned a lot and I felt like I was at Mecca. There is no substitute for walking into a warehouse full of aging bourbon, and on a 20-degree day it’s even more chilling!

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You get to taste 4 of their products in the tasting: their rye, bourbon, 10-year bourbon, and Blade and Bow. I was delighted with the 10 year and the Blade and Bow Bourbon. The 10-year is quite a bargain. They also have some of the Orphan Barrel bourbons for sale in their gift shop.

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When in Louisville plan at least a day for these and more of the tours available. We did not do the Jim Beam experience, there are a few craft distilleries, and there are more opening soon. With all the superb hotels, restaurants, and bars you could spend days in Louisville and not experience it all. Plan to go when it’s a little warmer than the weather we had. But cold or hot there is always a bourbon drink for the weather.

The Bourbon Trail: Our First 2 Days

Lynn and I just got back from a fun weekend on the Bourbon Trail and I’m going to spend the next couple weeks sharing all our tips and suggestions from the trip. We had a great time! But hit a big snag – the weather.

The Bourbon Trail in January would normally not be a huge challenge. We flew into Nashville because we needed to tour Corsair and MB Roland to complete our Craft Bourbon Trail passport to get our Julep Cups. When we arrived in Nashville it was in the 60’s and people were walking around in T Shirts. But that didn’t last long. When we got up the next morning it was starting to snow (the news predicted 6 inches so everything was closing) as we headed to MB Roland. Lynn got on the phone knowing they may not open. MB Rolland was not opening but Corsair said to come on over to Bowling Green!

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Corsair Distillery was named for the privateer or pirate Corsairs. They are a smaller private distillery that does things in a different way.   They make a lot innovative and adventurous spirits, they experiment with new methods, ingredients, and are privateers. With the weather the way it was we got a private tour and met Aaron Marcum, the Head Distiller.

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They were bottling while we were there. We got to ask Aaron a lot of questions and after the tour Steve the Assistant Distiller did our tasting. There are so many different spirits to choose your 7 tastings from you will be there quite a while.

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**That is my first tip on planning your Bourbon Trail trip. Leave time in your schedule to linger at your tastings, ask questions, take pictures, and shop. You will immediately notice how friendly everyone is and how many times you end up in great conversations with the employees.

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We bought a bottle of Ryemageddon and finished up at Corsair. And, luckily, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail folks still gave us our Julep Cups even though we didn’t make it to MB Roland!

We then scraped some ice off the car headed toward Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark or Wild Turkey. It was a trek from where we were, especially considering the weather, and we knew they might be closed. As we got closer we realized EVERYONE was probably closed. We drove to Wild Turkey as they had nothing posted on Facebook only to arrive to be the only ones there.

We took one last stab and went to Bluegrass Distillery since it was in Lexington and not on a country road. They were open and were gracious enough to give us a tour before they left for the day. They are very small which makes for an intimate tour.

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The next morning we awoke to another 3 inches of snow on the car. We checked the Bourbon Trail online and Town Branch was open.

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We had been there before but wanted to see it again. They have a beautiful facility. And despite the weather there was a big crowd. We did some tasting and bought a few bottles. Lynn loved the “Bluegrass Sundown.” It is a dark roasted coffee infused with Kentucky bourbon and sugar. We also bought a bottle off their Town Branch Bourbon with the Christmas labeling. We will hold on to it and to serve next Christmas.

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From Town Branch it was a short 5 minutes to  Barrel House Distilling Co. It’s one of the founding members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour and features many unique products to sample.

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Barrel House, true to its name, is housed in the former barreling house of the James E. Pepper distilling complex, a bourbon distillery which operated from 1879-1958. They also have a new bar with a fireplace in it – a very inviting environment on a cold day.

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Up next – Day 3 in Louisville, which could be more than 1 blog in itself. The restoration of Whiskey Row in Louisville has been a true renaissance.

Surprise! We’re on the Bourbon Trail!

Well, I didn’t tell you ahead of time because time got away from me, but I’m telling you now – Lynn and I are on the Bourbon Trail right now. We flew into Nashville yesterday and today are making our way through Lexington and on to Louisville, where we’ll stay the night. Our agenda is loose but here’s a quick rundown of what we’re planning to do:

-Had dinner at Martin’s BBQ last night then went to Tin Roof for live music
-Tastings at Corsair and MB Roland
-Visit Wild Turkey and Maker’s Mark, potentially Heaven Hill too
-Staying at the historic Seelbach Hotel in Louisville
-Potentially visit Evan Williams
-Drinks at Silver Dollar

Follow along on Instagram (@bourbonwbt) for updates throughout our trip!

You can read about my first trip to the Bourbon Trail here!

More Bourbon-Themed Gifts

As you finish up your holiday shopping, as promised here are a few more whiskey themed gift ideas. Helping to stock the bar is always a great option!

One website I visit over and over to look at all the great gifts they offer is Bourbon and Boots. One of the items they have that I just love are the rocks glasses with whiskey related sayings from writers, generals, presidents, & Hollywood stars. These are some fun sayings and makes drinking out of them even more festive.

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Earlier this week I made a trip to my favorite liquor store – Hi-Time Wine Cellars. They have several seasonal gifts that you can buy through their website, or likely find at your favorite liquor store.  The first is the holiday bottle from Woodford Reserve. Woodford has been releasing a special Kentucky Derby bottle for years and this year they released a Holiday bottle. The painting on the label is named “Snowfall at Woodford Reserve Distillery.” It was painted by Thomas Allen Pauly. He also did the paintings for the last 2 Kentucky Derby bottles and was featured on my blog earlier this year. It is a very warm and inviting painting of a limestone barrel house at Woodford Reserve. His paintings are known for his attention to detail and the details show through here with the evergreens lining the warehouse wall. The label draws you to the bottle and partners well with the beautiful color of their bourbon. It invokes thoughts of a great sip of bourbon while sitting by the Christmas tree. This could be made even better with a fire in fireplace and a little early snow falling outside. These bottles are selling for $44.99 at Hi-Time Wine Cellars.

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Hi-Times is also offering a bottle of Woodford reserve with a branded rocks glass in a gift box for $26.99. It is a 750 mL bottle and 1 glass. That is a very good deal, and one any bourbon lover would appreciate.

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My final suggestion is from Makers Mark. I found a Makers gift set at Spec’s in Texas that was a bottle of Makers Mark and Makers 46 in the same box. You will find many stores have these holiday offerings. The offer at Hi-Time Wine Cellars has a box of with Makers Mark 46 and 2 glasses. This too is a very good deal at $31.97. You will pay more than that for a bottle of Makers 46 most of the year.

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Whatever you do, “drink responsibly this holiday season.” But do toast your friends with a glass of your finest bourbon and a gift that will remind them of your friendship for months to come. Merry Christmas to all, and a very Happy New Year!