2018 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby Bottle

IMG_3673

We are gearing up for the Kentucky Derby, and our annual Derby Party, on Saturday! And, to get ready, I’ve purchased the annual commemorative Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottle. I always get mine from Hi-Time Wine Cellars, and when we were in Richmond, Virginia last weekend visiting our daughter I also picked one up from a local ABC store.

Each year features different artwork, which I’ve written about before (and read my interview with the 2017 artist Thomas Allen Pauly). This year’s bottle does not disappoint and will be displayed prominently on our bar at the party. The artwork is by Keith Anderson, an artist and employee of Brown-Forman (the company that owns Woodford Reserve). From the tag on the bottle:

… Anderson colorfully portrays the sprint out of the gate in the most iconic horse race in the world. Anderson works mainly in colors and acrylics and has a love of bleeding colors with a focus on equine portraits.

You can also read my previous post about special bourbon releases around the Kentucky Derby.

Bourbon, horse racing, and the Kentucky Derby intermingle often. That’s because the heart of Bourbon country, Louisville and Lexington, is near Churchill Downs, Keeneland and many of the country’s horse farms. A lot of bourbons have horse and horse racing themes to them, which might be why I like bourbon so much!

We are looking forward to Saturday! What are you plans for watching the fastest two minutes in sports?

 

Kentucky Derby California Style

The first Saturday in May is a special day to me. Having grown across the Ohio River from Louisville, we always watched the Kentucky Derby. My parents hosted many parties for the race. I attended the Derby with friends when I was in high school and college, among the crush of humanity in the infield. Back then you could buy an infield ticket for $5. I still have the infield ticket from 1973 when Secretariat won the Derby on his way to win the Triple Crown. We would get to Churchill Downs very early in the morning to be in line when the gates opened. We then raced with our stools and milk crates to stake out our spots along the inside fence by the finish line. We would camp there all day for “The most exciting 2 minutes in sports.”

imgsvr.ashx
Lynn and I dressed up for this year’s Derby Party

When I moved to California, I wanted to introduce my love of the Derby and the traditions of Kentucky to my new friends and the young lady I met who I have been married to since 1979. Lynn and I began hosting Derby Parties in 1978 when we watched our first Triple Crown winner together. I was rooting for Alydar, Calumet’s Horse to win, and Lynn was rooting for Affirmed, the California horse.

IMG_7349
Setting up for the party

We have continued these parties with a few breaks for our kid’s grade school years. Our goal has always been to spread the traditions of Kentucky, and our love of the excitement, beauty, and power of horse racing. This year carried on those traditions. We did add a new twist this year with some rain. We just don’t do rain in California in May. Only twice in over 30 years of parties have we had rain.

imgsvr.ashx (1)
Ray wearing his admission badge

This year Lynn designed an invitation that looked like some of the old Admission Badges in my collection from the turn of the century. We asked people to wear their badges along with a bow tie for the men and a hat for the ladies.

With the post time being just after 3:30pm in California, we start the party around 1:00pm so it’s a great time for an afternoon of seeing old friends, dining, and horse racing. We have TV’s all over so people can watch the other races and all the build up to the Derby.

IMG_7354 (1)
This year’s centerpiece

We have the Mint Juleps flowing in the official Kentucky Derby glasses I have collected over the years. We offer other beverages but the Mint Juleps are a big hit. This year’s food was fantastic with Burgoo, ham, and pulled pork as the main dishes. There were too many appetizers, salads, vegetables, and desserts to list. It’s always good. Our friends enjoy bringing a dish to add to the day.

imgsvr.ashx (3)
Betting the winner

Our guests have an opportunity to pick a horse or horses in a win pool. Over the years they have started to study up prior to the party and all come prepared with their list. The winner was also the betting favorite at Thornley Downs. Everyone loves cheering the horses down the stretch.

imgsvr.ashx (2)
Joann’s winnings

We have been to the Derby several times. In 2015, we attended the Belmont to see American Pharoah the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed. We really enjoy attending the races but there is no bigger thrill than introducing friends and family in California to the traditions and excitement of the Kentucky Derby.

Kentucky Derby Bourbon Bar Cart

IMG_7338

It’s only a few days until the 2017 Kentucky Derby. We’ve sent out the invitations, planned the centerpieces, and started cooking (well – I can’t really take any credit – it all goes to Lynn). I have my Woodford Reserve “Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby” special edition bottle for mint juleps. I’m about ready to go. What’s left? Stocking the bar for those who want to do a little Derby Day bourbon tasting or drink their bourbon neat!

I would suggest you have some horse racing themed bottles for those guests to try. There are some incredible bourbons with equestrian themed names, and graphics. In past blogs I have shown you the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottles, the Maker’s Mark American Pharoah bottle, and the Calumet bottle.

You must have a bottle of Blanton’s, the originals single barrel bourbon. It is a beautiful bottle with a horse and jockey stopper. These iconic stoppers are the different strides gate of the horse from standing to a full run. Each horse & stopper has a letter that spells out the name Blanton’s so there are 8 different stoppers.

I just got a bottle of Pinhook bourbon. Anyone familiar with racing knows the term pinhooking. It is an old Southern term for the purchase of very young thoroughbreds to be resold at a profit.   The best Pinhookers are speculators, with horse racing experience, and a deep knowledge of lineage. Each release is dedicated to a specific racehorse from Bourbon Lane Stable in Versailles, Kentucky. Great story, and impressive graphics. A friend gave me a bottle from Long Meadow Wine & Liquors in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Calumet Farm is one of the great old storied Kentucky Horse Farms. In 1924 William Monroe Wright, entrepreneur and owner of Calumet Baking Powder Company established a beautiful horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky in the heart of the Bluegrass. He went on to become one the most successful breeders and owners of thoroughbreds in the world. Calumet has eight Kentucky Derby Winners and 2 Triple Crown winners.  The Calumet bourbon bottle is an eye pleasing shape with a graphic of the steeple from their barns on the front of it.

Last but not least, pictured is the 2016 and 2017 Kentucky Derby Woodford Reserve bottles with art by Thomas Allen Pauly. Pauly is the first artist to do 2 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottles and he got them back to back. It is an outstanding bourbon with a history as rich as the Kentucky Derby. These bottles look good on the bar, on as the centerpiece on your table.

One bottle I don’t have is the Orphan Barrel “Gifted Horse.” This is another good tasting and good looking bottle from Orphan Barrel. Gifted Horse is the result of some 17-year-old Stitzel-Weller Distillery bourbon accidentally mixed with some younger bourbon. One their website they say, “Our gaffe is your gift.” They have it in stock at Hi-Time Wine in Costa Mesa, CA – I may be taking a trip there this week!

There are more equestrian themed bourbons. Black Saddle is another interesting choice for your bar. It was recommended to me at our local BevMo store and I have enjoyed it. Chestnut Farms Bourbon is another good choice. It hails from Barton 1792 Distillery with a product inside as impressive as the horse on the outside.

No matter what you have on your bar Derby Day your guests will have a great time. Let’s all toast to 2 great Kentucky traditions — Bourbon and the Kentucky Derby. Oh, yes, and the hats, all the incredible Kentucky Derby hats.

The Mint Julep’s Origins

unnamed
Photo from Saveur

The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. It is made from a mixture of bourbon, water, powdered sugar, and mint. According to Churchill Downs, they serve over 120,000 for the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, which requires 10,000 bottles of bourbon, 1,000 pounds of mint, and 60,000 pounds of ice!

Chris Morris from Woodford Reserve Bourbon says “Centuries ago, there was an Arabic drink called julab, made with water and rose petals. The beverage had a delicate and refreshing scent that people thought would instantly enhance the quality of their lives.” When the julab was introduced to the Mediterranean region, the native population replaced the rose petals with mint, a plant indigenous to the area. The mint julep, as it was now called, grew in popularity throughout Europe.”

Why the Mint Julep? The drink’s ties to the Kentucky Derby can be traced back to a struggling bourbon industry during the 1930’s, but it did not start out as a festive drink. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the drink was originally given to prevent diseases and provide pain relief from body aches. Other stories I have read said they were served for breakfast. It was the spirited equivalent of coffee. What a way to start the day!

The Julep is said to have its origins in Virginia. Much of Kentucky’s heritage and traditions began when it was still part of Virginia. They would have been made with rum or brandy and served in a silver cup. Having sterling silver cups, ice, and the servants to make the drink, was a sign of wealth. As the drink moved to Kentucky they started using bourbon.

Henry Clay, the famous Kentucky United States Congressman, Senator, and Secretary of State in the early 1800’s introduced the drink in Washington, D.C. at the famous Willard Hotel.

In 1938, it was named the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. According to Cocktail Times, Churchill Downs served the drink in a souvenir cup and charged 75 cents per drink. The Derby glasses went through several phases of glass, aluminum, Bakelite, and back to glass in the late 40’s. A complete collection of the glasses is quite valuable.

Since the 1940’s the track has commissioned a new design for the Mint Julep Glass every year. The popularity of the Mint Julep, synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, encouraged the other Triple Crown races to create their own drinks. Today, many sporting and special events have their own special cocktail or drink. We have all heard the term “The official drink of….” To think it all started very innocently with Kentuckians enjoying their favorite beverage on the first Saturday in May in the early 1900’s.

You can check out my Mint Julep recipe here!

 

 

 

 

What’s Cooking for the Kentucky Derby

The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby is less than 2 weeks away. We’re already planning the menu for our annual Derby party. So, we’ve pulled out the cookbooks, Garden & Gun and Southern Living Magazine, looked online, and called friends who live in Kentucky. Only a few days left to get cooking for those guests!

Lynn has a large selection of cookbooks from Kentucky she always pulls out weeks before the Derby. She likes to add a little something new to the party each year. We have tried and true dishes and recipes everyone loves, but she loves to cook and likes to add something new.

Derby Cookbooks

You can tell by the picture she has about worn the cover off of Bluegrass Winners, a cookbook by the Garden Club of Lexington. She has had it forever, and it has some great pictures and complete menus and recipes for any occasion. Another favorite is The Kentucky Derby Museum Cook Book. It has an introduction with ideas to help plan your party and a ton of recipes and food suggestions. Another fun cook book is Cordon Blue Grass, Blue Ribbon Recipes from Kentucky, published by the Junior League of Louisville. The Southerners Cookbook from the Editors Garden & Gun is chocked full of great southern food, recipes, and delicious pictures.  Lastly, How to Throw a Great Derby Party by Sue Wylie is a fun little book with everything you need to know to throw a Derby Party.

Bourbon Books

Mint Juleps are a MUST for the bar. You can check out my Mint Julep recipe here.

Lynn has made Burgoo for years. Every region of the country has their own native stew or soup. Kentucky has “Burgoo.” No one can agree on the how, what, when, or why of Burgoo. There are many stories about its origin and the derivation of its name. After the Civil War Buffalo Trace hired Gustave Jaubert, the father of burgoo, to cook for its employees. When you tour the distillery you can see his burgoo kettles in the distillery’s Burgoo House.

In addition to Burgoo, ham is another staple at our party served with small rolls to make sandwiches. The last few years we have alternated between ham sandwiches and pulled pork. Either way you are getting the business end of the pig and a real southern treat. That pretty much covers the main dish, now what do you serve with that that burgoo and pork?

We have lots of salads we have served over the years. You can make it as simple as coleslaw or as elaborate a salad as time allows. We have many guests who ask to being something so we suggest a salad. Salads are easy and travel well.

Keeping that Southern theme other good additions are pimento cheese, cheese straws, and spiced nuts sitting around. We also love to have Virginia peanuts around. They are crunchy, and very different for our Southern California guests. Kentucky was part of Virginia at one point in time! All are very good, very southern, and easy to serve.

I know what you are thinking, what’s for dessert? Well, you will have to keep an eye on the blog to find out. Make sure to order your Derby glasses, napkins and supplies from Becky Biesel at Party Kits & Equestrian Gifts in Louisville – the store has been around forever and you can now order online.

What do you have planned for your Derby party menu?

 

 

 

Interview: Thomas Allen Pauly, Woodford Reserve Artist

Each year, Woodford Reserve puts out a special edition Kentucky Derby bottle. The official bottle for 2017 has been released and is available in specialty liquor stores across the county. I had the opportunity to interview Thomas Allen Pauly, the artist who created the art for this year’s label.

Thomas Allen pauly WR Derby Bottle 2017 copy
The 2017 Woodford Reserve bottled, art by Thomas Allen Pauly

Woodford Reserve has been releasing a special Kentucky Derby bottle for 19 years (it’s also the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby). They are always a work of art – colorful, and exciting. Each one is different. This year’s art was inspired by the view Tom saw when he got his first glimpse from the roof of Churchill Downs. He has photographed there for years but never from the roof.

C7E9hEbXgAI7hzy

Tom was born and raised in Chicago not far from Wrigley Field. He got his introduction to horse racing at Sportsman’s Park in 1978, going with a friend who had a horse in one of the races. The horse, Rusty, won, and Tom got his picture with the group in the winner’s circle. He was hooked on horse racing. Tom decided to use the picture as inspiration for a painting. Once he had finished the painting he showed it to his friend who wanted to purchase it. This led Tom back to the track to watch more racing, shoot pictures, and do more painting.

His first Kentucky Derby was in 1999 when Charismatic won. He did a painting of Charismatic from images he had taken that day. He now makes it an annual event. Most recently he has been there taking pictures for Illinois Racing Magazine. This year he will be covering the race from a different perspective for Chicago Style Magazine.

In 2010 and 2011, Churchill Downs and The Game invited Tom to have a solo exhibit at the track for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. It was here he met Don Berg, the CFO of Brown Foreman. Berg liked Tom’s work and bought a piece. It was this friendship that brought him the opportunity to pitch them on doing the bottle art. In 2016 he did his first Kentucky Derby bottle for Woodford Reserve. With this year’s bottle he is now the first artist to be awarded the honor of doing a second bottle. What an honor for him to do the art for one of the best bourbons in the world depicting the “greatest two minutes in sports.”

Woodford-Reserve-2016-Kentucky-Derby-142-Kentucky-Straight-Bourbon-Whiskey
Last year’s Woodford Reserve bottle, art by Thomas Allen Pauly

Tom’s art has taken him around the world to see, photograph and paint horses from the Arc de Triomphe, to the Dubai World Cup, the Hong Kong Cup, and numerous Preakness, Belmont’s, and Breeders Cup Races. He has also been to painted steeplechase races in the U.S. and abroad. And, he was the official artist for American Pharoah when he won the Triple Crown.

Thomas Allen Pauly & American Pharoah copy

Back to the bourbon. Woodford Reserve is an amazing, balanced bourbon. It has hints of spice, fruit, nuts and of course the grain. Everyone’s palate is different and you will pick up different overtones of flavor. It is good neat, on ice, in a Mint Julep, or mixed if you must.

It was delightful talking with Tom. We are both fans of horse racing and bourbon. And how does Tom like his Woodford Reserve? In an Old Fashioned made with a mix he calls “The Elixir” from the Pair O’ Lakes Lodge in Spooner, Wisconsin.

I got my bottle of Woodford Reserve from Hi-Times Wine Cellars. The bottles will start to appear in most good liquor stores. They make a great addition to any bourbon collection. Enjoy the bourbon and the bottle with a good friend any day, but especially on Derby Day (Saturday, May 6th this year).

My bourbon bottle is empty!

Or an alternative title is how to decorate with bourbon bottles! My wife, Lynn, got the idea a few months ago to use empty bourbon bottles to decorate at our Derby Party last weekend. As you can see by the pictures below, they make the perfect centerpiece for a party that revolves around Mint Juleps and the Kentucky Derby.

Derby1
Our backyard set up for last weekend’s Derby Party

Lynn did some research online looking for ideas on how to use them. She spent a morning at the LA Flower Mart to find the tablecloths and wood rounds that served as the bases. She coupled those with red roses in our silver julep cups. Taylor added the bougainvillea and we had the perfect centerpiece for the Kentucky Derby!

DSC_0603
An empty Basil Hayden’s bottle put to a new use

If you don’t throw parties and want to recycle your empty bottles to buy more bourbon, try eBay. Empty Pappy Van Winkle bottles have sold on eBay for over $200. In a recent auction, a set of 15-20-23 sold for $599.00. A 20-year-old Orphan Barrel Barterhouse bottle sold for $12.00. You can watch and see many of the empty higher priced bourbon bottles sell from a $1.00 to $25 over $100.00. Everybody collects something. And if you are just looking for some unique bottles to decorate with, eBay is a great place to scan for bargains.

You can also use empty bottles to decorate the back of a bar, or even as soap dispensers. With the breadth of ideas you see on Etsy  and Pinterest these days you can find a lot of ideas to use that empty bottle. At the very least, recycle it so someone can make a new use out of the bourbon bottle!