Fishing & Boating in the Northwoods

Woodford Reserve Distillery

Kentucky thoroughbreds in field

We awoke from a deep sleep in our room at Natural Bridge State Park to singing birds. (Read about our trip to Natural Bridge State Park and the Red River Gorge here.) We thought that we had perhaps dodged the predicted rainstorm. Much to our chagrin, as soon as we got the car loaded, the sky unleashed another deluge of rain. This made our drive back to Lexington a bit of a challenge. But, we pressed on. Afterall, we were expected at Woodford Reserve!

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Early Stop for Lunch at Sam’s Truck Stop

We were scheduled to make a stop at the Kentucky Horse Park, a 1200-acre location dedicated to horses of all kinds. The rain, however, had brought with it a cold front and some nasty winds, making for a one-two punch that knocked us off our feet. With few horses even out of their stalls, we disappointedly left the park. We did, however, make an early stop for lunch at an interesting place on the northeast side of Lexington called Sam’s Restaurant (Note: Sam’s is longer open).

Also affectionately referred to as Sam’s Truck Stop, this is a place that is sure to please anyone with an appetite for a good old-fashioned home-cooked meal. The food is fresh, served hot and the portions are ample. Sam’s is open every day except Sunday and serves breakfasts, lunches, and dinners… all made to order. We sampled Sam’s version of the Hot Brown, a salad with excellent homemade bleu cheese dressing and a piece of their heavenly cream pie, which is also a must. You simply cannot take a pass on Sam’s if you are in the area.

Wild Turkey sign

Whiskey For My Horses

By now the whisky was calling me instead of my horses. We had two additional distilleries that we wanted to check out in the Lexington area. Unfortunately, we only had time for one tour today, and Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg would have to wait for another trip.

woodford reserve distillery

Woodford Reserve

We had made an appointment at Woodford Reserve in Versailles (pronounced differently from the French city of the same name (this one is pronounced: Ver sails) and headed there. The rain had taken a break, and the jonquils and forsythia along the road on the way to the distillery made it seem almost as if the sun had actually come out. There were also numerous horses out feasting on the grass they hadn’t seen for months, and there were wobbly-legged foals following close to their mothers’ sides.

Woodford Reserve is a small batch distillery located in the heart of Kentucky Bluegrass and in the midst of some of the most scenic and picturesque thoroughbred horse farms in the country. Originally built by Elijah Pepper in 1812 and purchased by Labrot & Graham in 1878, this is the distillery where Dr. James Crow refined his craft of producing consistency and quality in bourbon, earning him the affectionate title “the Father of Bourbon.” Read more about the history of bourbon.

As is the case for any high-quality bourbon, water is the key ingredient. Woodford Reserve sits atop a limestone formation from which its water for the bourbon making operation is derived. Limestone, after all, removes the nasty impurities that will forever disallow a fine bourbon. As well, limestone imparts the calcium that not only helps the yeast do its work, it also helps create strong bones for Kentucky’s superior thoroughbreds.

copper stills at woodford reserve

Our Tour of Woodford

pouring bourbon from the barrelThe tour of Woodford Reserve may have been similar to other tours, but as is the case with different distilleries, each not only has its own proprietary recipe, each has a special twist that allows it to lay claim to a bourbon superior to the rest. Woodford is no different. They have fermenting barrels made from cypress, and that is the way “it was originally done”, making whiskey essentially the way it was made in the early 19th century, using cypress-wood tubs to ferment the grain.

They also had custom-made copper stills imported from Scotland to distill the mash, aging the final spirit in stone warehouses, as opposed to the wood or metal preferred by others in the industry. Whether a result of the cypress, the copper or the limestone warehouses, Woodford is unquestionably an excellent example of a premium Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky. It is one that you should put on your list of bourbons just to sip. By the way, Woodford Reserve has been The Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby since 1996. Perhaps you will now understand better the “Whisky For My Horses” phrase above…

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R. Karl

Angler, Author & Epicure

Fishing since the age of eight.  Seriously writing since the age of 16. Chef and foodie from the age of 22 years… and counting. So much to learn and so little time. I have enjoyed every minute of it all.  Whether on the water (where I like it best), in the kitchen, or at the keyboard, churning out content, I feel like I have found my place.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that some of what I love to do will rub off on you. I hope to see you On the Lake!

R. Karl