Multi-billion dollar bourbon business is bang-up big for the Bluegrass state. | Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Distillers Association

In case you needed a reason to drink bourbon: Earlier this week, the Kentucky Distillers Association reported that bourbon pours $8.5 billion into the state’s economy each year, generating an annual payroll topping $800 million, which provides $825 million in tax revenue. Plus, distillery start-ups and expansions are fueling a $1.2 billion building boom in the Bluegrass.

This is one of those moments when I think, “Wow, Prohibition was so monumentally stupid!”

Where'd the "Signature" go on the 100-proof Old Forester bottle?
Where’d the “Signature” go on the 100-proof Old Forester label?


New Look for Ol’ Fo’—minus “Signature”: This is a big year already for the state’s most legendary bourbon, Old Forester. A $45 million-dollar tourist distillery is slated to open this summer on Whiskey Row, and in the coming weeks, you’ll see new labeling for this historic brand.

But what’s interesting is the new label for its 100-proof bourbon no longer bears the word “Signature.” A press release on the package upgrade didn’t mention the change, which I’m assuming means no changes to the contents of the bottle either.

**If you’re an Old Forester Signature fan like I am, you’ll want to know that it’s on a serious sale at Prospect Party Center on Hwy. 42. Can’t beat $39 for a 1.75L or $24 for a 1L.

Michter’s made me a rye guy: My first taste of rye whiskey was at the Bourbon Classic three years ago, when Michter’s was pouring its 25-year-old rye in the V.I.P. area of the event. I tells ya, angel’s was a sangin’ with every sip. It was that flavorful, complex and powerful, and it spoiled me, of course.

And though it’s not a Michter’s 25, the brand’s master distiller, Pamela Heilmann, just approved the 2017 release of its 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye for sale in March. Among Michter’s portfolio, this is one of the most prized by the brand’s fans, even at its $150 price tag. Click here for more details.

First pick for Pam! Michter's master distiller, Pam Heilmann, by her first special release, 10-year old rye.
First pick for Pam! Michter’s master distiller, Pam Heilmann, by her first special release, 10-year old rye.

**You going to the Bourbon Classic? You can taste this great rye with me during a whiskey, country ham and chocolate pairing I’ll co-conduct on March 4. Click here for tickets.

This makes me Double-Double Happy: Woodford Reserve is rereleasing its incredible Double Double Oaked bourbon. If you like whiskey with complexity (mocha, burnt marshmallow, fruit jam) and boldness (toasted bread, smoke, baking spices), but without the burn, this is your pick. I had it back in 2015 at a press meeting at the distillery, and it was a good thing it wasn’t available that day in the gift shop. I might’ve gotten in trouble with the finance director (Mrs. Coomes). It’s easily my favorite Woodford expression.

It’s made by finishing fully mature Woodford Reserve Double Oaked for an

Double Double Oaked Woodford Reserve. By far my favorite whiskey from Woody.
Double Double Oaked Woodford Reserve. By far my favorite whiskey from Woody.

additional year in its second, heavily toasted, lightly charred, new oak barrel. (Toasting a barrel is done using lower heat for an extended period, as opposed to blazing a barrel’s insides for 50 seconds to char it. The result is greater heat penetration into the wood, and better flavor extraction from the barrel.)

Double Double Oaked is presented at 90.4 proof with a suggested retail price of $49.99 for a 375ml bottle. This is a small-batch available at the distillery in Versailles and at select retailers. It’s a special occasion buy for most, but I promise, it’ll be memorable.