Wednesday, October 05, 2016
In the Shadow Of
I was very fortunate to be able to attend law school in my late 30's. I knew at the time how lucky I was, to be free from making a living for three years, given the opportunity to engage in a purely academic pursuit with the brightest bunch of people I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. One of the great wins of my life.
So I spent the better part of three years in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is an old river town on the Ohio River, it is a mid-western rust belt city. I very much enjoyed my time there.
The University is south of downtown in the shadow of an old industrial area. Part of the campus was once an assembly line for Ford Model Ts. Vendome is just past the parking lot, north Americas leading manufacturer of distillery equipment. If you drink a distilled spirit made in America, odds are it passed through equipment made in Louisville. Next to that is a large cooperage, a factory that makes oak barrels for aging bourbon, in the winter you could see the fire and smell the smoke from finishing barrels.
An interesting piece of bourbon trivia. Bourbon must be aged in new charred american oak barrels to be called Bourbon (it's the law.) How did charring the barrels get started? A distiller in Bourbon County Kentucky was shipping whiskey to New Orleans. He was having trouble finding new barrels, and found used barrels that had been used for salted fish, and pickles. He washed them, and charred the inside. Filled them, shipped them down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, and by the time the whiskey from Bourbon County arrived in New Orleans, it had taken on a wonderful color and mellow flavor. A much better color than whiskey shipped in new barrels. The call went out for more of that wonderful whiskey from Bourbon County, and aging in charred oak barrels became the standard.