My old Kentucky home

Published 10:00 am Friday, November 6, 2020

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For years, Georgia, played Kentucky in Lexington the last weekend in October, which just happened. It was not by design, but it became a traditional date on the calendar. What a fortuitous circumstance for those who followed the Bulldogs!

While winning the Saturday game was the foremost objective, one of the most overwhelming experiences came with the drive up through North Georgia and Tennessee at the peak of leaf turning season.

The entire landscape was resplendent with autumnal color. Breathtaking and emotionally charging. Fall in Lexington became one of life’s extras which brought about unforgettable memories.

With the expansion of the Southeastern Conference, this trip has lost its specialness—if you are a Bulldog fan. When Georgia comes this way in recent years, the new date for the game, in early November, takes place after fall color has disappeared.

When the virus disrupted our lives, the old date for the game with the Wildcats returned. Then it had to be rescheduled a week later. Last weekend, there was still fall color but had the game been played as originally scheduled for this fall, it would have taken place as fall color crested.

One of the most memorable scenes from yesteryear, which is still prominent in my mind’s eye, was when the leaves were at peak and the horses were running at Keeneland, one of the prettiest horse tracks in the country.

There was a becoming freshness in the air, which was soulful and arousing. There was a need for a sport coat or a lightweight sweater. In the clubhouse, the well-to-do were smartly dressed with the women adorning pricey outfits and the men all wearing sport coats and ties.

Down by the grandstand there was the other half, those in blue jeans and a sweater that needed mending. Like those in the clubhouse, those with lesser means, nonetheless, always looked for a big payday.

In Kentucky, there is more than the horse tracks at Keeneland and Louisville in the fall—you can also enjoy the bourbon trail. Tour the bourbon distilleries and enjoy seeing how your favorite bourbon emerges for the marketplace. There are 27 distilleries, which are eager to host you and your party. The tours always end up in a tasting room. You are treated with a shot of Kentucky bourbon, usually with a view of the countryside, which is, forgive the pun, a sobering experience.

Years ago, somebody’s ancestor figured out that there was something about the Kentucky’s limestone water that enhanced the taste of bourbon, which resulted in the distilling of fine products that are marketed worldwide. There is something unique about each of the distilleries. Take the tour of Maker’s Mark at Loretto (about an hour almost due south of Louisville) and you can buy a souvenir bottle with which you can fashion your own wax label.

My favorite is Woodford Reserve, the top rated bourbon, which is produced in Woodford County, less than a 30-minute drive from Lexington. The owner of the distillery is the Brown-Forman Corporation, which first took over the brand in 1941 but sold it to a local farmer in the late sixties. The guess here is that Woodford reserve became that farmer’s greatest cash crop.

Brown-Forman bought the distillery back in 1993. After refurbishing, the company gave the product a shot in the arm and annually wins international acclaim as the best of bourbon’s. Of course, Jim Beam and others, lay claim to being the best, too.

Every distillery website, promotes the idea that we should all drink responsibly. So, this disclaimer. I do not drink and drive. When I tour the Woodford distillery, which often takes place on trips to Kentucky, I never visit a distillery without being in the company of friends.

We have a rule; nobody can drive who has had more than one shot of Woodford Reserve. I find somebody in the group who does not drink bourbon and grab their sample. That always disqualifies me from driving back to Lexington. Like a cunning rabbit, I enjoy being thrown in the briar patch.