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Last Friday, I got THE BEST birthday present… from Brown-Forman!
I had the opportunity to visit Brown-Forman’s Cooperage, which I’ve wanted to see for so long! I was among a group of bourbon writers invited to tour the cooperage and sample the newest Brown-Forman bourbon expression, Coopers’ Craft Barrel Reserve. Brown-Forman is the only Kentucky bourbon company that crafts barrels in-house, and the Coopers’ Craft brand of bourbon pays homage to Brown-Forman’s coopers.
The tour was amazing and so, so cool! We learned that the cooperage produces 300 barrels a day, at the rate of about 1 barrel per 45 seconds! Each barrel is made of approximately 29-33 oak staves, which are pieced together without any glue or nails — it’s simply the cooper’s skill with staves and hoops!
Every bourbon lover knows that a brief char on the inside surface of the barrel is responsible for so much of the color and flavor of the final distillate. What you might not know is that the smell of charred barrels is pretty heavenly!
Y’all, it was such a wonderful experience. We heard about some of the most loyal employees — a three-generation family of coopers (including a female cooper!) and a cooper who’s on the three-month countdown to his fifty year anniversary. It’s clear that safety, sustainability, and community are the utmost goals of the cooperage!
The cooperage is located next to the new Coopers’ Craft homestead experience. We were among the first to sample the second expression of the Coopers’ Craft line, Barrel Reserve.
While the original Coopers’ Craft bourbon is low proof (82.2), the barrel reserve is 100 proof. Barrel Reserve utilizes a unique, chiseled barrel which allows the bourbon to penetrate into the barrel more deeply . The result is a stronger, spicier expression than the original Coopers’ Craft.
After we tasted the original and barrel reserve expressions, we were treated to a boulevardier cocktail.
Best of all, we were joined in the tasting by Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris. It’s always a treat to talk with Mr. Morris. He’s so brilliant and funny and he knows literally everything about bourbon!
You can visit the Brown-Forman Cooperage and Coopers’ Craft Homestead exclusively through Mint Julep Experience tours.