As you travel the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, there is no doubt that you will bump into some magic. A new taste, decades-old history, or some Bourbon mystery.
Vintage Wild Turkey Bourbon
I traveled to the trail with a photo of a ceramic Wild Turkey decanter that has been perched on a shelf in my family’s home place for decades. It was not until I visited the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that I realized that the decanter is both a Bourbon icon and a marketing icon.
The brand Wild Turkey was created in New York City—not originally in the countryside of Kentucky. Austin Nichols & Co, a whole grocery seller in NYC, created the Wild Turkey brand to market their blended whiskey to hunters and those that enjoyed the rural life. The Wild Turkey brand was the result of a 1940 ad campaign for a whiskey blended from several distilleries.
In 1972, Austin Nichols purchased the Ripy Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. From that day forward, the whiskey was distilled solely in that location.
Again, a unique ad campaign was used for marketing the brand. This time, the distillery created a ceramic turkey decanter. The first of the series was produced and sold in the early 1970s. Brand fans were encouraged to collect each of the turkey decanters in the series. Our family’s “Turkey on the Shelf” is from the first series and from the primary campaign, most likely from 1972.
Makers Mark Slam Dunk
Is the “Slam Dunk” bottle real or a myth? What is it? If you love Makers Mark Bourbon, then there is no doubt that you know about the iconic red wax bottle seal. It is branding. Each bottle is hand-dipped, even though this tradition slows production time.
A “Slam Dunk” bottle is one where the red wax drips below the bottleneck and covers part of the hand-cut bottle label. Is a “Slam Dunk” bottle a staff mistake, or is it done on purpose? Your Makers Mark tour guide will not comment, but they will smile when you ask.
Bourbon collectors search the Internet and liquor stores for “Slam Dunk” bottles. Some say that every 100 or 1000 bottles are slam dunks. Others say that every time Makers Mark receives a new shipment of grain, a bottle is slam-dunked. Regardless of how it happens, the bottles are rare and valuable.
While visiting the Makers Mark retail shop, you can hand-dip your own purchased bottle—under supervision. Unfortunately, “Slam Dunks” are not allowed.
From the Barrel at Three Boys Farm and Distillery
You never know where you will find the magic on a trail. DW&S Fans Sonya and John of @Itinerant Life followed the trail and found the magic at Three Boys Farm and Distillery. This Kentucky bourbon boutique distillery is located on Crab Orchard Road in Frankfort, KY. The distillery was founded in 2010, and it sits on 122 acres. The magic is not just the scenery—it’s the taste of Bourbon, directly from the barrel.
John is an avid Bourbon tastemaker and collector. He and Sonya traveled the trail, looking for a unique experience. They found it at Three Boys. Many distilleries will age a personal barrel for you, providing a taste yearly. Some will even sell you a “share.” At Three Boys Farm and Distillery, you can schedule a tour that includes a taste from an aging barrel. The distillery team will pull a taste for you, and then you can even ask to purchase a bottle.
In the industry, this authentic “bourbon experience” is usually only for a few. Travel through the Kentucky countryside to the Three Brothers farm, and you can also enjoy some Bourbon Trail magic. Truly a craft encounter.