There wasn't any time to complain about the red eye from Los Angeles to Louisville (it's pronounced lull-ville people). Dusty, a Kentucky native and the private event director for Lex Effects, greeted me at baggage claim with warmth, a smile, and a packed agenda. We hopped in her SUV and headed straight to Lexington, home of The Bourbon Social.
Our first stop was Fasig-Tipton, America's oldest auction house for Thoroughbreds and a stunningly beautiful horse farm. Orange and yellow leaves covered the long driveway leading into the facility, plastered to the ground by the morning's rain. I slipped into the huge auction hall to join other members of the media for a run-down of events. Greg Baldia, a local star-mixologist and entrepreneur, introduced the two signature cocktails he developed for each evening's VIP parties.
Next, we walked over to the horse pavilion to see the venue for Saturday night's events, and to learn about the organization Kentucky Proud. Built on the belief that the best products are local products, Kentucky Proud strives to support the local farmers, artists, distilleries, and small businesses across the state who are producing high-quality, "home-grown" goods. There's a lot of pride around Kentucky bourbon, and this group is focused on bringing that same pride, attention, and success to all the other trades around town.
The lunch hour took place at West Sixth Brewing Company, housed in a former Rainbo bread factory. The space is so big it's also home to The Plantory, Smithtown Seafood, Broke Spoke, and amazing creative spaces. We sampled West Sixth's beer and ate delicious fish and chips from Smithtown Seafood, then toured the brewery and the restaurant's tilapia fish tanks and indoor eco-system. Five years ago this neighborhood was struggling to get back on its feet after almost every business had either moved or closed. West Sixth turned things around in a hurry, generating jobs, spawning other local businesses, and fostering culture.
In the evening, we braved heavy rain to get to the VIP cocktail party at Keeneland, a world-famous racetrack and thoroughbred sales hub. Usually the Live Stone Bar is reserved for those who are buying and selling horses at an average sale of $330,000.00. But Jim Beam and the bourbon aficionados took over to kickoff the first annual Bourbon Social in style. I discovered beer cheese, met Megan Breier (Jim Beam's Kentucky bourbon ambassador), danced to bluegrass, and drank bourbon cocktails made to perfection.
I couldn't imagine a better way to end the night except that the evening was hours from over. It involved Pappy Van Winkle served at a stunning Kentucky mansion in the middle of the night. But you'll have to wait for that story. There's another bourbon tasting I need to get to.