This past weekend, over 100 people from across the nation converged upon Louisville, Kentucky for the first annual WBSE Kentucky Round Up. As whiskey lovers poured into the city via land and sky throughout the day on Thursday, the unsuspecting riverside city had no idea that it was about to play host to one of the most unforgettable weekends for so many of us.
The 3-day Round Up was planned to be both structured and unstructured – centered upon Friday night’s catered bottle share that featured a booth from Heaven Hill, keynote address from Buffalo Trace’s Freddie Johnson, and raffle where over 30 items were given away. Tours to Kentucky’s historic bourbon distilleries were pre-scheduled for Saturday, and several 15-passenger vans were secured for transportation. But beyond that, Kentucky was ours to explore and enjoy with people whom we may had never met in person before, allied previously only by our mutual affection for that amber liquid, but bonded together in friendships that seem like they’ve gone on for a lifetime rather than a few days by the time the weekend came to a close.
Of course, as a whiskey group holding a whiskey-themed weekend in what some call the “bourbon capital of America”, hundreds of corks were popped, glasses were filled, cheers were said, and we did what we do best – appreciate some damn fine whiskey. From our Louisville-native Chris Orr’s patio, to downtown’s Whiskey Row, to a hotel with a bewildered yet thoroughly entertained front desk staff, the overarching theme of the Whiskey Bourbon & Scotch Enthusiasts – that the best part about whiskey is the community it creates – was manifested from a motto to a reality that those of us in attendance were enveloped in.
The whiskey shared was truly epic (I myself tasted some of the best bourbons, and arguably the best rye I’ve ever had) thanks to the generosity of all in attendance. But to tell the truth, though the whiskey was great it was far from the best part of the weekend. The moments shared. The memories made. Those were were the true highlights of the Round Up. Freddie Johnson said it best: Great whiskey will always be available, but you may not get another chance to live out the moments that sharing great whiskey creates.
My heart aches to be back home in chilly central Iowa today; it feels like a part of me is still in that Riverside city. It feels like a part of me is in Birmingham, or Kansas, or Oregon, or anyone of the places that my new friends left the city on Sunday to travel home to. I find myself back in my home that is filled with hundreds of bottles of great whiskey, but feeling like I’d happily open and pour out the last drop of every single bottle if it meant another chance to live out the even better moments that were shared with people that, though I met in person for the first time four days ago, I’d consider some of my best friends.
Here are just a few glimpses into the weekend. I believe I speak for every person there when I say the 2nd Annual WBSE Round Up can’t come soon enough! Cheers!