I WAS BORN
in 1941 in the shadows of Churchill Downs and many of the large distilling concerns located on 7th Street in the south end
of Louisville. On a good day I could hear the races being called at Churchill Downs, and if I wandered close enough to the
whiskey warehouses I could enjoy that heavenly aroma emanating from within. Just to prove I was a rounded Kentucky boy, not
only did I have horses on one side and whiskey on the other, there were also numerous tobacco warehouses nearby. In the summers
I could earn a quarter an hour sweeping tobacco warehouses that must have been 120 or 130 degrees inside.
everyone else I knew, my first experience with bourbon was to buy the most inexpensive bottle I could find, pour it into a
Coke and drink it at a Saturday football game. You have to start somewhere. Soon enough, I discovered things like Whiskey
Sours and Old Fashioneds and at Derby time a Julep or two. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the better the
bourbon, the better the drink. Unfortunately, most people’s only experience with bourbon is at the Kentucky Derby in
the form of a Mint Julep. The problem is, by the time you get your drink it is so watered down with melted ice and has such
a huge sprig of mint in it that you are not able to really taste the bourbon. If you use excellent bourbon, I think you will
enjoy your Mint Julep. I have found the less I mixed with my bourbon, the better I enjoyed the flavor. Occasionally I pour
a little on the rocks, with or without a splash of branch water, and savor the glass over the next hour or so. Ultimately,
however, I’ve come to buying the best bourbon I can find, pouring it in the bottom of the glass and sipping it over
the course of an evening. It’s truly relaxing and enjoyable.
After discovering my family had
some small ties to the whiskey business, I became very interested in its history. I started reading everything I could find
on the subject, and became enamored by the romance of the product. It wasn’t long before my son Trey and I decided to
enter the whiskey business ourselves, and in 1998 we introduced a product known as "Jefferson’s Reserve."
It was 15-year-old bourbon bottled in what we call a "very small batch," meaning that we mingled about a dozen barrels
at a time. I recommend it to your attention; around our house it is referred to as "mother’s milk."
I would love to tell you that we were welcomed into the bourbon community with open arms, but I cannot. Within the first
few months we were contacted by several of our larger competitors and were advised to make some changes to our package or
else. We made the changes. I am no longer in the business, but have turned it over to my son and I am delighted to say that
his products are available across much of the United States and in several foreign countries. He has since introduced a 10-year-old
"Sam Houston" and an 8-year-old "Jefferson’s." Despite the fact we had no advertising budget to
speak of, we have received many excellent reviews of our products, and in late 2006 McLain & Kyne Distillery Co. was purchased
by Castle Brands, which hopes to turn the aforementioned products into worldwide brands. I would refer you to our website,
www.mclainandkyne.com, for more information if you are so inclined.
WRITE TO CHET!
Chet loves hearing from fellow bourbon lovers! Do you know something about the history of Kentucky's
whiskey distilleries? Do you have old photographs, lithographs, or any other evidence that provides insight into Kentucky's
bourbon tradition? Or do you just want to chat about bourbon? Use the form below to
send an email to him with your own bourbon stories, memories, and information!
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