In my last blog post I promised a full recap of my summer camp experience at Bourbon Camp. Yes! Bourbon Camp is a real thing - located at Kentucky’s Camp Runamok in the heart of the bourbon capital of the world, miles and miles away from the Windy City.
Now, if you went to summer camp as a kid, you’ll remember that all things began with an ice breaker. Well, at Bourbon Camp, the adult version of that took shape in the form of a warm greeting and a nice cup of Angels Envy to start the morning. That really set the tone for the week ahead!
You wouldn’t imagine the itinerary for Bourbon Camp starting bright and early in the morning, but our bus left for distilleries promptly at 8am each day. We visited two distilleries per day for an amazing collection of tours comprised of Four Roses, Maker's Mark, Stitzel Weller, Woodford Reserve and Jim Beam. We even got to see a cooperage! For a group of bartenders and mixologists, this was like visiting all of the theme parks at Disney World.
One of my favorite tours was of Jim Beam. I couldn’t believe the size of the distillery - it was huge! I’ll be honest, going into the tour, I didn’t expect the family legacy to be prominent within a large distillery like Beam, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that its history remains deeply embedded within Beam’s culture. In fact, keeping processes true to its original vision was a common theme that I found across all of the distilleries.
Our tours included amazing glimpses of the behind the scenes workings of a distillery and we even got to meet all of the master distillers as well as family members of Maker's Mark, Bulleit and Jim Beam including Fred Noe, the current member of the Beam family running the brand. Our chat with Noe was amazing and brought everything back to the basics, reminding us why we love bourbon. It doesn't matter which bourbon you like the best, or why and how you drink it; all that matters is that it's delicious and you enjoy it.
My Bourbon Camp experience was an amazing crash course paired with true Southern hospitality. While there’s a significant amount of family pride tied to all of the distilleries, each of them stressed this one point - it’s not so much about competition because they’re all friends who have great mutual respect for one another. As Tom Bulleit joked, "it's not impolite to ask (a southerner) if they're related, it's just impolite to ask how.”
They say summer camp is an experience that you’ll never forget. Bourbon Camp was an amazing experience where I met lots of great people, drank lots of great bourbon and learned an incredible amount. For a photo tour of my time at Bourbon Camp check out my Instagram page.