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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

4 Bourbons with Derby Connections

Struggling with what to serve at your Derby Party? Here are four bourbons with Derby connections that also have a great story to share with friends and neighbors at your event where you sit back and enjoy this American native spirit.

($22 - $26)

Part of the Brown-Forman family of whiskeys, that includes Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels, this bourbon begins with a mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. With a classic bourbon nose of vanilla, caramel, oak, spice, and even a little bananas foster, you'll be greeted by a palate of similar notes. This bourbon comes in both an 86 proof and 100 proof version; the 100 proof can often be found at a similar price point and holds up great over ice or in your favorite Derby cocktail.

Derby Fact: While its upscale sibling Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, if you partake in the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby - the Mint Julep (of which more than 120,000 are sold on race day) - it is made with Old Forester.

($34 - $38)

Traditional Maker’s Mark may be the flagship of the brand, but Maker’s 46 is the crown jewel. A wheated bourbon that replaces the traditional rye flavoring grain with wheat results in a smoother, slightly sweeter bourbon. Maker’s 46 begins with traditional Maker’s Mark bourbon that has aged for 6-7 years. It is then dumped, the barrel partially deconstructed, several french oak staves inserted, the barrel re-assembled, and further allowed to rest for several more months in a cave dug into the hillside providing a constant 50-degree temperature. The result takes the traditional mash bill of 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley to new heights with desert-like notes of caramel, cherries, and vanilla pastries.

Derby Fact: In early April at Keeneland Racetrack is the namesake Grade 1 Stakes race - The Maker’s 46 Mile. You’ll see some of the horses, jockeys, and trainers using this and other races during the spring meet as a prep race for the Kentucky Derby.

($45 - $50)

Made under the Diageo name, and part of the Bulleit family, Blade and Bow is tied to the iconic Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. The bourbon is in the 6-7 year age range, with an undisclosed mash bill. This is one of the few bourbons made using the solera process, where the mature whiskey is blended with other whiskies (including some of the original Stitzel-Weller juice), however the barrels are never fully drained, ensuring some of the oldest bourbon still remains. The original distillery was shuttered in 1992, with plenty of aging bourbon left in the warehouses that, over time, have found their way (in small doses) into Blade and Bow. At 91 proof, the is light with honey, apple, pear, and vanilla balanced gently with oak and spice. This is an easy sipper with a pretty cool backstory.

Derby Fact: Tied to the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Julian Van Winkle Sr - known as “Pappy” - opened the distillery on race day for the Derby - May 5, 1935.

($45 - $55)

Calumet Farm is part of the Western Spirits brands, which include Lexington Bourbon and Bird Dog. As non-producing-distillers, Western Spirits sources much of their bourbon, including this one, from Bardstown Bourbon Company. The mash bill is 74% corn, 18% rye, and 8% malted barley, resulting in a bourbon rich in honey, vanilla, and citrus fruit notes along with attractive packaging for your Derby party.

Derby Fact: This bourbon is named in honor of the Calumet Farm thoroughbred breeding and training facility with its signature white barns with red trim and wind vanes that is adjacent to Keeneland Racetrack on the west side of Lexington, Kentucky. Founded in 1924 by William Wright (who also founded the Calumet Baking Powder Company), it is home to 10 Kentucky Derby winners - more than any other operation. Past winners include Citation and Alydar that went on to win the Triple Crown.

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