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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Blogging in a Pandemic

Wow! Can it really be two years?

Two years [and a lot of bourbon] ago, I started sharing my love of America’s Native Spirit – sharing everything about it – food, cocktails, lifestyle, tastings, and tours.

Last year at this time, we had grand plans. In mid-March 2020, we’d slated a smattering of tours with family, including introducing them to our favorite tours – Woodford Reserve and Castle and Key – as well as some special backstage tours at Buffalo Trace. The bourbon cabinet was sparse, and ready to be refilled with fine whiskeys, fresh from Kentucky honey holes. We were looking forward to equestrian events in the coming months, including the Spring Meet at beautiful Keeneland Racetrack. COVID-19 changed all of that in a hurry.

We watched as the news unfolded and officials rapidly tried to address an ever-evolving landscape. We were scheduled to leave on Thursday, March 12th (yes, March 2020 had a Friday the 13th). At work, a colleague stuck his head in my office on Wednesday of that week sharing, “If you have anyone that can work from home, get’em out of here. I think they’re going to be sending us all home soon and we have to keep business continuity.” Wow. There are no words. Speechless.

That night, as we discussed plans with our daughter, the proverbial “manure was hitting the fan” – and fast. She was fearful that we would make the trip, only to find that distilleries and destinations would be shuttered as we arrived. Her prediction was eerily accurate. We chose to stay put. The next day, I arrived at work and began my last day in the office. As the team arrived, I started sending them home.

By that evening, indeed, visitors’ centers and stores began shutting down. Our fridge and pantry were bare, in anticipation of a long weekend in the Bluegrass. As I shopped, it was a surreal experience. Some shoppers in surgical masks and disposable gloves, others with carts heaped with provisions for a small army, and everywhere – empty shelves that were once stocked with paper products, sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. While I made sure we had life’s necessities, I did make a trip down one extra aisle in the store. Yes, just to be sure – that if we’re going to hunker in the bunker – we’d do it with bourbon in hand.

By the following week, our home state announced non-essential businesses and restaurants would be shuttered. “What exactly does that mean?”, I thought. No one knew. Before I made another trip to the grocery store, I swung by a campus liquor store. Business was booming, as no one knew if they’d be allowed to remain open. Once again, I grabbed a bottle. Ok, maybe two. Just to be safe. And as emergency hand sanitizer.

I swung into our neighborhood grocery store, only to find that I had to park in the surrounding grass as the parking lot was overflowing. Inside, pandemic purchasing was in full display. Paper products – nonexistent. Canned goods – decimated (Really? Have you ever eaten canned stew, hash or Spam? Just asking). The meat selection – limited. I felt lucky to get some of the last beef and poultry, though at this late stage, it was expensive organic and grass fed. Bags of rice and beans – gone (You eat out most meals - have you ever cooked dry beans?). As I stocked the cart, I tossed in some light reading material – People for my wife, and Backwoods Survival Guide for me, just in case this really was the Apocalypse.

Life changed and we survived. We wore masks, washed our hands, and enjoyed short commutes to the living room office. We mastered Zoom and Microsoft Teams, albeit with loungewear below the desk. We found new hobbies – like walking and hiking. We walked. A lot. We slowed down. We ate better, got healthier, and discovered we needed new, smaller wardrobes. We reconnected with nature. We longed for open-air concerts and festivals but traded them for city walking trails that led to outdoor wine bars. We made new friends and played with all the neighbors’ dogs. And through it all, we survived.

I’ve shared before that I truly enjoy the documentary Neat. The story of bourbon parallels our lives. It begins in the earth. It draws strength from water and grains. It’s exposed to intense heat, distilled, and only the best parts are kept to age. In its youth, it’s intense and hot. As it ages, exposed to the seasons – warm summer days and cool winter nights – it draws sweetness and mellowness and finds balance and harmony. Like bourbon, our lives shouldn’t be rushed. Our short time here is to be savored and enjoyed with family and friends.

P.S. In case you missed out, here are my top 5 favorite posts (in no particular order) from 2020:

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