Holiday Traditions? Bourbon Please.

I love the holidays. I love overbearing family, tacky decorations, Christmas music, and baking. Someone recently asked about my family’s traditions. And truth be told, they’re not that much different from everyone else’s. However, my parents moved to rural Kentucky and the Bourbon Capital of the World four years ago, and since then we’ve adapted a new holiday tradition: Visiting Bourbon Distilleries. I’ve toured Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, and most recently, Wild Turkey. The Walker clan headed out to Wild Turkey just a couple of days before Christmas this year and in typical Walker fashion…

We were to meet my dad at 12:30 for lunch near his office. We piled in the car, oh about 15 minutes late. My speed-demon sister is at the wheel since we’re running late. My brother-in-law can’t find his sunglasses.  My mother’s co-worker pulls in the driveway to drop off a Christmas present, so while my mom gets back out of the car, my brother-in-law is back in the house looking for sunglasses. Five minutes later we finally leave. From our house we have a 25 mile ride on the Bluegrass Parkway. My dad calls me to find out where we’re at. This is how the conversation goes:

Dad: Where are you guys? I’m at the restaurant. Should I get a table?
Me: I don’t know, somewhere on the Bluegrass.
Dad: What mile marker?
Me: I don’t know what mile marker we’re at. I don’t see one.
Dad: Do you know what a mile marker sign looks like?
(At this point we pass a mile marker sign and my brother in law holds up a 3).
Me: Umm, wait 10 minutes and then get a table.
Dad: Ask your mother where you’re at.
Me: She doesn’t know either. We’ll be there soon.
Dad: You left late didn’t you?
Me: We’ll be there soon.

After arriving at the restaurant 20 minutes late, we rehash the events leading up to our arrival. My brother-in-law makes sure to tell my dad that I knew we were at mile marker three and failed to pass the info along. I give him the stink eye.

We ate lunch and headed out for Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. There is a ‘discussion’ on who got (or failed to get) directions. We called Wild Turkey en route but as the minutes pass, it’s apparent that we have missed a turn. With only minutes to spare before the scheduled tour, we know we’re going to miss it. I jump out of the car at a gas station and see a woman behind the counter lighting a cigarette just before I enter. She hides the cigarette when I open the door (since it’s illegal) but I can tell she’s been chain smoking as the air is stifling. I ask her how to get to Wild Turkey and she gives such precise directions that one can only guess she’s been there a time or two for her own tasting.

We had missed the turnoff because a UPS truck had been blocking the sign. There is grumbling about the missed tour and how we will have to wait around for an hour now. Then, my sister points out the Drive-Thru Flea Market, and it’s a welcome distraction that makes for a good laugh. Sometimes, you think you’ve seen it all in the south, but small southern towns are full of surprises and hidden gems- like a Drive-Thru Flea Market! We were able to join the tour just as they were leaving from the Visitor’s Center. At the conclusion, we could choose two tastings- I went for the Kentucky Spirit Bourbon and the American Honey Liqueur. I’m not a bourbon fan at all but you can’t turn down free sips.

Bourbon’s not exactly the first thing you think of when you think of Christmas, but it’s become part of our holiday tradition. I hope you had a very Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Festivus…. whatever and however you celebrate, I hope it was spent in good company with family and friends! Do you have any holiday traditions?

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