On June 10, 2014, the Cincinnati Mondiale gathered at the Heidelberg Distributing Center in Hebron, KY for a Kentucky bourbon tasting. The evening was hosted by Vice Echanson Mike Monnin who is Vice President and General Manager of Heidelberg Distributing Company of Northern Kentucky. The speaker for the evening was Hunter Chavanne of Willett Distributing in Bardstown, KY. Upon entering the building, we were ushered into a cozy lecture hall with a bar and serving area where we were greeted by Vice Echanson Monnin and handed old fashion cocktails made with Old Bardstown Black Label 4 Year Old 86 Proof Bourbon. While we shared recent events from around the city with our fellow Mondiale members, appetizers of pork belly and polenta canapés with bourbon caviar, honey brûlée figs with duck confit and pear-almond croquant, artichoke bottoms with saffron goat cheese and Peppadew relish, and pecan crusted oysters with roasted poblano remoulade were passed. The appetizers and dinner were all prepared by Funky’s Catering.
Following our appetizer course, we took our seats at the tables and our speaker was introduced. Hunter Chavanne was an engaging speaker who was eager to teach us about the fine art of bourbon making as well as bourbon tasting. The Willett Distillery was built in 1936 by Thompson Willett in the picturesque community of Bardstown and has remained a family run business since that time. Mr. Chavanne’s wife is a member of the Willett family and he joined the family business 9 years ago. Over the next hour we tasted four bourbons: Pot Still Reserve, Rowan’s Creek 101 Proof, Johnny Drum Private 101 Proof, and Noah’s Mill 114 Proof as Mr. Chavanne described the nuances of tasting the bourbon and described the differences between labels. The final tasting of the evening was a rare Willett Estate 7 Year Rye. This not only allowed us to taste the difference between bourbon and rye, but to taste one of the finest spirits made by Willett.
Once the formal tasting concluded, we were served an incredible dinner prepared by Funky’s Catering. Michael “Funky” Forgus began his catering business in 2004 after spending more than 30 years in the fine dining industry. He and Executive Chef James Trent prepared a bourbon matched gourmet buffet selection six courses: baby greens and Belgian endive with hard cider poached apples, Roquefort, black walnuts, and honey vinaigrette; bistro filet au poivrade with brandy demi-glace and caramelized onion jam; cedar plank roasted salmon with peach-chili compote; penne pasta with broccolini, trumpet mushrooms, Marcona almonds, and Meyer lemon sauce; white cheddar Yukon gold smashed potatoes; and a mix of sautéed carrots, apples, and fennel. The grand finale was a sweet potato pecan tart with salted caramel ice cream and maple bourbon syrup made with Old Bardstown Black Label 4 Year Old Bourbon.
By the end of the evening, we all felt well educated concerning the intricate process of what makes Kentucky bourbon world renowned. Moreover, we found that bourbon pairings are immensely entertaining and enjoyable when they are well crafted. We all thanked Echanson Monnin, Mr. Chavanne, and Funky’s Catering for taking us out of our wine comfort zone and allowing us to experience a new adventure in the great neighboring state of Kentucky.
Graig W. Smith, MD, Vice Chargé de Presse