The first annual BourbonConLex 2023 at the Griffin-Gate Marriott is in the books. We had a great time meeting new bourbon lovers across the country and renewing old acquaintances. If you could not attend, we have all the important details you missed and need to know for next year.
Over 30 vendors were at the event, with products ranging from bourbon-smelling cologne to cigars. We were happy to be the only bourbon-focused news outlet at the convention. It gave us time to introduce ourselves to people unfamiliar with The Bourbon Flight.
The resort setup was easy. BourbonConLex provided tables and power outlets to all vendors. The staff was polite and knowledgeable. Once the doors were open, a slow trickle of enthusiasts started to pile into the hall. We were fortunate enough to be across from the Buffalo Trace tasting table, so we had our fair share of visitors inquiring about The Flight Club and everything else The Bourbon Flight has to offer while waiting for a sample of E.H. Taylor or Eagle Rare.
As with any bourbon convention, bourbon tasting is an event all to itself. People continued to do lap after lap, sampling everything the vendors could pour. The usual cast of top-notch brands was in attendance, from Jim Beam to Wild Turkey.
But bourbon wasn’t the only star of the day.
Makers Mark showcased its glass recycling machine. The machine crushes bottles into small materials finer than sand. The pilot initiative is named “Glass to Garden.” The material is being used at parks and playgrounds around Kentucky.
Another booth was selling chocolate that tasted like the whiskey we had come to enjoy.
While being a vendor, we could not enjoy all the events at the convention, like listening to guest speakers Freddie Johnson, Buffalo Trace Distillery’s VIP visitor lead, and Wally Dant from Log Still Distillery talk about their experiences in the bourbon industry. However, I enjoyed Freddie’s Root Beer with a Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream splash. Let me tell you: You need it in your life.
As the day went on, I ventured out and met some other vendors. Everyone was professional and knowledgeable about the products and was happy to chat about tasting notes or the brand’s history. (Full disclosure, I could also sample some of the bourbons offered.)
The first day ended around 6:00, and my team ventured up to the seventh-floor VIP room, where we sampled some rare bourbons, a mix of frog legs, some stuffed pretzels, and various other appetizers. Once we had our fill, we walked back down to where the live music was playing. The band played the night away with its own style of popular cover songs, which was enjoyable.
Highlights of Day 1
- Paul Sutton Bourbon: This was an unknown bourbon to me, but that will change. After speaking to the owners, this is how most bourbon brands started. They talked about how they used Grandpa Sutton’s 100-year-old lost but reversed recipe engineered from bourbon-filled mason jars.
- RD One Spirits: As they transition from Wm. Tarr, they have produced some damn fine bourbon. With a new bottle on the way and expanded distribution, the distillery is on an upward trajectory.
- Log Still Distillery: Wally and his team did an excellent job explaining everything the distillery has to offer—and the bourbon was all right too. Log Still is a destination distillery featuring history, amazing spirits, a concert venue (The Amp) and gorgeous surroundings.
The second day started like the first, with a greeting from attendees and vendors. The traffic was much heavier on Saturday than Friday. We had a steady stream of attendees registering for a leather-wrapped decanter and wrapped rocks glasses. We talked to people from Ohio, Alabama and as far off as Michigan, each sharing why they decided to join the event.
Food Network host Geoffrey Zakarian started the early morning speaking engagements, followed by bourbon food pairings, a bourbon podcast and finally, a cocktail competition. Each provided excellent information and entertainment.
As the day came to a close, the patrons continued to enjoy the free sample libations and the party seemed to crescendo to the four-course dinner that was to come at 6 p.m. We were still talking to all the vendors as the day ended with us drawing Mr. Miracle from Ohio as the winner of the decanter and glasses. It was a perfect ending to a great weekend.
Highlights of Day 2
- Silver Springs Farms: This is a farm distillery just starting out with a great story. Its newly created bourbon, Tucker, will soon be available. Since Prohibition, farm distilleries have been illegal, but the distillery owners worked to change that law, and now they are in production.
- Fresh Bourbon: Sean and Tia Edwards, who have been recognized the Commonwealth of Kentucky as the first African Americans to make Kentucky bourbon since slavery, explained the brand’s fresh take on bourbon. The brand is in the process of building a $5.4 million distillery in Lexington, Kentucky.
- O.H. Ingram: This brand’s story started on the Mississippi River, where the barrels are aged to perfection. They have a good story with an even better bourbon. After talking with an owner, I found out the brand is steeped in tradition and they want to continue that way.
- The vendor space could have been bigger and more spread out. For the first rendition, it was fine.
- The food needed an upgrade, as certain appetizers did not appeal to the masses.
- The event needs to bring the VIP room closer to the exhibit and vendors.
- I hope there will be more vendors with bourbon celebrities and extended breakout sessions next year.
- Best Overall: Buffalo Trace E.H. Taylor
- Newcomer: Paul Sutton Bourbon
- Best Finish: RD One French Oak
- Best Surprise: Monk’s Road Rattle & Snap
I recommend buying tickets for next year in advance as I can see where this will take off like a rocket. The vendors next year will double or even triple. And The Bourbon Flight will be there for all your bourbon business news.
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