On occasion, if you're really lucky, the stars all align and you have one of those picture-perfect days, the memory of which you tuck away in the recesses of your mind so that when you have a really crap-tacular day, you can pull it out and experience the joy all over again and smile. Today was one of those days! Leigh and I experienced a small taste of the Kentucky Bourbon Affair, which is a week-long event held in Louisville, Kentucky. No one knows their bourbon like Kentuckians! Except for some novices like Kentucky Taste Buds. Therefore, we were over the moon when Adam Johnson, Senior Director for Kentucky Bourbon Trail Experiences, honored us with two press passes to two of the events.
Our day kicked off with a lovely drive through the rolling hills of Kentucky. Stacked stone fences and miles and miles of wood plank horse fences hugged the two-lane country road. Wildflowers and freshly mowed fields with perfectly formed hay bales dotted the landscape under a blue sky sprinkled with clouds that looked like cotton balls. Even though I have lived in Kentucky my whole life, the beauty of this area still takes my breath away.
We arrived at Saxony Horse Farm for a tour of their operation and lunch served al fresco by Dupree Catering and Events. A chartered bus brought the attendees who were staying in Louisville for the week to the farm and we all gathered around to meet our hosts for the day. There were ten women in the group and two men, plus three gentlemen from Town Branch Distillery, Matt Weiss, Sterling Baxter, and Mark Coffman, who would be hosting us for the second part of the day at their distillery in Lexington. Our tour guide at Saxony was Broussard Hundley, co-owner of Saxony. He and his wife, Rosie, run this family farm which consists of 168 acres of beautiful Bluegrass in Versailles, Kentucky.
Broussard first brought us into the former pig barn, now turned polo barn and kitchen, where we were served a delicious libation of Pearse Lyons Reserve bourbon with lemonade. So refreshing! As we sipped, he relayed to us the history of his farm and explained some of their operation. They are a commercial breeder and boarding facility which handles approximately 40-60 horses at a time. The farm was started by his parents and the name Saxony was his mother's maiden name. In addition to their horse operation, they also are a wedding venue and host about 22 weddings a year. As a matter of fact, we saw them erecting a big white tent next to the barn for a wedding this weekend. I can't imagine a more spectacular setting to start married life surrounded by friends and family!
After leaving the polo barn we meandered down the gravel driveway as Broussard explained the foaling process to us, and we came upon a paddock with several mares grazing with their foals nuzzled next to them. As he talked, we had the chance to get up close and personal with them. For a Kentucky gal, there's nothing as special as feeling the velvety soft nose of a horse. We gained a lot of knowledge, including the fact that the gestation period for a mare is 11 months and 5 days. They can go longer, but it's not good if they are premature. Good to know!
Approaching another paddock we were amazed to see a horse galloping full out, coming to an abrupt halt right in front of us. Broussard told us the horse's name is Gryffindor and he loves selfies. True to form, he was more than happy to pose with each of us as we took pics and petted him. A former cross-country competitor, Gryffindor now spends his days as a companion horse to Field of Vision, who ironically is partially blind. He was a sweetie, for sure, although Broussard said he's naughty. I love how the horses have their own distinct personalities!
Outside of the training barn, which just happened to be 75-100 years old, Broussard ended the tour by showing us the two plaques in the grass which were placed in honor of two of their most famous residents, Native Partner and Free to Fly. He spoke of their amazing pedigrees and their significance to Saxony Farm. Recounting his childhood growing up on the farm he told us how his dad instilled the value of hard work in him and said he learned to work from a very young age. He said his dad would give him and his sister five cents for every thistle they would dig up, as long as it had the root! Now that's hard way to make a living! Now Broussard and his wife are raising their two girls (with one on the way) in this magical place that is centered around family, hard work and the best part...horses! As he said, "You have to be a little crazy and a whole lot of tough!"
With the horse tour concluded, we were led over to an area near the barn where Dupree Catering had set up two round tables, covered in white linen with lime green rolled silverware, with a centerpiece of blue hydrangea and candle votives. Another smaller table was set up for the beverages, all provided by Town Branch Distillery. This is a bourbon event, remember? While the bartender whipped up some drinks, the servers brought around appetizers of mini hot browns and caprese skewers. The mini hot browns were exceptionally presented and they had all of the taste without the mess of a traditional hot brown. The mornay cheese was piped into the puff pastry shell and topped with a chunk of bacon and tomato, perfect for ladies who love to eat but don't necessarily want to wear their food all over their face and clothes. The caprese skewers were simple and fresh. And heck, who doesn't like to say the word caprese? You just feel fancy saying it! Finally, we all sat down at the beautifully laid tables and conversed with our fellow attendees. Leigh and I sat at a table with all ladies and I was blown away by the camaraderie we shared, even though we had gals from as far away as Wisconsin and New York. We shared our stories, as women like to do, and laughed and joked as if we were long lost family members. The only time we were quiet was when they served us a mixed green salad with feta and berries. After scarfing that down, we were presented with Kentucky Proud grilled hamburgers served with a Kentucky Ale Bourbon Barrel Beer Cheese. We had a wooden tray piled high with beautiful red tomatoes, onions, lettuce and jalapenos to top off the perfectly grilled burgers. Town Branch BBQ sauce was another option, which I liberally applied to not only my burger, but to my huge steak fries as well. Oops, I almost forgot the grilled veggies and crunchy onion rings! They were phenomenal! Kudos to Tom Evans and his crew from Dupree Catering for putting this all together outside with limited resources and making the lunch flow seamlessly.
After all of that, I thought for sure I would not be able to put one more morsel of food in my mouth. (I should know by now not to underestimate myself when it comes to food!) As the servers brought out dessert, I was suddenly hungry again! I mean, who can turn down a bourbon milkshake so thick you have to eat it with a spoon served along with chocolate espresso cookies? Not this girl! Feeling completely satiated, we thanked our hosts and waddled our way back to the bus. Driving away from Saxony Farm I couldn't help but thinking over and over how overwhelmingly grateful I was for having had this experience, and I was really excited for the second part of our day, the distillery tour at Town Branch!
Front Row: featured left to right, Nicole Elbehar of O.Z. Tyler Distillery, Leigh Roach of Ky Taste Buds, Tamara Schneider of Ky Taste Buds. Back Row: featured left to right, Denise and Melissa Warshauser (New York), Anja and Iris Wipperfurth (Wisconsin) and Liz Henry of J. Henry & Sons.