North America Dispatch #30: Barrels, Barrels, Everywhere
Bardstown, Kentucky (continued)
What says “fun” more than a barrel-rolling competition? Consider us your go-to source for up-to-the-minute reports on this burgeoning sport.
The aim isn’t just to hustle around 500-pound water-filled barrels. It’s to ensure that they all wind up with their bungholes facing up (if one is off by even an inch, points are deducted). And since each barrel travels less distance than the one before, the roller must make allowances by spinning these suckers around with incredible precision.
In the following video, watch the logos on the barrels (which correspond to the locations of the bungholes). Ideally, all logos will wind up neatly in the up position. Movie file
Check out this old-time barrel wrangler (bear in mind that these things weigh 500 pounds each): Movie file
Heaven Hill Tour
We toured the Heaven Hill distillery. These guys make Evan Williams and Elijah Craig, and they also quietly produce bourbon on contract for many other companies (contract distilling is a common arrangement; the hundreds of Kentucky bourbons are all produced by Kentucky’s nine remaining distilleries).
Here are the storage facilities where the barrels are aged. Yes, they look eerily like penitentiaries, but the smell is, as I noted in my last report, nothing short of heavenly.
It’s all about those barrels, babe:
Here’s a weird, but weirdly educational, exhibit. The instructions read, “Press button for aroma,” which emerges from the brass horn:
Eager tour participants in guided tasting:
Back to the bourbon festival, which, on the weekend, actually turns into a bourbon festival. Tons of people come and congregate on a fairground, a few of whom cram into a small area where shots of all the usual bourbons are sold. You drink from plastic cups, standing up, outdoors in the heat.
The perimeter was rife with merchandising, none of it very intriguing:
This wasn’t really what we were hoping for. So we turned our sights on food, which was sort of generic fair food, with a couple of exceptions.
Hog Wild BBQ, from Boston, Kentucky, sent a van:
They make fried corn (breaded and deep-fried half ears), certainly a new sensation for me:
Burgoo soup sounds more interesting than it tastes (sweet and tomatoey):
Pulled pork and brisket were OK:
The only thing approaching deliciousness was a truck where a family from Oaxaca prepared gringo-friendly Mexican food. After I talked to them for a while in Spanish and expressed my appreciation for Oaxacan cuisine, they made me a couple of things with some actual chile heat. These guys aren’t serious cooks, just immigrants trying to make a few bucks via their ethnicity. And they lacked any kind of real ingredients. But they put their hearts into their work, and it had a charm. It was a small find, but as with the Treadwell Franklin Walton United Methodist Church Pancake Griddle I found at the otherwise missable Delaware County Fair in upstate New York, anything above/beyond the usual carnival fare is a blessing indeed. Even, alas, if the carnival is as hip-sounding as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
My halfhearted effort to persuade the Mexican wife to bring me real Oaxacan tamales the next day went nowhere.