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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Jim Beam, Kentucky, USA

My first major US distillery and the first stop I made on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in May 2012.  To call this a distillery visit is a bit misleading... as the official name is the Jim Beam Heritage Tour and you don't get to see any of the actual working distillery (except for one warehouse).  Instead the focus is on the Beam family distilling history (which begins with Jacob Beam.... not Jim) and and also learn about their product range.  This is not the artisanal style of distillery I have been used to seeing in Scotland, this is a major whisky factory wth over 475 employees (thats about 450 more men than you find in Tain and 472 more than Benromach).  I learned that 95% of the world's bourbon is made in Kentucky and 50% of that is made by Jim Beam.   Their range is a bit of a mixed bag for me... I like Jim Beam Black (but not the standard White label), I like Booker's but not Baker's and I love Knob Creek but don't like Basil Hayden.  All of these Beam brands are made at this facility and interestingly all made with the usual suspects of corn, rye and malted barley... not a wheated bourbon in the range.  Highlight of tour was probably learning our guide was 8th generation Beam family and seeing the pride and passion in her for bourbon (and she was cute which also helped).  The tour was free and included a short video and samples of Jim Beam Black and Baker's small batch bourbon (and a sample of choclate to try with the Baker's... a recurring theme on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail).  The facility is currently undergoing an upgrade with a new store and a cafe and will in the future the tour will include the actual distillery.... so I will have to come back and revisit when that is complete and hopefully get the same guide.

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Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland

Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland Like the Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret, this is in fact a whisky based tourist attraction, Dewar's World of Whisky, more that a distillery tour, not that there is anything wrong with that.   The Aberfeldy distillery produces a single malt used in Dewar's blends, so it is a working distillery and you do get to see it and some more features like a video, a replica of Tommy Dewar's study, old Dewar's advertising and marketing material and an interesting aroma wheel.  At $11 they also charge more than most for the additional features.  After tour we sampled both Aberfeldy 12 year old single malt as well as Dewar's 12 year old blend and they also have small café where you can buy lunch, although they had run out when we got there.  I wouldn't say this is a must see for the whisky enthusiast, but quite honestly you are not their target market.  If you have non-whisky enthusiast in your entourage this might be a good compromise to go and visit.
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