Drinking Buddies

Several area bourbon groups meet monthly to enjoy social fun

Speakers, tastings are part of their regular activities

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (July 2016) – The bourbon industry and its associated bourbon trails are not only flourishing in Kentucky, they have spawned a number of bourbon-related social groups. Some cater to men or women only, while others are open to both.
Two and a half years ago, Linda Ruffenach founded the Whisky Chicks in an effort to find other women who shared her passion for bourbon. Ruffenach realized there were many women willing to celebrate Kentucky’s native spirit with her.
At their first event in January 2014, when the weather was 6 degrees outside, more than 30 women showed up, said Ruffenach. “I realized there was a lot of interest.”
In a short period of time, membership has grown to include 750 women of all ages “from 21 to 90 plus,” she said. “The multi-generational component of it is the best part.”
While most members are local, women have attended Whisky Chick events from Australia, California and Washington state. “We plan different events, from small to elaborate,” Ruffenach said.
The group generally meets every four to six weeks. They attend casual Mix & Mingles to VIP events that feature Master Distillers.
“A lot of women are new to bourbon,” she said. “We want to make it approachable. It doesn’t always have to be a straight shot.” 

The Whisky Chicks are teaming with the Bourbon Brotherhood to present the third annual Bourbon Mixer at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13. Both social groups will come together at the Gillespie, located at 421 W. Market St. to play host to this fundraiser to benefit the Coalition for the Homeless.
The Bourbon Mixer will combine great bourbon with upscale southern cuisine in a spirited atmosphere suitable for both aficionados and novices. A dozen distilleries will be on hand to share samples, cocktails and other bourbon treats. The event will also include music, an open bar with beer and wine, and auction items including one-of-a-kind Bourbon experiences and rare bottles of whisky.
During the first two years it was held, the Bourbon Mixer raised more than $28,000 for local charities. Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit Rx: Housing Veterans, a Coalition for the Homeless, which assists Louisville’s homeless veterans.
The Coalition for the Homeless, located at 1300 S. Fourth St., Suite 250, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with a mission to prevent and eliminate homelessness in Louisville. Their 29-member agencies provide a variety of services to the homeless throughout the city. The Coalition won the 2014 Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s Art of Social Innovation Pyramid Award for its Bed One-Stop Program. 
Assisting the Whisky Chicks with the Bourbon Mixer will be the Bourbon Brotherhood, founded by Bruce Corwin in 2014 for men who enjoy bourbon. Their secret bond is that amber colored elixir that has existed in Kentucky for centuries.
His goal revolved around the fact that “there are two women’s groups (Whisky Chicks and Bourbon Women), but there was no group for men who enjoy bourbon,” said Corwin, 53. “For that matter, there are really no other businesses or social groups for men that I could find.”
The Bourbon Brotherhood consists of a group of men who meet monthly to enjoy bourbon tastings and camaraderie in a variety of interesting locations, he said. “We often have a guest speaker to share fascinating knowledge and tales with our group.”
This is done through monthly meetings or events on the fourth Wednesday of each month in the Louisville area. Corwin said it is a convenient time to meet after work and still get home at a reasonable hour.
Some of the group’s past monthly events have been held at Down One Bourbon Bar and at several stops along the Urban Bourbon Trail. They’ve experienced bourbon tastings with master distillers such as Bill Samuels Jr. (Maker’s Mark), Willie Pratt (Michter’s), Jim Rutledge (Four Roses), Chris Morris (Woodford Reserve) and Jimmy Russell (Wild Turkey).
Corwin explained his take on bourbon. “Bourbon is a special type of whisky that must live up to some exacting standards to earn the right to be called ‘bourbon.’ It’s a very pure spirit where the only ingredients are water and grains, and it must be aged in a new American oak barrel.”
He said that most products these days have added colors, flavors and ingredients that buyers cannot even pronounce. There is also “the authenticity and history of the distilleries and the intriguing characters behind each brand” of which buyers may not be aware.”
There are usually 60 men in attendance at every event, he said. Currently, the Bourbon Brotherhood has 500 members, ranging in age from 21 and up.
There is no membership fee, and the cost to attend an event is typically $15-$20, which includes some food, door prizes and often bourbon tasting, said Corwin. “We want to keep it fun, friendly and affordable.”
Corwin added, “The world is learning about bourbon and really falling in love with it, and the industry is truly booming. We are so blessed to be located here in Kentucky, at the bourbon capital of the world where all of this rich heritage is available to us.”
Many members of the Bourbon Brotherhood work in the bourbon industry at distilleries, retail outlets, equipment supply, media and tourism. Most members are professionals in other industries who happen to enjoy bourbon, said Corwin.
Laura McDonald is vice president of the Bourbon Society, another local group highly involved in getting the word out about bourbon. The group meets on the third Monday of every month at the Henry Clay Building, 604 S. Third St., in Louisville. Sometimes, they hold meetings at other restaurant-type locations.
Similar to the other groups, the Bourbon Society holds special tastings, tours, lectures and events for members, with a range of different speakers. “We have distillers talking about their product, new distilleries that are popping up, or we take cooperage tours and have quarterly dinners,” said McDonald.
The Bourbon Society presently has 200 members of all ages. McDonald said that for her, “whiskey is second nature for me. I grew up on bourbon.”
Members come from all walks of life – business owners, real-estate brokers, car salesmen and a few individuals who work in the bourbon industry. The diversity of the members is apparent, and they are drawn together for one reason – their appreciation for bourbon.

• Tickets for the Bourbon Mixer are $125 per person. For more information visit www.BourbonMixer.com. For more information about the Bourbon Brotherhood, visit www.BourbonBrotherhood.com. For more information about the Whisky Chicks, visit www.WhiskyChicks.com. For more information on the Bourbon Society, visit www.BourbonSociety.com.

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