Whenever Margaret and I visit central Kentucky, we’re struck by how much the land reminds us of Ireland. Especially when we drive the narrow back roads, the rolling hills and low stone border walls transport us right back to Eire.
Small wonder: those low stone walls were first built in the early 1800s by Irish immigrants. They are simply stacked Kentucky limestone; no mortar holds them together. Unfortunately, the Irish taught slaves how to build these dry stone walls, and it’s estimated that 90% of the walls that still stand were slave-built.
The other common fence in Kentucky is the four-board wood fence. Most of the ones we saw around Shaker Village were white.
This is horse country, and those fences are often meant to keep the horses in. Notice that this fence is black.
Kentucky farmers are learning that black is more cost effective: the paint is less expensive and needs to be reapplied less often. So expect to see more and more of these fences painted black over time.
But for now, at Shaker Village the majority of wood fencing is still painted white. With the abundant dry stone walls, the grounds ooze that classic, charming central-Kentucky look.
My camera’s battery died just a few photographs into our tour of the Woodford Reserve Distillery, between Frankfort and Versailles in central Kentucky. It’s a shame, because the place is so picturesque. I would have liked to photograph it extensively.
The distillery is also historic, one of the oldest in Kentucky. Known previously as the Labrot and Graham Distillery and before that the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, whiskey has been made here since 1812. Woodford Reserve is a Johnny-come-lately on the scene, having been distilled only since 1996.
Thanks to my iPhone for making it possible to document this visit at all. Here are Woodford Reserve’s famous copper pot stills, and also my wife Margaret from behind.
Those pot stills make up only part of Woodford Reserve bourbon. The rest of it comes from the column stills of the Brown-Forman distillery in suburban Louisville, an hour to the west.
Its rickhouse, where the bourbon barrels are left to age, is unusual in that it’s made of stone. So many are made of wood.
One odd thing I noticed is that barrels in the rickhouse, the ones I could see anyway, carried distillery number DSP-KY-52. But newer barrels, including ones recently filled, bore the number DSP-KY-15018. This must be something quite new, as an Internet search on DSP-KY-15018 turns up nothing. A search on DSP-KY-52 returns all sorts of references to the Woodford Reserve Distillery. I wish I’d asked the tour guide about it.
As a fellow who is seriously into bourbon, I appreciate a bar with a wide selection that includes some esoteric whiskies. But Woodford Reserve is a very nice bourbon, and most every bar carries it. Anywhere I go, I’m perfectly happy with a pour of Woodford Reserve. Neat, of course.
Margaret and I have been to enough bourbon distilleries now to know the drill: first the vats of sour mash, then the still(s), then the rickhouses where the bourbon ages in barrels, then the tasting. Up to now, it’s always all been in a pastoral setting among Kentucky’s gently rolling hills. But the Old Forester Distillery is different: it’s in downtown Louisville.
You’ll find a few other distilleries up and down Main Street and on adjacent blocks, making downtown Louisville a burgeoning whiskey center. It was one before Prohibition, but that misstep in American history decimated Kentucky’s whiskey industry and sent many distillers into bankruptcy.
For a long time Old Forester was distilled and bottled at a facility just outside Louisville proper. But there’s gold in them thar whikey-tourism hills and Old Forester led the way in returning to Louisville’s famous Whiskey Row. Stepping onto this street feels very much like returning to 1870.
Little of the original building remains behind its facade. This is a modern facility through and through. Every bit of it is tourist-friendly.
Here we are peering into one of the vats of fermenting sour mash. It looks like a giant corn muffin.
Here’s one of the vats, empty, ready for a new batch.
Old Forester’s parent company, Brown-Forman, is the last independently-owned distiller in the nation. They own a whole bunch of liquor brands, including Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve. Brown-Forman is further unique in that they own their own cooperage — they make their own barrels. The main cooperage is elsewhere in Kentucky, but for us tourists a cooper makes a few barrels at the Old Forester site.
To be considered a bourbon, a whiskey must be made of at least 51% corn and must be aged in new barrels made of oak and charred inside. Here’s a barrel getting its char.
After the whiskey has been distilled, it’s clear, essentially moonshine. They pour it into a barrel, seal it with a bung, and let it age in a warehouse. To be a bourbon, it must age for at least two years. Here a barrel is being emptied, on its way to being bottled.
Here’s the Old Forester bottling machine, doing its stuff.
Every bourbon distillery tour ends with tasting some of the product. Old Forester uses the same sour mash mixture to make a number of bourbons, including their original 86-proof bourbon (left). They age their distillate in different ways and for different lengths of time to get their other bourbons, including Old Forester 1897 (center) and Old Forester 1920 (right).
The folks at Old Forester kept the tour fun and quick, and at $18 per adult it’s not terribly expensive. If ever you’re on Whiskey Row, do step inside.
My main camera on our trip to New Harmony was, as often happens, my little Canon PowerShot S95. I did take a film camera, my Olympus XA2, loaded with Ultrafine Xtreme 100. But it simply turned out not to be a black-and-white weekend. I shot but nine frames. In contrast, I made 175 photos with the S95.
This is New Harmony’s Main Street. It’s perpendicular to the road that you have to use to enter New Harmony, which is Church Street and also State Road 66.
We got a spectacular sunset that night. In the shadowy foreground is the Lenz House, built in about 1820. Read a little bit about it here. That page mentions the Harmonists, a group that tried and failed to build a utopian society here.
Here’s one photo I made with my iPhone 6s. We were walking back to the house we’d rented after dinner one night when a fellow invited us to a jam session. We were surprised that it involved mostly cellos and violins! A guitarist later joined.
I shared these two photos in my post about the Roofless Church.
A double log cabin — two cabins sharing a conjoining covered deck — provides this view. It’s on the same property as the Lenz house.
The Episcopalians had this place built, but it’s a place for all believers. Services are not held here on Sunday; you are invited to worship here or seek quiet contemplation whenever you like. Ater all, the sky above is the only roof large enough to cover all of God’s followers.
Designed by architect Philip Johnson and featuring a sculpture by Jacques Lipchitz under a shingled parabolic dome, The Roofless Church opened in 1960. You’ll find it in New Harmony, Indiana, on the town’s northernmost east-west street.
Someone I went to high school with is a professional photographer. One of her specialties is photographing impeccably decorated luxury homes for lifestyle magazines. I see some of her work on Instagram and it’s all so well done.
When Margaret and I visited New Harmony recently, we rented a circa-1840 cottage, a little nook for us to relax in. But when we arrived we were told that the cottage was out of order, and that we were upgraded to the Orchard House — two stories, four bedrooms, five bathrooms, all done up in period style. What an upgrade!
The house is a little rough around the edges — it could use a little TLC. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying this giant house to the hilt. It made for a truly lovely stay for us. Here’s the view when you step inside.
My old high-school friend surely has expensive and expansive pro gear for her work. I had only my trusty Canon PowerShot S95 and available light. But through looking at her work I gleaned a couple key tips for appealing interior photography. First, go wide to get more in, but not too wide or everything will distort. I shot at 28mm for a commanding view. This is the parlor.
Second, crouch down for a child’s-eye view of the room, so that vertical lines are vertical. Doing this also captures some details up high that you’d otherwise miss, like the canopy over this bed in the east upstairs bedroom.
I’m sure my friend could give me twenty more pointers to improve these photos, but I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. Here’s my entire gallery. Click the < and > buttons to see all the photos, inside and out.
Bonus: If you flipped through the gallery you saw the strange sink in the west upper bedroom. We’d never seen a sink that worked this way before! It has separate hot and cold taps with little holes in the porcelain where the water comes out, one set for hot and one set for cold. Here’s the cold tap in action: