As the bourbon authority for the Kentucky Derby Museum and the author of a handful of bourbon and spirits books, Fred Minnick is one of the go-to guys in town for any and every question about Kentucky’s famous brown liquor.
Most likely you’ve seen him hosting events, tastings or book signings, or just sampling right beside you at one of the numerous bourbon events that happen in Louisville each year. Recently, he’s been touting his latest book, “Rum Curious,” a look at rum production and its ties to whiskey, and also he’s been busy gearing up for this weekend’s Bourbon & Beyond music, food and drink festival that features headliners Stevie Nicks and Eddie Vedder.
Minnick has been selected to help develop most of the bourbon programming for the festival, which includes seminars, tastings and teachings. The trick was coming up with classes that would appeal to both bourbon aficionados and novices.
He tells Insider he’s really looking forward to his chat with the Noe (Jim Beam) and Henderson (Angel’s Envy) families for the “Like Father, Like Son” session on Saturday.
“Bourbon is a family tradition, and these two families are hoots,” says Minnick. “I plan to have a curse word counter for both of them.”
Some have questioned the validity of an outside company — Danny Wimmer Presents — coming to town to host a big music and bourbon festival, but Minnick believes it marks an important step in the evolution of whiskey events.
“I’m a bourbon guy, so I look at events to see how they will impact bourbon, which, mind you, is a truly local product,” he explains. “A few years ago, Forecastle broke the whiskey event mold with its Bourbon Lodge, combining a concert venue with bourbon. At the time, I said it was the most important festival for reaching new consumers.”
In 2014, Danny Wimmer Presents started Louder Than Life, a music event that also incorporated bourbon, and it became instrumental in the development of bourbon brands reaching new consumers through rock ‘n’ roll, says Minnick.
“Meanwhile, the culinary explosion found bourbon largely due to the great chef talent here,” he continues. “Bourbon & Beyond is the first event to take on high-level culinary, rich bourbon and great music. It has the potential to be as revolutionary as the first consumer-facing bourbon event — the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.”
In the end, Minnick says, he trusts the event company because of its track record.
“The fact a promoter who has booked Metallica — freaking Metallica! — is doing a bourbon- and food-centric concert just shows how far bourbon has come. In bourbon, we’ve always said the great master distillers are like rock stars, but I don’t think anybody imagined them getting billing over real rock stars for a festival.”
So what’s next for the author? He just finished a book on mead, and the subhead says it all: “The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History’s Oldest Drink.” It’ll be out in June of 2018.
Before Minnick embarks on a long weekend of talking, drinking and promoting bourbon, we asked him some very important questions …
What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?
I want to own a Kentucky Derby horse one day.
What poster was on your wall in junior high?
Guns N’ Roses and Kid ’n Play posters. Weird combo, I know.
If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?
I would give it to a teacher who demonstrated compassion and instilled a no-quit attitude in their students.
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
I love extra sauce, but this is dangerous: I’ve ruined many shirts as the tomato sauce oozes from underneath the cheese.
If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?
College is where dreams come true or get crushed. But at 18, you’re just walking into class for the first time and you still think you’re smart. By the time you’re 20, you realize your limitations. At 18, the sky is the limit.
What famous person do people say you resemble the most?
Fred, from “Scooby Doo.” Does he count? We both wear ascots and have a super cool name.
Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?