Bourbon historian Mike Veach | Courtesy of Mike Veach
Bourbon historian Mike Veach | Courtesy of Mike Veach

What was once just a hobby for Michael Veach has turned into a full-time gig. Veach is the leading bourbon historian in town, and it seems he’s everywhere bourbon is being examined, discussed and enjoyed. He often hosts events and travels around the country to give detailed accounts of how bourbon started, who became the industry’s main players, how it survived Prohibition, and why the heck it’s booming now.

When he’s not tasting whiskeys in Texas or leading a seminar on the similarities between bourbon and brandy, Veach posts stories and informational articles on his website, BourbonVeach.com, available at no cost.

I bumped into Veach last Saturday at Whisky Live, where he was signing his latest book — “The Bourbon Tasting Notebook,” which he co-wrote with Susan Reigler — and he informed me he’s got a busy couple of weeks ahead. So while a new post might not go up on his site, Louisvillians will have two chances to learn from the expert.

First up on Wednesday, June 22, is the latest in Silver Dollar‘s monthly Historical Flights series where Veach selects four related bourbons (usually from a single distillery) and attendees sip along as he details their history and tasting notes. This month the theme is Buffalo Trace Distillery, and he plans on offering up Buffalo Trace, Old Charter 8-Year, Ancient Ancient Age, and Silver Dollar’s house barrel of Eagle Rare 10-Year. Tickets are $20 and include the bourbon. The event starts at 6 p.m. Email [email protected] to reserve a spot.

These Buffalo Trace Distillery bourbons will be featured Wednesday. | Courtesy of Silver Dollar
These Buffalo Trace Distillery bourbons will be featured Wednesday. | Courtesy of Silver Dollar

Next up for Veach is a partnership with Mint Julep Tours, which is offering a special tour titled “Beyond the Bourbon: Exploring the Life of Col. E.H. Taylor” on Thursday, June 30. While it’s a little pricey for the average bourbon drinker ($249), it offers a one-of-a-kind glimpse at two of Taylor’s distilleries, including the new Castle & Key (formerly the Old Taylor Distillery), which isn’t open to tourists yet.

Veach says he’s been wanting to do a tour with Mint Julep for years, and they decided Col. Taylor would be a good place to start. Often called the “father of the modern bourbon industry,” Taylor owned seven successful distilleries in his time, including O.F.C. and Carlisle, which would eventually become Buffalo Trace Distillery. He championed for the Bottled-in-Bond Act in 1897 to help guarantee the quality of his bourbons.

Castle & Key is formerly the Old Taylor Distillery. | Photo by Sara Havens
Castle & Key is formerly the Old Taylor Distillery. | Photo by Sara Havens

Veach learned all about Taylor during his time working for the Filson Historical Society.

“Taylor was a huge influence on bourbon,” he says. “Everybody thinks of Bottled-in-Bond and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and his championing Straight Bourbon, but it goes beyond that. He really developed programs of marketing that have influences on marketing today. He helped set the standard of quality that is making bourbon so popular today.”

The tour, which runs 1-9 p.m., features a sidewalk tour of Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Butchertown, a visit to the Buffalo Trace Distillery, stops at historic spots in Frankfort, Ky., and a full tour of Castle & Key (which is paying homage to its founder) with master distiller Marianne Barnes. There will be appetizers and cocktails along the way as well. There are still spots left for this tour, so for tickets or more info, click here.

Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."