What’s interesting about Kentucky is we’re fiercely proud of our two centuries of bourbon heritage, yet it’s taken nearly that long for us to get really fired up about it and promote it seriously.

The state’s whiskey makers surely are saying and sighing simultaneously, “It’s about time!” and they’re right. They’ve done their part; it’s time to do ours.

The good news is the urge to promote the only true American whiskey is upon us, and the pride in our potable past is really starting to surge.

A fine example of that is the upcoming Bourbon Classic, set for March 22-23, 2013, at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. Created for bourbon connoisseurs and enthusiasts, the weekend-long Classic is designed to delve deep into the world of bourbon. Expect lots of talk about its history, its production, the people who make it and those who shake, swirl and serve it over the bar.

A Bourbon University component will include breakout sessions and live interviews with Q&A periods with master distillers, and The Bourbon Experience Marketplace will feature opportunities to sip bourbons and taste bourbon products, and sample bourbon-laced culinary creations from local chefs.

Noted bartenders from across the country will compete in the World’s Best Bourbon Cocktail Competition with classic and contemporary divisions, and distillery tours will be a part of the event, though details aren’t finalized.

Perhaps the best news is after each day ends, expect distillery-sponsored “after parties,” said Tony Butler, president of the FSA Group, a Louisville-based event and association management company that’s co-creating the event with Bourbon Review magazine. Butler credited Stacey Yates, vice president of marketing and communications with the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, with the original idea.

“She said to us some time ago that she’d love to have a signature bourbon event here in Louisville, but that her group didn’t have the resources to make it happen,” Butler said.

As Butler pondered the idea, he said visits to bars and restaurants during his cross-country business travels showed him that bourbon is no longer revered east of the Mississippi, and drove home the point that an event was long overdue.

The partnership between FSA Group and the magazine really helped push it forward, he added.

“We want to showcase the city, as well as Kentucky, and place it all out there as the Napa Valley of bourbon,” he said. “We have this tremendous natural resource that’s under-recognized. So we want to grow the bourbon culture here in Kentucky, too, by making this a Kentucky-focused event.”

Tickets prices depend on which days you attend, whether you purchase standard for VIP packages or whether you purchase tickets for both days at once. That means it could cost as little as $135 or as much as $335. Click here for ticket information.

Expect more details from Insider Louisville as they become available.

Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.


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