The Dream Team goes on barrel picks for this year’s Bourbon Affair: Eddie and Jimmy Russell, Greg Davis, Steve Nally, Chris Morris and Fred Noe | Courtesy of KDA

It’s a boot camp for bourbon lovers. An up-close and personal experience with distillers, distilleries and distilled spirits. The Disney World of Bourbon. A cornucopia of people, places, Kentucky, Louisville and bourbon.

OK, you get the idea.

The fifth annual Kentucky Bourbon Affair will take over the Omni Hotel — and beyond — from June 5-10, attracting hundreds of visitors from near and far to Louisville to celebrate all things bourbon. There are more than 30 events planned, and according to Bourbon Affair Director Mary Gratzer, nearly half are already sold out.

Mary Gratzer

The event is put on by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, and this is the first year its home base will be in downtown Louisville.

It previously was held at the Marriott East, which Gratzer says was a great space with ample parking, but organizers decided to move it to the Omni to give attendees more options when it comes to evening activities.

So what are some of these exclusive experiences? How about a barbecue at Michter’s, or a Bourbon Country Boil at Jim Beam? Or there’s a crash course on the single-barrel-selection program at Maker’s Mark, or a behind-the-scenes tour of the Bulleit Distillery. Help pick a single barrel of Larceny, or learn about Bottle-in-Bond bourbons at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.

The events involve many Kentucky distilleries — from the old (Wild Turkey, Four Roses, Woodford) to the new (Rabbit Hole, Jeptha Creed, O.Z. Tyler).

This is Gratzer’s first year heading up the Bourbon Affair, and while she has many years of prior event planning experience, this one is definitely unique, she says.

“It’s been great learning the industry,” she adds. As the pieces come together in the final days, she says she’s more than ready for the June 5 start day. “That’s the agony and beauty of events — whether or not you’re ready for it, it happens. You just get as much done as you can in advance, but there will be surprises every day.”

Tickets are still available for Jeptha Creed’s Jeptha Games. | Photo by Sara Havens

Tickets are still available for many of the events, including the kickoff dinner, spearheaded by Bourbon Women, that’ll be held at the Frazier History Museum; the Higher Proof Expo at the Omni on Saturday, June 9; and the Angel’s Fare event that also takes place at the Omni on Saturday, June 9.

A quick note about the Angel’s Fare — it will debut the first-ever Bourbon Affair Release (BAR) Legends’ Select Series, which includes single-barrel bottles chosen by the industry’s top master distillers, including Jimmy and Eddie Russell (Wild Turkey), Chris Morris (Woodford, Old Forester), Fred Noe (Jim Beam), and Steve Nally (Bardstown Bourbon Co.).

All proceeds from the sale of the bottles go to various charities.

In a news release about the series, Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory said, “This is an unbelievable, unprecedented, bucket-list experience that showcases the heart and soul of Kentucky bourbon, with five of our signature industry’s most beloved icons coming together to raise money for local causes.”

Tickets to the Angel’s Fare are $150, and for all other events and ticket prices, check out the website.

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. 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."


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