cup of Jim Beam bourbon
A Thursday afternoon at Jim Beam is a day well spent. | Photo by Sara Havens

Nearly 700 people from all over the world convened in Louisville this weekend to get up close and personal with one thing — bourbon. The sixth annual Kentucky Bourbon Affair was a success by all accounts, and Insider was fortunate to stop by a handful of events to see and hear firsthand accounts of what brought these folks to town, some who even attend year after year.

The five-day festival, which ran June 4-8, featured more than 45 exclusive events held at various distilleries in Louisville and all throughout the state. The program offers once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to truly go behind the scenes and witness things you’ll never see on an everyday distillery tour.

For example, how about have a personal tour of Maker’s Mark with Bill Samuels Jr. himself? Or a session with the mad scientists in the Jim Beam bourbon laboratory followed by lunch with Fred and Freddie Noe? Or how about a fancy dinner at the new Michter’s Fort Nelson Distillery sampling bourbons you’ll never see in a store?

It’s these unique experiences that bring people back year after year, and even with a somewhat high price point, most sell out in a matter of hours. In fact, the Bourbon Affair releases special “Golden Ticket” opportunities a few months before the event each year, and they typically sell out within a day.

During the final event, Bar 19 Superfecta, which was held at the Kentucky Derby Museum, organizers (members of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association) confirmed that most of the events were sold out, and that about 65% of attendees were from out of town.

That event also allowed attendees to purchase specially selected single barrels by a team of master distillers — representing Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Wilderness Trail and Old Forester — and Bill Thomas from the famous Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C., which boasts a collection of more than 2,500 bottles of whiskey. All proceeds from those bottle sales went to different charities.

One gentleman, who had come all the way from England and attends each year, said the Bourbon Affair continues to get better and better, and it’s well worth the trip to him and his wife. One woman traveled three days from Utah to attend, choosing to drive instead of fly because of all the bottles she wanted to take back home.

Below are a few photos we took while at the events, along with some that were provided.

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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."