Bourbon* and I are old friends. We first got to know each other back in my 20’s and we’ve been enjoying each other’s company ever since. Of course at first I thought bourbon was a little out of my league. I was intimidated by his reputation and some of his friends seemed a little cooler-than-thou if you know what I mean. But the more I get to know him, the more I liked bourbon. Sure we’ve had our ups and downs but I’ve forgiven him for the hangover from my 30th birthday and he’s forgotten all about how I used to mix him with coke.
If you have yet to become acquainted with bourbon I can recommend no better place than the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar on Main Street in Covington. This week marked my second visit to Molly Wellman’s new bar, dedicated to showcasing American whiskey of all kinds, but there is obviously a heavy focus on bourbon. The OKBB is small, clean, and modern looking on the inside. At no point during either of my visits was the bar crowded. That is probably because this is not really a bar in the typical sense of the word. It is hard to imagine a group of friends piling into the OKBB to mindlessly enjoy drinks while chatting about their week, let alone going there to pound back shots and get rowdy. This is not so much a bar as it is a museum that showcases one of the true American art forms: bourbon. You go to the OKBB to be educated and if you come out with a buzz, that’s just a happy coincidence.
I realize that this description is going to put off the vast majority of people reading it but I encourage you to give it a try anyway. The bartenders are incredibly knowledgable about the entire process of making, drinking, and mixing whiskey but they are also very approachable. On my first visit I was brought a tiny little cup of spring water and the bartender clearly read my confusion when he set it down next to my drink. He kindly asked if I would like a glass of water for drinking in addition to the one for mixing. If you don’t like the taste of whiskey by itself the staff knows many excellent cocktails, like the Horse’s Neck or the Manhattan, to give you a taste without overwhelming you. But if you do already enjoy bourbon this is a great location for discovering new things. On my first trip I got to try a selection of much older bourbon than I could usually afford. On this last trip I tried a flight of rye whiskey, something I’d had little experience with in the past. In addition to the top shelf bottles, the bartender was also very helpful in pointing out some good “everyday” bourbon that were surprisingly strong for their price. The quite atmosphere, talkative staff, and chance for trying new things together also makes the OKBB ideal for a date night.
And speaking of price, that does bring us to the main downside of the OKBB and the reason why, despite my love of bourbon, I’ve only been there twice. It is not a cheap place. As I said earlier, this is not somewhere you go to get drunk. The pours have been described as small considering that they tend to start around $6 and quickly go up to $9 or more. In this case I think it is clear that you are paying for the knowledge of the staff as much as for the whiskey itself. It is a great place to go and invest a little money in order to increase you knowledge and to try small portions of expensive delights but it is something I save it for a special occasion.
*I was reluctant to give bourbon a gender but the flow of the writing required it. So I went with the masculine but I think that an equally strong case can be made for going with the feminine. You can hear more about my trip to OKBB on last week’s episode of The Charlie Tonic Hour.