Bourbon Lifestyle By Nino Kilgore-Marchetti / August 25, 2020 Whisk(e)y is a very popular topic on YouTube, there is no doubt. Search on a particular related subject under its global umbrella and there’s likely someone with videos on their channel talking about it. Bourbon particularly is one where there’s a lot of activity each week with reviews, interviews and the like. Production qualities vary, as does the knowledge of some that talk on the subject. It is amongst all of this YouTube whisk(e)y noise that we learned sometime ago about It’s Bourbon Night. A popular channel this one is – over 60,000 subscribers as this interview was set to be published. At the heart of it are Chad Perkins and Sara Ahlgrim. What makes this channel stand out are a number of things, including the production quality (high), level of whiskey knowledge (solid) and, perhaps best of all, the very engaging and fun manner by which these two talk on the subject. It’s Bourbon Night started back in 2016 and, as the years have gone along, so too has the quality of their videos gone up. Also, during this time, Perkins and Ahlgrim fell in love and later got married. It is truly a fun story to know about them, and to see the at ease way in which the two of them play off of each other every time. We recently chatted with the It’s Bourbon Night team about their history, the channel and what it is like to be a couple doing this together. Note this interview is edited for clarity and brevity. It’s Bourbon Night co-hosts Chad and Sara (image via It’s Bourbon Night) The Whiskey Wash (TWW): How did It’s Bourbon Night come about? Sara Ahlgrim: So, I guess it was 2014. I was working for a local Lexington restaurant group. They own OBC Kitchen. And at the time, we were launching that restaurant and it’s a bourbon bar, as you might know. And we needed a video to loop inside of the restaurant to show all of the cocktails and the food being made. So, we hired a production company to come and shoot that and put it together for us. We did a couple of shoots between 2014 and summer of 2015. And that’s kind of how I got to know Chad. He was on the crew of that production company. Chad Perkins: Yeah. And it’s actually interesting because at the time, I was a video editor at that production company. I mean, I would occasionally go out on shoots when they needed some help, but I normally wouldn’t have been on the video crew, but I basically already turned my bourbon hobby up a few notches to where people kind of knew that I was the bourbon guy there at work. So, when I heard about this, I was like, “I think I should go along because I’ve got the eye for it. I know the brands. I think I can help out on the shoot.” So, it was kind of fortuitous. I wasn’t really even normally going to be on a shoot like that but there I was, and I met Sara, though I don’t think I really said a word to her. Ahlgrim: Not the first time. Perkins: That first time. But later, we had to go back to shoot some new things, some new cocktails and some food. And that’s when I actually talked to her and found out we had some things in common. And then I guess that’s when the actual friendship started. Ahlgrim: Right. And after that, we sort of just met up again on a friendship basis, based on really our love of bourbon. And we started having some bourbon nights at Chad’s house where we would just get together and taste test stuff and make notes and compare. And then he just threw it out there one day, what if we did a YouTube channel? What if we made a show out of this? And I was terrified, I won’t lie. I had no previous experience being in front of the camera. I was very much a behind the scenes person at that point in my life. But I knew I liked bourbon and he seemed to think we would be really good at it. And he had a background doing some other work on YouTube shows and things. And so, I said, “Hey, okay. You’ve got the gear. I’ve got some marketing know-how, let’s do it.” And that was in late 2015 when we decided to do it, took us a few months to kick it off. So, I think it was early 2016 when we really first started filming. And our first episode or our first series, I guess was the 50 Under 25. Took us a while to acquire those 50 at that time. Perkins: Fifty bourbons under $25. Ahlgrim: Yeah. Perkins: Yeah. I’d kind of had the idea. I wanted to start doing a YouTube channel about bourbon. As Sara said, I’d been involved with some YouTube channels before that and had done a little bit of acting. I was in a web series and things with friends. So, I was more familiar with being in front of the camera, but I knew that I didn’t want to start a channel by myself. I knew that that would never work. I need that other person to make it successful, but I didn’t have the right friend for it. I didn’t have the right person. And then when I met Sara, it slowly became obvious that she was definitely the one to do this with. And I was just glad that she said yes because she knew, especially being a female on the Internet, that that cannot always be the most positive thing because of anonymity. People can say some mean things, but … Ahlgrim: The haters. Perkins: The haters, but luckily, she was up for it. And also, luckily, the reception has been like 99% positive since the day one. Ahlgrim: Right. Yeah, definitely. On our first episode back in 2016, when we shot that, you could see the fear in my eyes. It was visible on my face how scared I was, which is crazy. It’s been four years now since we really started putting content out there and I don’t feel that really at all anymore because like you said, it’s been positive reception. Perkins: It was a little deer in headlights. Ahlgrim: It’s very deer in the headlights. TWW: How did you end up deciding to do video and why did you choose YouTube? Perkins: We could have chosen to do a podcast and so forth, but I really wanted to do video because that was actually my first love before bourbon. And I’d had some other friends that I would do video things with, but they were kind of preferring to do podcast stuff I think just because it was a little bit easier. You’re only dealing with one of the two. You’re doing audio instead of audio and video. So, it can be a little easier. There’s no lights involved. There’s no getting ready to be on camera and that type of thing. And honestly, I was a little frustrated with it. I was like, but we do video. I want to get back to doing video and I needed that outlet. So, it was never a question that it was going to be video. And as far as YouTube, I mean, YouTube just seemed to be the platform to go to. It’s free. Even back in 2016, I guess it was maybe about six years old or something, six or seven years old, and was growing and there wasn’t a whole lot of bourbon content on YouTube, more whiskey content and some bourbon here and there. Ahlgrim: I think Scotch was way more representative at that time. And I think we really felt like as two Kentuckians, who have such a passion for bourbon, and we’ve got one person on our team who has a video production background, who shoots and edits video, like why would we do anything else? Perkins: Right. TWW: Your YouTube channel and its videos seemed to have become quite a hit since you started it up. Talk a little bit about what it took to get to this point. Perkins: I think it just took time. I know that’s kind of an obvious answer, but we go back and we watch our early stuff and it’s cringeworthy because, well, for many reasons, one, because we both got better on camera. We both got better at our deliveries and just bouncing things off one another. My lighting skills and editing and everything has just become tighter just from time and experience and watching the videos and wanting to tweak things and find the right formula. So, I really just think it’s been time. Ahlgrim: I think time. I think not to be weird, but I think that our relationship a little bit changed that too. I mean, we had a good chemistry on camera, but I think after probably around a year of doing the show is when we actually started dating. And I do think that in that time, I think our level of comfortability, both with each other and on camera improved, but also the lighting and audio and the B roll, all those things to Chad. Perkins: Equipment gets upgraded and things change and so forth, but it’s all organic growth. I also think knowing that more eyes were on the videos makes you look a little bit more critically at the videos and you think well, okay, well how can we change this? And honestly, some of it was from comments. I remember having a comment from someone saying, “Hey, this video is too long. It didn’t need to be this long. Let’s pick up the pace. This is an edited video.” And at first my first reaction was, “Hey man, I’m an editor. You can’t be telling me, blah, blah, blah.” But then I’m like, “That’s not right.” Ahlgrim: Self-editing is important. Perkins: Absolutely. Ahlgrim: And it is hard to do that, I think you’re right. I think the more people that we had viewing it, we were making something at first that was really just for us. And we were having fun and goofing off. I think that we are still doing that at some level, but we also had this added layer of, we have people watching it. What do they want to see? What do they want to hear from us? And how do we strike a balance of us having fun, but also getting to the point? Perkins: Because I kind of realized, I was like when I’ve edited before, it’s always been for someone else. There’s a client involved. The client gives feedback. Now, we are the client. There’s no one giving us feedback except occasionally in the comments. And I think maybe there was a little bit of, I don’t want to say complacency, but it was almost like, “No. I got this, I’m an editor.” But I was like, “You know what? Okay. Let’s try and make these things tighter,” and I would tighten them up. I actually remember the next video I put out, I think it was that same guy. He was like, “Now, this is what I’m talking about.” So, I was like, “Okay, so it’s not going unnoticed.” And we’ve gotten lots of compliments about the editing and so forth, but it’s been listening to the audience and we’ve changed things format wise in some of our shows because of feedback. And I think that you just have to listen to your audience because we are making it for ourselves like you said, Sara, but also we’re making it for them just as much now. Ahlgrim: Right. And especially now that we’ve gotten a bigger following on Patreon, where it’s really dedicated fans who want to be a part of the process. They want to give input and they have a lot of great ideas. And so, I think we’ve had a bit of a snowball effect in that at first we were learning those things and we were taking suggestions and kind of self-editing as we went. And I think the benefit of being around for several years has been that we have developed this community and it has kind of become a snowball effect of more people are wanting to not necessarily have input, but they are so open to sharing thoughts and ideas just to help better the channel. And I think that has even helped us elevate where we’re at. Perkins: Absolutely. TWW: How do the two of you play off each other when it comes to the shared video screen? Ahlgrim: This is a good question. I think even us, who have a very close relationship and we’re really used to working with each other, we sometimes step on each other’s toes on video. And truthfully, it’s because we haven’t rehearsed. I mean, there is no rehearsing. It is 100% off the cuff. And so, we don’t always know what the other one’s going to say. And I even feel like right now doing this interview, we’re both kind of like, “Wait, can I step in now?” Perkins: Yeah. Ahlgrim: Go ahead. Perkins: Well, I was just want to say, we both get excited about what we’re drinking and we both want to get that idea or that opinion, that thought out of our head, one, before we forget it, and two, just because bourbon is really exciting to us still, thankfully. And so, it’s when we’re tasting something or when we hear something from the other one that we agree with or it sparks a thought or an idea, we want to jump in and be like, yes. And I mean, it’s sort of like improv. It’s yes and. Yes. I do get that note. And I’m also getting this. Ahlgrim: I feel like we’re not two cohosts who, one is the crazy one and the other one keeps us grounded. I think that we both do a good job of recognizing when the other one’s like really excited and off on a tangent. And it’s like, we trade off the role of one person gets super excited and goes off on a tangent about something. And the other one is like, okay, but let me pull you back down to earth. We got to keep some format. So, I think we do a really good job of balancing. And again, like you said, just like bouncing ideas off of each other. Perkins: And I think that’s because we are ourselves on video. We might be a little bit of a turned up version of ourselves, but we didn’t create like personas that we play when we’re on video. We didn’t go in with that, I’m going to be the crazy off the wall guy, and you’d be the straight man. And we, like you said, trade on those roles sometimes. Or maybe sometimes we both go off on a tangent. We both just ride that wave, but we always kind of bring it back and ground it because at the end of the day, it’s that old adage. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we take what we’re doing really seriously. TWW: Thinking about all the videos you’ve done, what are some of the ones which stand out to you the most and why? Perkins: Well, I think the very first video we did stands out, one, because for a long time, it was our most viewed video. And two, after a while, we were like, “Please stop watching this. This is the video that we liked the least because it was our first video.” So, Sara was staring at the wrong camera and the lighting was bad and the pacing was bad and we were just so stiff and robotic, because we were just starting out and figuring things out. But 50 Bourbons Under $25, that quite an achievement right out of the gate for our channel. That took what, 16 flights, I think? Ahlgrim: Sixteen. That’s why I said like earlier, we originally started coming up with the ideas in late 2015, early 2016, but we didn’t really get the video out the door until probably summer of 2016. And so, we’re just now coming up on four years, but that’s how long it took. Because that was a beast of a video. So, it was like at first, “Great, it’s getting all of this traction.” And after a couple of years we were like, “Okay, stop, please stop watching it.” Perkins: And to the fact that we made a 50 Bourbons Under $50, and then we made a 64 Bourbons Under $30 to hopefully kind of replace those views of the 50 Under 25 and it’s still getting views. And in that 64 Under $30 video, we were like, “Okay, people can now officially stop watching our very first video. Here’s an updated version. Please stop watching that one.” Ahlgrim: I’m personally a big fan of the Halloween videos that we do. Perkins: We both love Halloween. Ahlgrim: I think we get to be a little bit more playful with those, with props and sets and things like that. Then we’re working that in more because it is part of who we are, but those are ones where I think that really comes through. Perkins: Yeah, absolutely. And ones that we’ve kind of veered off from the normal formula. We did a game show one, which actually was for Halloween. So, ones like that, the game show ones, the bar cart episode, which is now our most viewed episode, 12-ish bourbons to have on your bar cart. Ones that seem to get a lot of attention and comments and interaction stick out. But there’s also ones that I’m really proud of that haven’t gotten a ton of views, like the, What’s It Like To Go In A Barrel Pick? Ahlgrim: Oh, that’s one of my favorite episodes of all time. Perkins: It was like two and a half years in the making of taking the camera to barrel picks and then putting that together. Ahlgrim: That’s definitely a best of. For me, one of the most memorable ones was our first episode of Eat More Bourbon, which is where we cook with bourbon. And I almost lost a finger in that one. That’s memorable. Perkins: Yeah, it is. That left a mark. Ahlgrim: It did. I would say it did. Perkins: Literally. TWW: Tell us a funny story about a blooper moment from one of your videos. Perkins: Well, what’s good and bad about getting better at your job is you mess up less. But I think in the early days, we did have a lot more bloopers because we were still getting our footing and there was one, it was still one of our earliest videos, still that first year. And it was Bourbon 101. So, this was our first video where we didn’t really scripted it. We didn’t have a teleprompter or anything, but we did write out the bullet points. It was a lot of facts and laws about what makes a bourbon a bourbon and all this. We wanted to make sure we got it right, did our research and didn’t say any false information. So, there was a lot of, okay, here’s the bullet points. Now, let’s try to do this paragraph to camera. And there was a lot of messing up. I think we may have even cut a just a separate blooper video. Ahlgrim: The early days definitely did provide us with a lot more bloopers, but that actually ended up coming in handy. I don’t know if anyone reading this article cares about this, but Chad saved a lot of the little moments that we had from our early episodes and strung that together when he proposed. He did a little video of all of those little fun moments that are caught that we don’t actually end up using for the show. So, that was nice. Isn’t he a sweet guy? TWW: The two of you got married it seems at least in part because of the bond you formed during your videos. Talk a little bit about that personal journey. Perkins: We can say that bourbon brought us together because it was literally how we met and then it was the antithesis of why we started hanging out. And even if we’d met and hadn’t started the YouTube channel, I don’t know if we would have become close enough friends to where a romance could have developed. Ahlgrim: Right. But that was mostly my doing. Yeah, I am a little bit younger. And so, when we did first meet, I was very much still in my mid-20s phase of wanting to just do my own thing all the time. And I agree. I think that it was the spending time together that some people would say wore me down. I would say, no, maybe- Perkins: Warmed you up. Ahlgrim: Warmed me up, maybe wake up and realize that you don’t get a friendship, a partnership, a bond like this every day. And you don’t find someone who can be so open and honest with like, if we can mess up in front of the camera and put ourselves out there just in front of each other like that, I think that really opens the door for that type of stuff. TWW: You can each only have one bourbon with you on a desert island – which one and why? Ahlgrim: What a good question. I have a lot of questions about this question. Does it have to be available on the shelf or can it be anything from all time? I’m going to go with, it has to be available on the shelf because if I’m getting banished to a desert island right now, then I would have to be able to take it with me right now. Perkins: Right, wouldn’t be able to go and hunt and find exactly what you want. Ahlgrim: But if I’m being banished to a desert island, I might spend my life savings on a bottle of bourbon. Perkins: Sure. I would say it would be something that is available in a 1.75 handle so I could at least make it last longer. Ahlgrim: Is it an unlimited supply? I have a lot of questions. Perkins: I know, I know. There needs to be. Because at least I would right off the bat, I would try to say the highest proof something in a 1.75. Ahlgrim: You stole my answer. Perkins: So, on those days where you wanted a stiff drink, you could drink it as it is. If you want to proof it down to more like 90 proof, you could do that. If you could make a cocktail on a desert island, the higher proof would cut through better in a cocktail. So, I’m trying to think of what – there’s not a whole lot of things available in 1.75. So, I might not be able to get the quantity that I’m wanting. I mean, a gun to my head, Wild Turkey 101 because that’s available in a 1.75. Ahlgrim: You stole the words right out of my mouth. Perkins: But would I rather have a 750 of Rare Breed? Ahlgrim: Right. It’s a tough decision for sure. I’m with you though. I want something that’s multipurpose. And so, when I think about things that are higher proof, like I think that gives you more options. You can proof it down if you needed it for cooking purposes or for cleaning a wound, or I’m just like thinking of all the reasons why you could possibly need this bottle of bourbon other than just drinking it. Because there are a lot of things that I would enjoy I could live with forever. Perkins: I don’t think that’s the purpose of the question, but I hear you. Ahlgrim: Well, this is just where my brain goes. Perkins: No. I like the thought process. Ahlgrim: So, I don’t know. I guess I would agree with you. I think the Turkey 101 is a good call. If with all of those, it has to be available now, I would have to be able to walk in the store and get it today and I’m not spending my life savings on it. I am very surprised by this abduction to this desert island and there’s only five minutes for me to jump in the liquor store and grab something. That’s the approach that I’m taking to this scenario. TWW: What do you see as the future for It’s Bourbon Night? What directions do you hope to take it in? Ahlgrim: I think the exciting thing about being where we are right now is that we’ve come into some level of maturity as a channel. And we are experiencing some great growth, not as opened some paths of opportunity. I think we just need to decide where do we want to be in five years? Where do we want to be in 10 years? I think there is a path of, do we want to continue to build our merchandise brand? Do we want to invest in creating some sort of experience-based thing? I think we would both be really great at those things. There’s restaurants. There’s bars. Do we want to be ambassadors for a bourbon group? I personally would love that, if anyone out there is reading this who needs a taster on their panel, I think my palate’s gotten pretty good. So, I would raise my hand and volunteer as tribute for that. What do you think, Chad? Perkins: No, I agree. I think one thing that we can agree on is it’s not just the channel. I mean, we obviously want to keep growing and get more subscribers and get a bigger reach, one, because that’s fuel for the fire that keeps us motivated and going. Two, it affords us new opportunities. The bigger you get, the more eyeballs from other venues that you can get on yourselves, which can open up new opportunities. I would say that we’ve gotten a little addicted to entertaining and hosting, thanks in large part to Patreon and having trips and dinners and presentations and so forth with our Patreon community in person. And we’ve definitely developed a taste for that. So, I think it is something in the hospitality industry or, I mean, just putting all the chips on the table and dreaming big and not holding back. I would say having a label of bourbon that we are involved with, whether it’s our name on it or a name that we come up with, something that we pick. I don’t know to what degree we’re involved with it, but something where we can put our palates to the test and how we’ve developed it throughout the years and say, this is something that we want to put our name on because we enjoy it so much. And we’re so proud of it. I think that would be one of the most ultimate things that we could do. Ahlgrim: Sure. So, again, if you work for a – no, I’m just kidding. If you’re out there reading this and this piques your interest … But no, I completely agree with you, Chad. I do think that there is a very lifestyle element to what we do. And I think the most important thing at the end of the day, we do have so many opportunities, but I think the thing that we are always keeping in mind is our community and how do we choose the path forward that really keeps us involved with them and gives them the most back. Perkins: Absolutely.