The Kentucky bourbon community has turned out to support those affected by the tragic tornadic outbreak across America’s heartland.
The Kentucky Distillers’ Association, the Bourbon Crusaders charitable organization and well known bourbon writer Fred Minnick have crafted a major fundraising event to support recovery and rebuilding efforts from the tornados that ravaged Western Kentucky.
The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit will feature an online and live auction of exclusive private barrel selection experiences, rare and vintage spirits, and unique tasting and tourism offerings from Kentucky’s signature distilling industry and hospitality and charitable partners.
“I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support in recent days,” said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear in a prepared statement. “I appreciate our signature Bourbon industry quickly stepping up to raise much-needed money for Kentucky families that have lost so much in this tragedy.”
Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association, said that Kentuckians are hurting. “They’ve lost their homes, loved ones and their livelihoods. It’s our obligation as a signature industry – and duty as fellow Kentuckians – to help each other in times of crisis. There’s a real urgency here. These are our friends and neighbors, and they need help now.”
The online auction will begin Thursday, Dec. 16, at 5 p.m. EST and run until Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 10 p.m. A live-streamed auction will be held on Dec. 21 starting at 7 p.m. at Westport Whiskey & Wine in Louisville and will feature premium and immersive items from Kentucky’s iconic distillers.
To view all the auction items and bid, go to www.kybourbonbenefit.com.
All proceeds will go directly to the state’s official Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund to assist those affected by the tornados and severe storms of Dec. 11.
The website to learn more or make a donation is https://secure.kentucky.gov/formservices/Finance/WKYRelief.
“We’ve been the recipients of so much generous hospitality from the fine people of Kentucky,” said RJ Sargent, founder of The Bourbon Crusaders. “They’ve treated us like family. When we saw the chance to give back, our members jumped at the opportunity.”
Minnick said Kentucky bourbon is a community that spans throughout the Bluegrass State and points across the globe.
“Bourbon lovers everywhere want to help rebuild Western Kentucky with our hands, hearts and wallets. Private collectors, Kentucky distillers, out-of-state brands and celebrities donated rare auction items that will surely break records. The bourbon community believes in the Commonwealth’s bond of bourbon and knows it can bring us together to rebuild.”
Offerings include more than 20 private barrel experiences, where bourbon enthusiasts can personally taste and select their own one-of-a-kind barrel under the tutelage of the brand’s master distiller. Each barrel usually yields 150-200 bottles depending on age and proof.
Whiskey aficionados with the Bourbon Crusaders have donated dozens of limited edition and single barrel expressions of bourbon, rye and Scotch whiskies. Distillers also have donated rare bottles that disappeared from retailer’s shelves long ago.
Minnick, a best-selling author and whiskey expert, collected a treasure trove of bottles, private experiences and memorabilia to fulfill any whiskey enthusiast’s list.
Also, Kentucky distillers are sending pallets of hand sanitizer to Western Kentucky that remain from COVID relief efforts.
On the hospitality side, companies along the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour donated overnight stays at bed and breakfasts, transportation and tourism packages, a six-foot tall Christmas tree made out of barrel staves, and more.
In addition to the auction, there will be a dedicated “buy it now” section where people can purchase bottles and other items without breaking the bank. Due to COVID and space restrictions, the live auction is not open to the public. Items will be available for viewing online and streaming.
Organizers say they’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the generosity of distillers and partners from outside Kentucky that offered assistance and items for the auction.
“The outpouring has been enormous,” Sargent said. “We immediately began receiving texts and calls throughout Kentucky and from coast to coast from our members, friends and partners in the national bourbon community who knew that we could help them help Kentuckians.”
Gregory said he began making calls to distillers early Saturday morning when daylight gave way to the devastation of the tornados. Not one distiller turned down his request to donate barrels or bottles to the cause.
“I really didn’t have to ask,” he said. “They knew why I was calling and they were ready to help in any way. It could have been any of their communities or families or colleagues. That’s bourbon. That’s the Kentucky spirit shining through. We’re all about taking care of each other.”
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