Tag: kentucky

Lincoln Homestead State Park

If you live in Kentucky, you live with visual reminders of the legacy of Abraham Lincoln every day. He is our ubiquitous icon: statues, murals, and signs dot the state attesting to his connection to the Commonwealth.

There’s a small and relatively unknown yet historic spot related to him: the Lincoln Homestead State Park.

The president’s grandfather, Captain Abraham Lincoln, settled here with his wife and sons after the Revolutionary War. Thomas Lincoln, the president’s father, allegedly proposed to Nancy on the site in front of a fireplace; the original cabin still stands. The park has a few original structures as well as replica buildings. The original home owned by Moredecai Lincoln, the president’s uncle, still stands here as well.

Below is a shot I took of one of the historic buildings. Not that great, but shows you a little of what it looks like. Beyond this area and below it is a small creek, which is probably a feature that attracted settlement in the area.


This is not a big place–its main attraction is really a golf course to the south of the historic sites. There is also a picnic area slightly to the north of the historic area, along with a playground. This was the view a few summers ago across the road from the picnic/playground area: a vineyard!

2013-07-20 11.06.26

Looking east from playground area north of main part of Lincoln Homestead Park



I noticed the park on a map a few summers back and visited. It is not far from where I live (within an hour), but it is definitely off the beaten path. The physical address for the park is Springfield, Kentucky, a few miles to the southeast.

As it turns out, the park is just west of where Bourbon Springs would be if it existed–slightly south of Willisburg.

Bourbon Springs would be about where the marker for Route 555 appears on this map (above the road marked Route 438).

More Free Reads!

Here’s another mystery promo I’m participating in.  Over thirty authors! Stock up on some fun, free mystery reading during these dark cold days of winter (at least up here in the Northern Hemisphere; if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, great for outdoor leisure reading!)

Click here to go to the promo page for January Keep Warm and Cozy promo on Book Funnel. (mailing list sign up could be required)

Free and Fun

  • Bourbon Springs Box Set I is still free–that’s three books (Secret Blend, Filtered Through Blue, and Angels’ Share) plus a short story (Secret Sauce) all in one for zip. Nada. Zero. Nothing.


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Small Town Inspiration

One of the best things about writing is the opportunity to put real places into my books.

While towns like Bourbon Springs and Littleham are completely fictional, they are nonetheless inspired by real spots I routinely visit.

Devil Springs also has a real-life inspiration spot. Or two.

So let me introduce you to two of my favorite places, two classic small towns in Kentucky: Carrollton and Cadiz.

Carrollton is the seat of Carroll County, Kentucky. Originally named Port William, it changed its name in 1838 when the county was created from neighboring Gallatin County. The town is nestled on the southern banks of the Ohio River and the eastern banks of the Kentucky. The confluence of these two great rivers is slightly west of the downtown area.

The confluence is easily accessible at Point Park, a city park (amazing 360-degree view of the confluence and park). It is a lovely spot, with playgrounds, picnic tables, open spaces, a small dock, and a boat launch.

It is also a historic site. A blockhouse or fort was built here in 1789 by then-General (and future Kentucky governor) Charles Scott.

The courthouse inspired the courthouse in the Devil Springs.

Carroll County, Kentucky Courthouse; generally how I imagine the Bain County Courthouse in fictional Devil Springs, Kentucky

In far western Kentucky is the town of Cadiz, the county seat of Trigg County. The town is minutes away from Lake Barkley State Resort Park, inspiration for Lake Pembroke State Resort Park in Secret Blend and Lake Shelby State Resort Park in the Bourbon Springs and Bourbonland worlds.

There is a relatively new courthouse in Cadiz, one being built in the past ten years. The old one was very small, and I recall there was a storage shed around the side that bore the tongue-in-cheek sign of COURTHOUSE ANNEX.

But it is the town layout of Cadiz rather than its courthouse that inspired the general feel of Devil Springs. Cadiz has several antique shops along its main street, as does Devil Springs. In fact, the sleuth in A Devilish Punishment, the first Devil Springs Book, shops in antique shops along with another major character. They also stay at the local state resort park.


Main Street-Cadiz KY-Looking west-October 2018; courthouse is in middle of the block on the right (note pointed roof)


Trigg County Courthouse-Cadiz KY-October 2018


Antique stores-Main Street-Cadiz KY-October 2018; courthouse (see above pic) is directly across the street to the right out of picture


Antique stores to left looking west up Main Street-Cadiz KY-October 2018


Pig sculpture celebrating the Trigg County Ham Festival-October 2018


A Social Request

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Fun and Free

  • Bourbon Springs Box Set I is still free–that’s three books (Secret Blend, Filtered Through Blue, and Angels’ Share) plus a short story (Secret Sauce) all in one for zip. Nada. Zero. Nothing. I will probably be putting these back to paid soon, so get these while you can.


Join the Old Garnet Sipping Society, my Facebook readers’ group, to get a free short story and background info about the stories.

Christmas Recipes 2018

Below are links to a number of wonderful recipes (in one case, a guide to cooking chocolate chip cookies). I’m posting these to Facebook throughout December and thought it would be nice to post them all in one place.

Click on the graphics to go to the recipes.

Perfect Sugar Cookies from Delish


Chocolate Strawberry Pretzel Cookies from Taste of Home


Ina Garten’s Shortbread


Cream Cheese Cookies from Southern Living


Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies from Real House Moms


Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies from My Recipes


Peanut Butter Brownie Pillow Cookies from Inspired by Charm


Bobby Flay’s Chocolate Chip Cookies


Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps from Martha Stewart


Peppermint Stripe Meringues from Better Homes and Gardens


Original Toll House Cookies


Soft Peanut Butter Cookies from Live Well Bake Often




Double Dark Mocha Drops from King Arthur Flour


Sugar Cookie M&M Bars from Betty Crocker


Basic Butter Cookies from Cooking Classy


Ultimate Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies


Almond Biscotti from Real Simple


Apple Pie Cookies from An Italian in My Kitchen


Red Velvet Snowballs from Country Living


Other links!

Candy Cane Cookie Sandwiches from Delish

Bourbon Fudge from Bread Booze Bacon

Maker’s Mark Bourbon Shortbread from Esquire

Sunflower Cookies from Taste of Home

Woodford Reserve Hot Toddy from The Manual

PS:  Happy Repeal Day! Prohibition ended on this day in 1933!


Christmas Bourbon Advice

Since it’s the holiday season, I’m seeing tons of articles and posts on what is a good bottle of bourbon to give as a gift–or to keep for yourself. Recently, I had a reader ask me for some advice regarding what I thought was a good bottle of bourbon. I do get this question occasionally, and I love it.

Before I get started answering that question, however, I need to point out the crucial fact here: I live in Kentucky. I have access to many bourbons that are hard to find outside the state. Additionally, I do live within minutes of several distilleries where special bottles are often offered. The closest distillery to me is Woodford Reserve.

Woodford often has special bottles. They even offer engraving services for their flagship bourbon, Distiller’s Select. I have bought gift bottles there for my father and folks at work.

Recently, I left work a little bit early to get to the distillery (it closes at 5 o’clock) to find something for my husband for Christmas. I was in luck.

Or, rather, he will be.

The bottle that had lured me to the distillery was a new offering: a bottled-in-bond version of Woodford Reserve. Price: $50.

Bottled in Bond label

But that’s not my husband’s big gift.

He’s also getting a bottle of Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Select American Oak. This bourbon was matured in a specifically sourced oak: Ozark. According to the information that came with the bottle: “Having barrels that share a common wood structure gives this Special Master’s Collection Woodford Reserve a distinct nutty and sweet aromatic character that will remind you of warm baked goods.” Sounds like the perfect poor for the holidays. Price: $130.

I think he won’t try to return this.

And now for some advice. I offer this information based upon my own likes, and on the assumption that the reader does not otherwise have an extensive knowledge of bourbon (which I don’t claim myself!).

So here are some tips if you are looking for a good bottle for the holidays or to give as a gift.

  • Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select: This is my go-to bourbon. For me, it perfectly hits that point between spicy and sweet. Price for a bottle is around $30-$35 (note: in Kentucky; not sure outside the state).

Guess what we like to drink. Don’t worry. We have another unopened bottle. 🙂

  • Four Roses Single Barrel: This is a high-rye bourbon, which I usually do not like. However, unlike many high-ryes, this one is exceptionally smooth. When I took the tour at this distillery, the guide called this bourbon “your all-day Sunday sippin’ bourbon.” I agree. Price for this bourbon is also around $30-$35.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked and Four Roses Single Barrel

  • Henry McKenna ten-year-old bottled in bond: very good and hard to find, even in Kentucky. It used to be easier to locate here in my state, but it got on some list that it is a great value for bourbon so now everyone knows about it and it’s hard to locate. Not sure of the price these days. Was recently comparable to the bourbons above.

McKenna ten-year bottled in bond

  • Woodford Reserved Double Oaked: This bourbon is a bit sweeter, although not by much, than the flagship Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select. And as its name says, it is aged in more than one barrel to get that extra flavor from the Oak. Sometimes this is called a “dessert bourbon.” We’ve had it with Christmas dinner (the meal itself, not just with sweets). Price around $40.


  • Old Weller Antique: I’ve heard this sometimes called “poor man’s Pappy,” referring to Pappy Van Winkle, that bourbon that’s now crazy expensive. Antique is made by the same family at the same site and is difficult to find. We made a special stop in Bardstown at a liquor store for our bottle–and that was over 3 years ago and I don’t think I’ve encountered one since. If you find a bottle and it’s not ridiculously expensive, go ahead and grab it.

Old Weller Antique

Your best bets as far as availability beyond Kentucky are likely Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select and Double Oaked and Four Roses Single Barrel.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!




Perryville Revisited

Perryville 7.11.2015

Perryville Battlefield State Park; from high point of the picnic area, looking south toward the Knobs; picture taken by me July 2015

I was charmed and surprised that I lived so close to such an important historic site. I’m still surprised that more people aren’t aware of the site–of its beauty and importance.

I went to college just down the road from Perryville, at Centre College in Danville, about ten miles east. During my freshman year, I started driving out to Perryville on my own just for a break, for an escape. I remember the first time I did it. I had no map, only my memory of that field trip from my senior year of high school.

Something must have stuck in my brain because I didn’t get lost, despite the battlefield site being a few miles out of town and in the middle of the country. It was like something was guiding me.

I drove my car along exactly the same route my class had take around a year before, retracing that path precisely. I can still recall my pleasure in rediscovering the area, down to the large grey horse I encountered looking over a fence very close to the road on the right as I came up a hill. To this day I see that horse in my mind’s eye when I drive around the perimeter of the state park on that same road. I still remember the song I had on when I saw that horse (“Tombstone,” by Crowded House; weirdly appropriate considering where I was but not deliberately chosen on my playlist).

These days, Perryville is a favorite picnic spot for my family in warm weather. We live not quite an hour away.  In addition to a museum on the park grounds, there is a large picnic area with a playground. There used to be another playground site, but that equipment was removed within the past two or so years; it was quite old (but was so retro fun; my family misses it). One February, the weather turned so fine that we got a trip in to Perryville one Saturday (and you can see a few photos from that trip below). We flew kites and had a great time in spring-like conditions.

But when we picnic and play at Perryville, I do so with the knowledge of what happened on the land underneath and around us. The main picnic area was where the Confederates began to push back the Union left. The picnic grounds were the site of a very bloody battle.

A few years ago, I went on a reading binge about Perryville. I read Stuart Sanders’ Perryville Under Fire: The Aftermath of Kentucky’s Largest Civil War Battle (The History Press) (KY) as well as  Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle, by Kenneth Noe, a professor at Auburn University. Noe’s book is a door-stopper of a tome; but I’m a history nerd and read the whole thing (a good winter read). My only criticism is that it needed better maps (I love maps, so I might be a bit too harsh here).

I learned quite a bit from my reading, including that one commander thought the battle would take place in Versailles, Kentucky (where I live) and of the amazing incompetence of both Union and Confederate commanders.

But the main thing I discovered–or, really, was reminded of–was Perryville’s importance in the Civil War. It doesn’t get a lot of love when it comes to popular historical knowledge (if I mention Bull Run, Appomattox, or Vicksburg, you’ve likely heard of at least one if not all of those places).

Yet Perryville (also called the Battle of Chaplin Hills) was a crucial battle from a military point of view as well as a political one.

For those with knowledge of the battle, please forgive me for summarizing and glossing over important points (and I hope I got things right); for those who don’t want too much detail, sorry for the history nerdiness that is about to ensue).

First, as a tactical engagement, the Confederates basically fought the Union to a draw.

The Rebels were actually outnumbered but the Union commander didn’t send reinforcements until very late in the day (after a horrific, bloody battle). The reason the battle stopped was because of the arrival of the reinforcements (at the moment the Union was close to being outflanked), coupled with the encroaching darkness. The road down which the Union reinforcements came is still there, known as the “Dixville Crossroads,” the spot of the climax of the battle; today, it’s just two roads meeting but I know my history and what happened in that lonely little spot on a fall evening in 1862; the crossroads are at Hays-Mays Road and Whites Road; see map below.

But in the long term, the battle was a loss for the Confederates because they retreated and left Kentucky. The whole point of their campaign was for the Confederacy to take the Commonwealth. That didn’t happen and the Rebels retreated to Tennessee. Kentucky remained securely within the Union (at least from a military and economic point of view; sentiment was a different matter, especially after the war).

There is a physical place where forces met and one force failed to overcome the other at a turning point in the battle. The place, along a rock fence and treeline in a lonely field in northwestern Boyle County, Kentucky, is called the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy in the Western Theatre.”

The Union had been pushed back to this hill all through the day, losing men and equipment (including cannon). The Rebels’ push started against the Union left, as I mentioned above, at the general area of the now-picnic grounds at the state park. If you expand the above map to show the park area (in green), the picnic area is along the upper park road that ends with the tiny loop and closer to the main road, Route 1920.

All that fighting. All day long. Over rolling territory. It ain’t flat (see below). It was a nasty, grinding battle.

Perryville 5.23.2015

Not flat. The view the Confederates had of the Union left early in the battle (on the ridge in distance; note the cannon on top of the ridge); the Confederates pushed the Union from this vicinity toward the left of this shot; the “High Water Mark” is to the south of this area, over several more hills/rises/ridges; I took this picture in late May 2015


2016-02-20 16.35.07

Hill in the distance is the same with the cannon from above, but opposite view; Confederates pushed Union troops to this hill during the battle. This view, at about 900 feet above sea level, shows how unchanged the landscape is from the time of the battle; road in the middle is same road/route that existed at the time of the battle in 1862. Picture taken by me 2/20/2016


2016-02-20 16.21.56

Another view; taken 2/20/2016


High water mark

The ridge  which marks the “High Water Mark of the Confederacy in the West.” This view is 180 degrees from the sweeping views in the last two photos above. I believe the ridge containing a rock wall which marks the point where the Union held its ground is to the middle right as indicated by the arrow; difficult to see through the trees in the foreground.  If you look closely, you can see the land sloping away to the right. Arrow points to area I believe to be the “High Water Mark.” Picture taken 2/20/2016. Below is a 360-degree video I took from this same spot.


Secondly, the “success” at Perryville was crucial to Union propaganda and helped with the popular and political perception that the Union could prevail.

1862 saw several demoralzing Union defeats. What was supposed to be a simple little war was turning out to be ugly and brutal.

So, oddly, Perryville was a bright spot in a season of darkness for the Union.

Tactically and politically important. So why don’t more folks know about Perryville?

I’m not sure, but I do have some thoughts.

  • The battle was in the Western Theatre, not in the East. More ink and pixels have been spilled over action in the East. In other words, not as sexy (from the history-popular culture point of view, mind you).
  • Grant wasn’t involved. No big-name, successful generals have their names attached to the Battle of Perryville.
  • It is in Kentucky. Remote, sparsely populated Kentucky. Flyover country.

Yet this lack of knowledge–and thus interest–is perhaps what has saved Perryville.

There are no encroaching developments (subdivisions or resorts, for example) in this tiny corner of western Boyle County. Likewise, perhaps due to lack of knowledge and interest, tourists–while they do come for a reenactment or picnics–aren’t exactly burning up the roads to get to Perryville.

So Perryville has been left to its sleepy self without threat of overburdened roads, resources, or other encroachments.

There has been some talk to make  Perryville a national park (there is only a state park there now). I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of a national park. National status would properly recognize Perryville’s importance–but would it also put it under threat of being overburdened, as I mentioned above? Would it fundamentally and forever alter what Perryville is?

Over the past several years, the Civil War Trust has been buying land around Perryville to preserve the site. It has been instrumental in garnering private dollars to save important historic land. The Trust has already saved several hundred acres and helped restore land to original conditions. Original structures have been torn down, including the small barns (red sides) you can see in the video above, and the house and structures on the High Water Mark farm (at the end of the video, the house to the upper left of the pond is now gone).

The Trust raised enough money to buy the farm where the High Water Mark is located (and yes, I donated).

I think this is the same farm where I saw the horse on my first drive out to Perryville my freshman year of college.

Perryville makes an important appearance in the Bourbon Springs Series. Crucial scenes take place at the park in Book 8, Toast and Char. The heroine of that book is originally from Perryville, although in the book she is working and living in Bourbon Springs. I also have Perryville in mind for a setting in another book in a future series (and already know the couple that would be in that book). Also, in Angels’ Share (Book 3), when Lila takes Bo to the springs on her land she explains that one of the reasons the springs are historic is that there was a skirmish at the site in the days before the Battle of Perryville between troops looking for water. In fact, that is how the Battle of Perryville started: soldiers encountering each other along the nearly-depleted Doctor’s Creek, increasingly desperate for water.

Then I wrote a whole book with Perryville as the main backdrop: Where the Fire Is Hottest (Bourbonland Book 3).

Whatever happens at Perryville, I hope it remains much as it is today.  A place one can go and sit quietly to wonder and recoil at what happened there.

A place preserved to honor memory and sacrifice.

As it should be.


Fun and Free For You

  • Bourbon Springs Box Set I is still free–that’s three books (Secret Blend, Filtered Through Blue, and Angels’ Share) plus a short story (Secret Sauce) all in one for zip. Nada. Zero. Nothing.

Join the Old Garnet Sipping Society, my Facebook readers’ group, to get a free short story and background info about the stories.

A Familiar Sight in Bourbonland: Distillery Cats

Noah, a distillery cat at Willett in Bardstown, Kentucky

Woodford Reserve had a revered distillery cat, Elijah, who passed away a few years ago. He had his own special spot at the distillery, outside a building between the Dryer House and the old warehouse. I took these pictures in September when I was on a tour.


Why was the cat named Elijah? He was named for Elijah Pepper, the man who came to Glenns Creek in 1812 to farm and distill.

When I was at the gift shop at the distillery in the visitors’ center one day, I got to meet Elijah’s successor, Oscar. He was in a shopping basket underneath a wall of bourbon on top of a used bourbon barrel. He meowed once and was happy to be petted, but wasn’t interested in raising his head beyond the edge of the basket. I didn’t notice him at first. When I was checking out, the clerk kept turning around and looking at the wall. She finally said something about how the noise “doesn’t bother him,” and I finally spotted the cat.

Oscar wasn’t interested in raising his head up for a picture; he was only nine months old in these pictures


According to the clerk, Oscar stays at the administrator’s house on the grounds. When he wants to leave the visitors’ center, he goes to the backdoor (leads out onto the side porch) and waits to be let out.  He was a rescue cat.

And how did Oscar get his name?

Because Elijah Pepper’s son was named Oscar. Oscar Pepper took over the distilling business after his father’s death and built part of the original distillery building, which dates to the 1840s. The distillery was once known as the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery.

So does Old Garnet have a distillery cat?

Yes. In the Epilogue of Cedar and Cinnamon, the existence of the Old Garnet distillery cat is revealed, as well as the reason why there hasn’t been a distillery cat in the series to date. The cat’s name is revealed in Distilled Heat, and he makes one brief appearance in the book.

Sadly, one of us in the house is allergic to cats, so we can’t have one. I’ll just have to make do by visiting a few distilleries from time to time.


Free and Fun For You

  • Bourbon Springs Box Set I is still free–that’s three books (Secret Blend, Filtered Through Blue, and Angels’ Share) plus a short story (Secret Sauce) all in one for zip. Nada. Zero. Nothing.


Join the Old Garnet Sipping Society, my Facebook readers’ group, to get a free short story and background info about the stories.

SHARP PRACTICE–a milestone and some thoughts

I just realized that when Sharp Practice releases on March 28, 2017, that will be the tenth book I’ve published!

There’s lots more Bourbonland on the way–Single Barrel and Sharp Practice are just the beginning. I’ve been writing a lot this winter–books as well as short stories and novellas. This series is tied together just like Bourbon Springs–and you’ll get to see Bourbon Springs characters from time to time.

Welcome back to the Land of Bourbon and Bluegrass… welcome to Bourbonland.

A Trip to Weisenberger Mill

Weisenberger Mill outside Midway, Kentucky, is Kentucky’s oldest operating mill. It sits on the banks of Elkhorn Creek, on the Scott County side (Woodford County is across the creek). The mill has been in business since 1865 and is still owned by the Weisenbergers.

Although I could buy all the basic mixes in my local grocery store, a ten-minute (one-way) trip to the mill not only gets me access to their flour (made from Kentucky grain and only available at the mill), but a great drive through the Land of Bourbon and Bluegrass. On the way to the mill is Lane’s End Farm (birthplace of Charismatic, 1996 Derby Winner), as well as WinStar and Three Chimneys Farms. A little further up the road is Old Friends in Georgetown, the thoroughbred retirement facility. Needless to say, the views along the drive are lovely.

The “shop” at the mill is tiny. And I mean tiny. There is a desk, this shelving unit with the bag/envelope mixes, and a tiny office to the right. They don’t even keep the five-pound bags of flour out; I had to ask for them (self-rising and all-purpose). I forgot to ask for grits, but was able to buy them at the local grocery later the same day.


This shelf is basically the shop



Old framed sign to the right as you enter the mill


You can park at the mill just outside the office, right beyond the one-lane bridge that spans Elkhorn Creek. The bridge and creek are my mental image of Old Crow Creek, from the scene early in Filtered Through Blue where Kyle finds Hannah alone at the bridge on a cold February afternoon.



View of the creek opposite the falls and across the narrow road from the mill (taken 11/2014)



Elkhorn Creek (taken 11/2014)



Looking south from the mill side of Elkhorn Creek in Scott County toward the opposite bank to Woodford County



Looking north back across Elkhorn Creek; the falls are out of shot to the right; mill is that red-roofed building to the right (taken 11/2014)

The current mill building was constructed in 1913. The concrete was created by grinding up parts of the previous mill.

And here’s my haul from the mill. A bunch of mixes and a total of ten pounds of flour. I already had envelopes of cornbread mix and seasoned flour in my pantry.




If you go to the Weisenberger Mill website and click at the top on “Videos” you can find videos of Sally Weisenberger making biscuits from scratch as well as grits and (my favorite) cheese grits. You can also see her son, Phil, make cheese drop biscuits. I’ve watched the videos several times and just thinking about them makes me hungry. 🙂

We’ve already polished off that blueberry muffin mix and made a batch of chocolate chip cookies with the all-purpose flour. And the cornbread mix that I had in the pantry is now history as well. It was a cold Sunday and I did a lot of baking. I also made grits for lunch.

Here’s the bag I got at my local grocery store, Kroger. The label on the lower right of the bag not only says where in Kentucky (Hardin County, about 80 miles from me) the corn came from to make the grits, it also mentions the farm (the Rogers Farm).



If you’re out and about in the middle of Kentucky, a quick trip to Weisenberger Mill would be well worth your time.

And don’t forget to ask for grits.



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A Year in Pictures in the Land of Bourbon and Bluegrass

I’ve posted many pictures to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter over the past year, but here’s a year-long compilation of 2015–which actually begins at the very end of 2014. This will be a looooong post, chock-full of pictures of the Land of Bourbon and Bluegrass. I love where I live, and I hope it shows. If you have seen the Pinterest boards for the books, some of these pictures will look familiar. If you haven’t checked out the Pinterest boards, links to the boards are on the book pages here on my site.

One note: I’ve been to all the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail now except for one, Bulleit (it actually wasn’t on the Trail when I started; I’m supposed to be able to still get my shirt despite not having gone there, but I want to get there soon). Anyway, I have a lot of shots of other distilleries beyond those you’ll see below, including Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey. It’s just that those trips were earlier in 2014 and thus not appropriate time-wise for what I consider a year-end round up.

Also, you won’t find a lot of references to the books below. You’ll find some, but my goal with this post is to show you the wonderful places I’ve been this year and the place I call home: Kentucky.

Note: this post is best viewed on a desktop. On mobile, I’ve noticed the pictures get rather confused and don’t match captions.


December 2014


Town Branch Distillery



During the week between Christmas and New Year’s last year, I took the tour at Town Branch in Lexington and checked that stop off on my Bourbon Trail Passport. Located within spitting distance of Rupp Arena, the spot is Lexington’s only distillery. Town Branch is named after the stream running through that area of Lexington and through the local old distillery district. It is owned by Alltech.



Tasting at the end of the tour at Town Branch

At the end of any distillery tour, you’re going to get the chance to taste the wares. Town Branch was no exception. Look at that awesome still in the back!


The devil's cut

The devil’s cut

Town Branch had this lovely on display: a used barrel stave showing how far the bourbon had soaked into that oak. Trapped bourbon is called the devil’s cut.



The mash tubs at Town Branch

The mash tubs at Town Branch



The bourbon flavor wheel at Town Branch

Note that cedar and cinnamon are opposites on this wheel; also note that stone–that’s limestone, a very deliberate construction choice. Town Branch has been around less than ten years and the distillery building itself is very new.




Honoring the past

This was on a decorated barrel–“Old Tarr” is actually an old bourbon brand, made in Lexington’s distillery district (not anymore). In fact, across High Street and very close to Town Branch in the distillery district is a dead-end street called “Tarr Trace.”



January 2015

A trip to Jim Beam in Clermont, Kentucky: heart of a bourbon empire nestled in the Knobs, about fifteen minutes west of Bardstown.


This barn greets guests after turning off the main road and going toward the distillery and visitors’ center



The American Stillhouse at Jim Beam



The grains and their flavors…


…and the grains themselves; the panels rotated to reveal the actual grains (think how they do it on Wheel of Fortune and you’ll get the idea)



Gotta protect your water source–a sign in the distillery



The Jim Beam yeast jug, containing their proprietary and historic strain



The barreling porch with milestones noted



Devil’s cut at Jim Beam

Jim Beam makes a brand called “Devil’s Cut”–they extract that bourbon from the wood! More on that below in another picture.



Alligator char: the inside of a barrel



Filling a barrel; it’s a lot like pumping gas



Steam in the sky

The distillery in the bright winter sun; it was a beautiful day.



White dog!



Time to release the bourbon!



Used and split bungs



Barrel dump

Dumping the bourbon; this was Knob Creek; note the incredible color and the discarded char.



Jim Beam bottling line; since they were dumping Knob Creek that day, that’s what they were bottling.



Little bench made of old staves



Really big bottles

If these look big, that’s because they are. The biggest bottles of Jim Beam I’ve ever seen. Not available in the U.S. Apparently they sell this stuff to cruise ships and overseas.



Look familiar? That’s Jeannie’s bottle from the TV show. It was a painted Jim Beam decanter.



Booker sees you!

A mosaic of bottles used to create the image of the late, great Booker Noe, Jim Beam’s grandson and the man who created the small batch revolution.



Gorgeous views of the Knobs were all around



A rickhouse at Jim Beam; we went inside this one



My taste (one of three)



Four centuries of a bourbon dynasty

The Beam Bourbon Dynasty, from 1795 to the present,  inside the American Stillhouse just above the front entrance.


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The ticket for the tour has the same images



Old Crow is a Beam brand and they still make it to this day; wish I’d bought this sign



The tasting bar–so many choices!



Take your pick

The dispenser for your taste–insert a card they give you, make your selection. Note the Devil’s Cut. One selection was experimental (second from right).


I am lucky enough to live minutes away from Woodford Reserve and some of the prettiest horse country around. Sometimes I go out to the distillery just because I can.



Winter scenes at Woodford

Distillery to the left; old rickhouse to the right; old Pepper farmstead on the hill across Glenns Creek; note the large new rickhouses in the distance. The visitors’ center (first picture above in the snow) is out of shot to the left.


Movin’ on

Roll out the barrel! A newly-filled barrel on the barrel run moving from the distillery to the old warehouse; shot taken from the porch on the visitors’ center.



Looking from just outside the visitors’ center down toward the terra cotta brick warehouses



A chunk of snow suspended in a tree



Yes, it’s huge

Shot of a huge horse barn taken along New Cut Road, the road I took to and from the distillery; looking south.


Another horse barn; you can see a few thoroughbreds to the left




Yeah, the shot isn’t centered. I had to climb a little hill off the road to get this picture. I can proudly say I didn’t fall.



Pond fronting US 60 at Ashford Stud–now the home of Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah



A creek on Stonestreet Farm, just south of Ashford Stud


February 2015

In February, I took a trip to Lebanon, Kentucky (fictionalized in the Bourbon Springs Series as “Littleham”), home to Limestone Branch Distillery and Independent Stave Company.

At Limestone Branch, which is owned by a couple of Beams, they had a great display of bourbon memorabilia.










The Beam owners were also related to the Dants, another legendary bourbon-making family




I love this bottle–look at the sunbursts on the glass!



The still at Limestone Branch


Mash at Limestone Branch



Bourbon Springs?

Looking south from Limestone Branch; the Knobs are in the distance at the left. This is my mental image of the land around Bourbon Springs and Craig County, Kentucky.


March 2015


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Bluegrass sunset on Selection Sunday 2015


April 2015

Got out to Woodford Reserve twice.


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Door to the tasting room


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Looking from the distillery toward the visitors’ center; those panes are the back of the tasting room

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Split bungs among the char after a barrel dump

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The tasting room


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Along a country road in the Bluegrass in springtime


May 2015

Warmer weather means picnics for me. And that means a trip to Perryville, Kentucky, the site of Kentucky’s largest and most important Civil War Battle.



To the left of the cannon is a historical marker on the spot where a Union general was killed



Clover on the battlefield

A trip to Kentucky’s capital city, Frankfort!

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Home of the original bourbon balls–Rebecca Ruth Candies in Frankfort, Kentucky


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The real deal


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Sign at Rebecca Ruth 🙂

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A planter on St. Clair Mall in downtown Frankfort


June 2015


A trip to Four Roses, south of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and along the Salt River.

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Single barrel is my favorite Four Roses expression


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Mash tub


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Four Roses tasting bar; you get to keep the glass

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Can you see the legs?


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One of the pillars at the distillery entrance

July 2015

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A view of the Ohio River from an overlook at General Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton, Kentucky. Carrollton is the site of the confluence of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers. In this picture, if you look closely, you can see a blue bridge to the center-left of the picture. That bridge spans the Kentucky River, and the confluence is slightly north of it at a local city park.


A small-town Fourth of July in Versailles, Kentucky!

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Got the honey from a street vendor, Kentucky Honey Farms, at the Fourth of July celebration in Versailles. When I asked which bourbon was in the honey, he replied, “Well, we are in Woodford County.” 🙂


Another picnic trip to Perryville…

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This is a wall of huge hibiscus outside the museum at the park.


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I experimented with bourbon vanilla ice cream and created this concotion using Woodford Reserve. The recipe is in the back matter of Cedar and Cinnamon.


A short trip to Wild Turkey. Just because. This is the visitors’ center, opened in June 2014, made to resemble a rickhouse. You can see this building from across the Kentucky River as you approach the bridge.

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Not sure whether this is a distillery cat, but I discovered him on the prowl outside the visitors’ center.


A quick day trip to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, in Mercer County.

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We went to  Kentucky Fudge Company, in an old drug store. This is an Ale81 float. Don’t know what Ale81 is? Think of a spicy, caffeinated ginger ale and you’ll get the idea. It is a Kentucky soft drink, a Bluegrass tradition. This float was sooooo good on a hot July day.


August 2015

A trip to Lake Barkley State Resort Park in far western Kentucky, at Land Between the Lakes.

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The lodge. The outdoor swimming pool is on that concrete terrace, providing awesome lake views.


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The butterfly garden below the pool and lodge was full of large butterflies.


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Views from along the path skirting the lake below the lodge.



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Taken at my house. This large butterfly or moth seemed to be posing for me. I had to wait for this shot a few minutes; it finally decided to land and be still.


A daytrip to Danville, Kentucky, in Boyle County, home of Centre College, my alma mater.

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The Boyle County Courthouse, dating from 1862. The building was used as a hospital after the Battle of Perryville after Union troops retreated from Perryville, about ten miles or so to the west.


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Taken near Parksville, Kentucky in southern Boyle County, where the Knobs meet the Bluegrass.


August means a trip to the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.

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Yes, there was a bourbon tent! Jim Beam was the brand represented.


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The painted horse has an image of Louisville’ Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville, along with old labels and a map of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.


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A coloring wall at the Fair. See that building colored yellow? That’s a distillery. Those columns to the right? Silos for grain.


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Fair delicacies. I did not partake, although the hot brown on a stick did intrigue me.


September 2015

Trips to Shakertown and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown.

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The Centre Family Dwelling, at one time one of the largest stone structures in the state. Two entrances for the two genders.


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Candle made on-site at Shakertown on sale in the gift shop.


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The side of the Trustees’ House. We sat here on this perfect late summer day. The sky was amazing.


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The top of the Centre Family Dwelling (it was SO HOT UP THERE!).  One of the highest views in Mercer County, Kentucky.


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The old lock on the above window. Talk about sturdy. This thing was the very definition of the word.


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The window opposite the one above; another gorgeous view of the surrounding countryside.


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Lots of feline friends at Shakertown. This guy was in the window at the gift shop.


The major event in September was at the Bourbon Capital of the World ™, Bardstown. The Kentucky Bourbon Festival.



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The great lawn outside Spalding Hall in downtown Bardstown saw every major distillery represented.


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Spalding Hall is home to the Getz Musuem of Whiskey History, which really deserves a long blog post of its very own.


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I attended a luncheon and history lecture at Wickland, home of three governors (two Kentucky, one Louisiana). This rambling Georgian mansion is almost two hundred years old and owned by the city of Bardstown. I have a book in mind where one of the characters lives in a place inspired by this mansion.


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Looking out the front door. The window over the entrance was a symbolic sun–supposedly it never set on the good fortunes of the house’s inhabitants.


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Looking down the main staircase into the wide hall. That sofa to the right is a piece original to the house (that white sheet of paper is telling visitors not to sit).


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Looking out a second floor window to the fields beyond.


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Took a trip to Willett Distillery, a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.


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Looking from the hillside at Willett to the rickhouses over at Heaven Hill, site of the devastating 1996 fire. Note the Knobs in the distance.


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Front doors of the distillery at Willett, with the stylized door handles crafted to represent the Willett pot still.


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And here is the very same pot still!

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A barrel stencil at Willett on the floor of the barrel filling area.


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The Old Talbott Tavern, where we had a lovely lunch.


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The old Nelson County Courthouse in the middle of Bardstown, now a tourist information center.


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On the Great Lawn again–coopers from Independent Stave Company demonstrating how to fix barrels.


October 2015

Another outing to Shakertown, but this time we ate at the Trustees’ House.

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The quintessential Kentucky Hot Brown. Of course it was good!


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One of the wonderful staircases in the Trustees’ House.


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Front door of the Trustees’ House.

In addition to walking around the village, we took a riverboat ride on the Dixie Belle.

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On the Kentucky River looking at High Bridge, a wonder of the age. People from Cincinnati used to take the train for the day just to see the bridge.


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Beneath High Bridge with an October sun behind the clouds.


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October saw the Bluegrass host the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. The winners’ garlands were crafted at my local grocery, Kroger. The incomplete garland in the foreground eventually graced the form of Grand Slam Champion American Pharoah, who won the Classic.


November 2015

A trip to Old Friends Farm, the retirement facility for thoroughbred horses, outside Georgetown, Kentucky. The farm inspired my vision of GarnetBrooke, which plays a major role in Distilled Heat (Bourbon Springs Book 6, to be released in early 2016).


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Exceller and Ferdinand (1986 Kentucky Derby Winner) both died overseas in slaughterhouses. Their memory is honored at Old Friends in this logo over the main entrance of the visitors’ center.


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Sarava, 2002 Belmont Stakes Winner. Ornery and actually rather small.


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Silver Charm, the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Winner. Sweet horse, loves people. He came back to Kentucky and Old Friends in December 2014. He was the first Derby Winner at the farm. It also now houses War Emblem, the 2002 Kentucky Derby Winner. He was in quarantine when we visited.


December 2015

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The Kentucky State Capitol at dawn on a December morning.



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And of course I went back out to Woodford Reserve in December. In fact, I went twice. This shot is from the first visit.


If you scrolled all the way through this post, thank you! I hope you enjoyed a virtual trip to my little corner of the world.

Happy New Year!

Land of Bourbon, Bluegrass…and Basketball

In the books, I make reference to the University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball team from time to time. Because while Kentucky is know as the Land of Bourbon and Bluegrass, there really needs to be another “B” in that title.


Cheering a basketball team in Kentucky is not merely a pastime in this state. And while I will admit to being a University of Kentucky fan, the depth of support for various teams in this state goes beyond what one might call mere fandom. I do not say this to be dramatic; it is a cultural fact.

Basketball is a part of Kentucky culture just as much as bourbon and thoroughbred horses. It is a form of identity.

For a small and often economically challenged state like mine, basketball is a great source of pride. It is a cultural and political equalizer. It is a language, a history, a shared love and story that we all understand.

I am particularly talking about the UK program. UK’s in-state arch rival, Louisville, has a rabid following as well. But U of L does not have the long history like UK. It also seems the teams’ followers are somewhat geographically divided. UK followers come from all over, but generally the central and eastern part of the state; Louisville fans tend to be more from the western part of the state and, of course, Louisville itself (although when the teams meet in the Yum! Center for the annual game, there does tend to be more blue there than red at Rupp Arena when the teams play in Lexington on odd-numbered years; there are a lot of UK fans in Louisville).

While many today take shots at UK’s program for what essentially seems too much success, I read an article last spring (I can’t find the link) which argued that Kentucky–culturally and economically speaking–is an underdog. And for the state to have something as notably and consistently excellent as its basketball program is something to celebrate.

And being a basketball fan of any stripe in this state means one’s emotions run the gamut–from the highs of that last-second winning shot to the heartbreak of a tough loss in the NCAA tournament in March (or April 🙂 ).

Spring can be so cruel in the Bluegrass State.

As for me, my loyalty is forever blue, to the University of Kentucky. I went to law school at UK and my family all went there as undergrads or for grad school. I get choked up at the games when they play the 90 second video with the clips of the past several years. I get choked up when I hear “Call to Post” played at the game (yes, they really do that). I stay when the band plays “My Old Kentucky Home” and sing along. Yes, I know all the words. And when the band plays the song, a short video rolls in Rupp Arena with video clips from all over Kentucky; I’ve been to many of the spots shown and, if I haven’t, I know exactly where they are.

See what I did there?

I just moved beyond basketball–the game.

I just showed you how important the cultural experience is to me. How it is part of my identity.

So, yes, there are references in the books to UK Men’s basketball.

Because not to mention it would be leaving out part of Kentucky itself. I wouldn’t be painting the picture of my state that I want my readers to see.

Because you can’t talk–or write–about Kentucky without mentioning basketball. It is part of our soul.

PS: I’m writing this as I wear my new Kentucky hoodie with stitched-on lettering. It was a Christmas gift from my family. I mentioned I wanted one–as we ate dinner before going to a UK game.



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