image002-24This weekend begins the 2016 Kentucky Derby! Whether you’re in Louisville, Kentucky for the race itself, or watching it on TV this weekend, make sure you have some derby day whiskey or a Mint Julep in hand!

To take your Kentucky Derby experience to the next level, here are the four best Bourbon Whiskeys that are perfect for sipping along with the Derby! Note: If you get time to enjoy the race outside, these Bourbon Whiskey’s pair beautifully with a Gurkha Heritage Cigar

Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Launched on Derby Day 2015, Blade and Bow pays homage to the passion and awarded craftsmanship of the legendary Stitzel-Weller Distillery through a unique solera aging system. Each bottle contains some of the oldest whiskey stocks, including the last remaining bourbon ever produced at Stitzel-Weller before it shut its doors in 1992.  This bourbon whiskey is 91 proof. ($50)

I.W._HARPER_(1)I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon WhiskeyI.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a history of more than 100 years of style and recently returned to the U.S. after close to 30 years abroad. I.W. Harper represents courtesy and sophistication in every glass, starting with the iconic Bowing Man on every label: “Anywhere, Anytime, It’s Always A Pleasure.82 proof. ($35)

Bulleit Bourbon(1)Bulleit Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Bulleit® Bourbon was inspired by a family recipe passed down through generations to founder Tom Bulleit. Only ingredients of the very highest quality are used to make the subtle and complex spirit that is Bulleit Bourbon. The flavors and aromas come from its unique blend of rye, corn, and barley malt, along with special strains of yeast and pure Kentucky limestone filtered water. Due to its especially high rye content, Bulleit Bourbon has a bold, spicy character with a finish that’s distinctively clean and smooth. 90 proof. ($45)

The Gifted Horse American WhiskeyYears ago at the historic Stitzel-Weller image008-1Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky, a batch of  17-year-old Kentucky bourbon was accidentally mixed with barrels of much younger Indiana corn and bourbon. This error turned out better than anyone could have expected. The Gifted Horse has unique notes of creamy caramel, Bosc pear and fruit cake. This unusual blend’s fruity notes become more apparent with a splash of water. 115 proof. ($50)

If you’re more of a cocktail lover, thanks to some great Kentucky bartenders, here are some derby inspired cocktails; because who better to make a Derby-inspired cocktail than a Kentucky bartender? 

The recipes below range from a traditional julep to an ultra-premium offering made with 22 year old bourbon (for the more luxurious Derby experience). You’ll also see non julep recipes and a cocktail featuring Orphan Barrel’s Gifted Horse American Whiskey! 

Harper's BetHarper’s Bet- Cocktail developed by Mark Corley, The Silver Dollar in Louisville, Kentucky

 1.5 oz. I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

.5 oz. Grenadine

.5 oz. Lemon juice

.5 oz. Grapefruit juice

3 Dashes Orange bitters

Method: Shake and Strain over fresh ice in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Vinceremos Julep- Cocktail developed by Marie Zahn, Hawthorn Beverage Group

Vinceremos JulepIWH1.25 oz. I.W. Harper Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

.75 oz. Amontillado Sherry

1 tsp. Ginger Syrup

8 Mint leaves and 3 fresh mint sprigs

Glassware: Julep Tin

Method: Lightly muddle mint and ginger syrup, add other ingredients and top with pebble/crushed ice. Swizzle briefly and top with more ice. Garnish with three mint sprigs and straw.

Blade in the Bluegrass- Cocktail created by Michael Harper, OBC Kitchen in Lexington, Kentucky

B&B1.3 oz. Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

1 oz. Roasted peach-infused simple syrup

6-8 mint leaves

crushed ice

Method: In shaker, add mint leaves and roasted peach-infused simple syrup.  Gently muddle ingredients to express essence of mint.  Add freshly cracked ice and Blade and Bow. Shake well. Crush fresh ice and pack into Julep Cup.  Fine strain drink over crushed ice in Julep Cup.  Garnish with fresh mint sprig and bruleed slice of peach.

Thoroughbred Special- Cocktail created by Adam McCraith, OBC Kitchen in Lexington, Kentucky

1.3 oz. Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 22 Year Oldimage016

.5 oz. Honey simple syrup

5-7 Mint leaves

Sparkling brut to finish

Method: In mixing glass, add mint leaves and honey simple syrup.  Gently muddle ingredients to express essence of mint.  Add freshly cracked ice and Blade and Bow 22 Year Old.  Stir well.  Crush lavender infused ice, and pack into Julep Cup.  Fine strain spirit over crushed lavender ice in Julep Cup.  Top with sparkling brut.  Garnish with sprig of lavender and mint.

The Bulleit Mint Julep- courtesy of Bulleit Bourbon

1 1/3 oz. Bulleit® Bourbon (or Bulleit® Rye for a different twist)Bulleit Julep

1 tsp. Sugar

5-6 Mint leaves

Crushed ice

Glasswear: Julep cups or rocks glasses

Method: Muddle mint leaves, sugar, and splash of water in a julep cup or rocks glass. Add Bulleit Bourbon, water, and fill cup with crushed ice (10-20% above rim of cup, like a snow cone) and stir. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, add a small drinking straw, and serve with a napkin.

The Paddock- Cocktail developed by Destinee Almonte, No Vacancy, LA*

The Paddock Cocktail1 oz. The Gifted Horse American Whiskey

.25 oz. Velvet Falernum

1 Quarter roasted pear

2 Bar spoons sugar

1 Dash Cardamom Bitters

Topped with soda 

Method: Garnish with a sugared pear.

 Happy Derby Days… Please Pair Responsibly!