Some things just go together, like Kentucky, bluegrass, horse racing, premium cigars, and bourbon.
The fabled Calumet Farm is situated outside Lexington, Kentucky, just a mile or so east of Keeneland Association, one of horseracing’s most epic ovals.
While it began in 1924 as a small farm established by William Monroe Wright, millionaire owner of Calumet Baking Powder Co., Calumet Farm’s focus shifted on his death in 1933 when his son, Warren Wright Sr., moved into breeding and racing Thoroughbreds.
In 1939, Wright hired trainer Ben Jones and his son, Jimmy, who over the next 20 years would train seven Kentucky Derby winners and three Triple Crown champs. One horse in the stables didn’t fare well on the track, winning just 10 of 27 races it entered, but excelled at stud. Bull Lea, of the Bull Dog-Rose Leaves pedigree, was purchased in 1936 at the Saratoga Yearling Sale and would sire a progeny in the 40s and 50s that included 52 stakes winners and three Kentucky Derby winners.
After decades of success, Calumet Farm’s winning ways dwindled in the second half of the century, with Forward Pass in 1968 its only Derby winner, and the star-crossed Alydar its brightest prospect, in 1978.
But the farm has changed hands from the Wright family and is on the comeback, owned by an investor group and leased to billionaire Brad M. Kelly.
Western Spirits Beverage Company was formed in 2008 to build a brand of bourbon to honor the legacy of Calumet Farm. The company sources all bourbons from undisclosed distilleries, and they’re bottled at Three Springs Bottling in Bowling Green.
Calumet Farm’s 10-year-old straight bourbon honors Bull Lea. The label on the bottle shows the horse wearing colors with a jockey aboard. Banners salute his being named Leading Sire five times.
The mash bill for the bourbon shows 74% corn, 18% rye and 8% malted barley. The mix is called “high rye,” and Calumet Farm says the mash bill allows for “the bold, yet smooth flavors of our bourbon to present well, whether that is neat, over ice or in a classic cocktail.”
The bottle is labeled 100 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, meaning it is 50% alcohol and was aged in charred oak barrels for at least two years.
The bottle also indicates it comes from a batch of 50 barrels, which would produce somewhere around 12,000 bottles at the standard 240 bottles per barrel. The label further says it’s “non-chill filtered for added depth of character,” which indicates the whiskey hasn’t been cooled and forced through a filter that would remove particles. Calumet Farm recommends its 10-year-old bourbon is best consumed neat, in a Glencairn glass, at room temperature after it has been allowed to breathe for 15 minutes. Add to that a comfortable chair on the back porch of the main house with a view across rolling fields of grass as horses graze in pastures separated by white wooden fences, just down the road from Keeneland.
– Pairing by: Erik Calviño
A tantalizing nose featuring a combination of toffee, peppery spice, and corn, this Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey shows its age with a healthy dose of oak aroma as well. The palate is refined and layered with plenty of classic bourbon flavors of caramel and vanilla held up against a core of oak, pepper, and even a touch of tobacco.
Cigar Pairing: Liga Privada H99
The award-winning Liga Privada H99 packs a ton of flavor into its 6 x 52 shape. It’s got sweet pepper, cedar, and a delicious nuttiness sitting on top of a smooth earthy background. The Calumet 10 unlocks a hidden note of eucalyptus in the cigar that adds another dimension while the bourbon’s heat is knocked down significantly by the cigar’s earth and pepper.