What was Behind the Barrel?

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USBG Behind the Barrel is an unforgettable educational bourbon experience sponsored by Wild Turkey, a Campari America Brand, that epitomizes Southern hospitality, experiential learning, entertainment, comfort, and over 150 years of spirit heritage.

The USBG has been offering this program with Wild Turkey since 2014, which started with one trip for 30 attendees, and has grown to four trips of educational opportunities for a total of 120 attendees. This program also brings a group of mentors on each trip—all mentors have been on previous trips and are there to help share the experience!

Participants sat alongside Master Distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell as well as the bourbon legend-in-the-making, Bruce Russell, as the Russells mentored the next generation of bourbon makers, advocates, and enthusiasts.




1. 5-Star Glamping 2-night campout at the iconic Wild Turkey Distillery

Right on the lawn of the Wild Turkey Distillery, everyone checked into their own ‘glamping’ tent hotel, which included a full-size bed, table & chairs, and a workbench. Each guest was also treated to a leather-bound notebook to keep track of their experiences, a ‘Behind the Barrel' t-shirt, and a warm, cozy, ‘Behind the Barrel’ zip-up hoodie.




2. Behind-The-Scenes Distillery Tour led by Eddie and Bruce Russell

Eddie and Bruce walked us through the bourbon-making process from the proportions of high-quality, non-GMO grains, to the fermentation tanks, to the copper still, to the 7-floor tin & wooden rickhouse where the bourbon is aged in charred American white oak barrels.  



3. Whiskey Trivia Competition led by Eddie Russell

What a treat to hear Eddie guide the group through a step by step tasting beginning with Bourbon Distillate, then onto the two-, four-, six-, eight-, and 18-year aged bourbons, ending with a ‘Mystery Liquid!’


4. Rickhouse Tour with Jimmy and Eddie Russell

Jimmy and Eddie Russell invited us all into their Rickhouse, which holds approximately 15,000 barrels amongst the 7 floors… that ended with a tasting straight from one of the barrels.




5. Skeet Shooting with Jimmy and Eddie Russell

The skeet shooting commenced with Eddie Russell ceremoniously decimating flying targets with ease. Shooting instructors were available to coach those firing a shotgun for the first time, giving helpful technique and positioning tips to experience skeet shooting success. For the better part of an hour, orange skeets exploded at the hand of sharp shooters wielding the 20- and 12-gauge shotguns.




6. Whiskey Obstacle Course Challenge yourself through team-building experiences

From barrel relay racing, to water bucket challenges, to “waiter, don’t spill my drink!”… Attendees ran through the course with one thing in mind: There can only be one victor!




7. Beast of Bourbon Challenges Test your skills against your bartending

peers for bragging rights

Blend bourbon like a pro with the Russells… The challenge: smell, taste, and re-create! The winners received a stainless steel 8oz Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon flask.




8. Scenic Thanksgiving-Style Dinner share a seat at the Russell's table

After long days of filling our intellect with unique educational experiences, it was time to refuel. Overlooking the Kentucky River Gorge at sunset, in the shadow of Wild Turkey Bonded Warehouses, another intimate dinner was shared with the Russells.



9. Bonfire & Bluegrass with the Russells

What better way to wind down from an amazing day then to sit by a campfire with Bruce Russell and JoAnn Street, Jimmy Russell’s granddaughter, listening to a local Kentucky Bluegrass band!




10. Special Gift  from the Russells

Every Attendee received a departing gift from the Russells: A bottle signed by Jimmy, Eddie and Bruce Russell… of the Russell’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, Single Barrel.




This year, we received over 300 applications to pick the Top 120 Attendees!


Congratulations to the chosen participants who were able to visit the Wild Turkey Distillery, learn priceless knowledge surrounding the Wild Turkey legacy, and get to create indelible memories with the Russells themselves:


Northeast Attendees— Jon Bamonte, Mark Beyer, Courtney Buchanan, Cat Cannon, Genesis Cruz, Jacob Fewster, Jackie Gentry, Edward Hansel, Joshua Hashmi, Ryan Herzog, Nicholas Jackson, Jessica Knight, Sherra Kurtz, Ryan Lewis, Alicia Martinez, James Menite, Christina Mercado, Ioannis Poulios, Benjamin Pozar, Katherine Quaile, Mason Salicetti, Joshua Seaburg, Eli Shapiro, Joseph Smith, Thomas Spaeth, Massimo Stronati, Alfred Thompson, and Christopher Weiseman.


Southern Attendees— Joneice Caldwell, Natalia Cardenas, Jorge Cherriz, Robyn Cohen, Alex Correa, Melissa Daigle, Mark Drummond, Alexandra Dupuis, Ryan Fitzgerald, Don Hernandez, Andrew Hutchinson, Patrick Joyce, Andrew Izrael, John Kao, Matthew Landon, Ronald Lopez, Justin Newman, Lisa Nguyen, Cortney Pier, Ryan Pucket, Kelly Reaves, Roxanne Roberson, Jason Sorbet, J’Nai Williams, Joshua Willis, Evan Wolfe, Timothy Wolfe, and Aaron Wood.


Southwest/Midwest—Tristyn Ariyan, Ryan Clark, Miles Coburn, John Cowan, James DeFrance, Fiona Domona, Tyler Dunn, Chris Dunsmoor, Tess Emerson, Darian Everding, Kristopher Fernandez-Carr, Adammichael Gesell, German Gochey, Jami Hawkins, Adam Hodak, Erin Holtman, Tommy Householder, Mario Huerta, Marlowe Johnson, Andrew Larsen, Sarah McCoy, Victoria O’Connor, Jennifer Pierson, James Stallings, Dena Sweis, Robert Taylor, and Jonathan Van Orne.


Western—Evgeny Anisimov, Kyle Browning, Harry Chin, Colin Coleman, Lee Farrell, Matthew Gumm, Joshua Haddock, Andrew Hancuff, Cameron Holck, Alexander Hoyt-Heydon, Stephen Kurpinsky, Andrew Larson, Nathan Layman, Linda Mendoza, Manuel Nieves, Claire Orthmann, Christian Ortiz, Lindsay Parsons, Larry Piaskowy, Bryn Quarles, Laura Reidy, Christopher Rice, Scott RIxe, David Saenz, Chad Spangler, Anthony Vailani, Joan Vilanueva, Jessica Weinstein, and Zach Zoschke.






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Here's to another great year of Behind the Barrel!!



1 Comment


October 12, 2017 01:33 PM by Shane Merriam

Looks even better than the stories I've heard about it..


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