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Whobrey Farms owner Brad Whobrey (center) makes a point at the Neeley Family Distillery Farm-to-Table Event 

This Month's Bourbon Zeppelin Feature Article:

Don't Forget the Farmers

by Colonel Steve Akley
Often overlooked, farmers are vital in making bourbon!

When you make that transition from bourbon drinker to bourbon fanatic, something happens to you. You develop this desire to learn everything there is to know about bourbon. Each step of the process represents a chance to learn, and educate, ourselves. 

There are opportunities to find out about bourbon from just about every angle you can think of. We're talking history, brands, people, production and more. Classes about barrels, stills or yeast are examples of typical offerings for online learning or breakout sessions at events.

One area that seems to be overlooked fairly often is the farmers. Of course, we wouldn't have bourbon without the work of farmers across the U.S. and other parts of the world (Canada, for instance, is a big provider of the rye used by many distilleries).  Now, this isn't necessarily an oversight. Everyone knows how important the farmers are, but they have jobs to do that require long hours and they really don't want to step away from their work to talk to a bunch of bourbon fans so it's a rare opportunity to chat with the people growing the crops that make our favorite distilled spirit.

Recently, though, we had the chance to chat with Brad Whobrey, of Whobrey Farms, which is near Neeley Family Distillery in Sparta, Kentucky. When Royce started his distillery, Brad stopped in to ask what Royce was going to do with his spent grain... the byproduct of making whiskey. Royce didn't really have that quite figured out yet, so Brad's timing was perfect. Brad would come by and pick it up at the distillery. Royce had resolved a problem of what he was going to do with all of this organic material and Brad had a source to feed his cattle.

It turned out to be a perfect partnership. The mixture of different grains was obviously more appealing to Brad's cattle as they would eat the Neeley grains before the regular feed he had for them. Best of all, he didn't have to pay for it, which is a big expense for his farm. As Neeley grew and began to expand, Brad also started growing the corn for the distillery and even helped with some heirloom varietals (last year, for instance, Whobrey Farms grew Neeley's Bloody Butcher corn).

The event we had with Brad Whobrey at Neeley Family Distillery was called the Farm-To-Table event was eye-opening to participants. While we've focused many times in our classes how distilleries like Royce Neeley's can do things to make a superior product, it was refreshing to hear how Brad Whobrey had a similar approach in his business. His commitment to consumer safety and quality means he isn't using growth hormones and some of the other shortcuts many farmers used. He also talked about the positive impact this would have on the taste of his products. Best of all, we  didn't just take Brad's word for it, we had an executive chef there to prepare a steak dinner made from Whobrey Farms steaks that were raised on Neeley Family Distillery grain. 

Brad Whobrey himself summed it up best when he looked at Royce Neeley and summed up the partnership the two had forged when he stated, "This works out so well because I need him and he needs me."

As bourbon fans, we need the both of them!

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Today is a big day for the ABV Network, the parent company of Bourbon Zeppelin because it turns 5-years-old today. That's right, our first ever podcast, an episode of The Bourbon Show, was released 5-years ago on this very date, launching the ABV Network brand as well. A big thank you to everyone who has helped us get to this big landmark birthday.

Well, Fall is just about upon us. If you enjoy summer like I do, that can be a depressing thing, but the fact we're into bourbon means that the excitement of all of those fall releases makes the transition into cooler weather more palatable.

As always we've got all-original material written for you by your fellow bourbon fans. Like I always say, I hope you enjoy reading this issue of
Bourbon Zeppelin as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you!

Editor-in-Chief of Bourbon Zeppelin, Owner of the ABV Network, Podcast Writer, Producer & On-Air Personality, Blogger, 30+ Years Bourbon Fan, Bourbon Staff Writer Food & Dining Magazine, Maker's Mark Ambassador (Ambassador #14,903/member since 2000), Four Roses Mellow Moments Club Member (2016), Author of the Best-Selling Cocktail Book Series Bourbon Mixology (Four Volumes, 2015-Present), Apprenticed at a Bourbon Distillery (2016), Completed the Bourbon Trail (2000 & 2016), Executive Bourbon Steward (2017), Whiskey Warrior Award Winner (May '17), Founding Member Jefferson's Bourbon Ambassador Program (2017), Barrel Selection Committee Member for New Orleans Bourbon Festival (2018), Bourbon Educator for Total Wine in St. Louis, Bourbons Bistro Barrel Selection Committee Member and Kentucky Colonel (2016).
The ABV Network Adds Text Updates to the Mix
On June 15, 2020, the ABV Network launched text messages as a way to keep our audience engaged and informed. We send out about 3 or 4 messages a week to keep you in the know on information like events, industry news and sales in our gift shop. To make sure you don't miss out, please fill out the form on the home page of
Freddie gets his first commission check from his soda brand

Freddie Johnson Continues to Amaze!
Truly making a difference

by Colonel Steve Akley

Freddie Johnson continues to amaze me. His raw passion, enthusiasm and unbelievable knowledge have brought so many fans to bourbon. Think about all the people he has inspired to become bourbon fans on all of those tours he has done. It's literally a life-changing event when Freddie leads your tour.

Then, Freddie seemingly put bourbon in perspective for so many of us who started to feel the pressure of those hard to get bottles. I mean how can you drink a bottle you had to camp out overnight just to get a chance to buy in a random lottery? Well, Freddie has preached the fact bourbon isn't about collecting and those important bottles are nowhere as near important as the memories you create with those you love by sharing and drinking that bourbon. 

It's true, Freddie Johnson is a special person in the lives of many bourbon fans. He is one of a kind and there isn't a single person in the world that is better at their job then Freddie Johnson is at his.

Just when you don't think you could possibly have any more respect for Freddie, Buffalo Trace pitches a soda brand bearing his name and likeness. Freddie doesn't just say yes and collect a residual each time a bottle is sold. Instead, he takes a deep dive into the product and makes sure it's made from the finest, all-natural ingredients. Once he is assured the quality standards are high enough, he agrees to do this with one more stipulation. He doesn't get any money himself. The money goes to charity to help projects in Frankfort, starting with the Green Hill Cemetery, something he and his Dad had started assisting many years ago.

The money received from the sale of Freddie's sodas goes to the care and restoration of Green Hill, a historically important cemetery that has one of the few monuments in the nation celebrating the efforts of African American soldiers in the Civil War. On a personal level, Freddie has many family members buried there including his grandfather and great-grandparents.

So the next time you are at Buffalo Trace, enjoy the bourbon and grab a bottle to share with friends, but don't forget the soda because your purchase helps contribute to a really great cause.

About Colonel Steve Akley
Steve Akley, a Kentucky Colonel, is the company owner of the ABV Network, LLC, as well as an author, podcaster,  movie/TV show producer. He has been a bourbon fan (legally) since 1989, but notes that while his family didn't drink very much, when they did, it was a cocktail with bourbon as the base so he's always been around it. He enjoys splitting his time between his home with his family in his beloved hometown of St. Louis and Kentucky, where all of the bourbon fun is. You can reach Steve via social media or the web with everything under the name Steve Akley, or, you can go through the company website at:
Bringing You The Best Bourbon Finds on Amazon!
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Yeti Lowball Tumbler
This one is the perfect item for fun outdoors. As you enjoy these last days of summer, get yourself a Yeti Lowball Tumbler to keep your cocktails ice cold. Plus, if you are going for a swim you don't have to worry about glass by the pool!
Get Involved with the ABV Network
Live events are back!
Be Part of the ABV Network Family
While we love bringing you original content via our podcasts, blogs, newsletters and Bourbon Zeppelin, our favorite thing to do is interact with our audience via our live events. This year we've already done an ATV tour at Hard Truth Distilling and taken a Tiki Cruise down the Ohio River and a farm-to-table event at Neeley Family Distillery. Coming up, we have a Halloween-themed pub crawl and our yearly Key West trip in January scheduled. Get involved by joining our ABV Network Crew Club at:

We'll see you at an upcoming ABV Network event soon!
The ABV Network is the fastest growing podcast network on the web. Here's the latest news with this exciting group of shows, many of which are helmed by Bourbon Zeppelin contributors.

Maggie Kimberl

President, Bourbon Women
Featured on The Bourbon Show - Today!

We have some great programming coming up on the ABV Network. Here's a sneak peak at some of the upcoming shows:
The Bourbon Show
September 1 - Maggie Kimberl, Bourbon Women

September 6 - Bourbon We Wish Our Favorite Distilleries Would Release
September 11 - Martha Bodman, Mother of Michael Myers

The Bourbon Daily

September 1 - Cocktail Contest Winner #5 / Molly Wellmann (Guest Judge) 
September 2 - The 2021 Bourbon County Stout Lineup
September 3 - Is Bourbon All The Way Back?

ABV Network shows can be found on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Libsyn and more. Just search for the name of the show! You can even listen in on our website:

Join the Revolution
We love knowing who fans of our shows are. Please join ABV Network staff by putting the hashtag #ABVNetworkCrew in your social media profiles. 
Bourbon Nuggets

Our guest on The Bourbon Show today, Maggie Kimberl, shared some pretty good scoop. While nothing is finalized just yet, she's very close to inking two separate deals to write a book meaning she'll probably have two books soon!

The Message in the Bottle

How Bourbon Bottles Have Evolved
Bourbon packaging has taken many forms since its inception. Though the bourbon inside tastes great no matter what shape the bottle takes on, distillers put a lot of careful thought into the correct look of their finished product to make it stand out on the shelves for the consumer. Collecting these bottles has become a bit of a treasure hunt of its own (not for me, I’ll take my bottle full of the hooch, thank you). How can you even make heads or tails of the bottles and whether they are worth a dime or if you’ve found that coveted buried treasure?  

Let’s dig deeper!
When bourbon was originally produced, it was simply barreled. Barrels seemed like a practical size, given that the goal was to preserve grains from spoiling and a barrel of whiskey was much easier to manage than wagons or barns full of grain. As time went on, consumers would use whatever receptacle was handy to take a share of the barrel. It worked, yes, but it wasn’t the most consistent way to package alcohol. In the time before the 1880s, glass was typically hand blown and fairly rare, as it was still expensive to produce. If you are lucky enough to find a glass bottle from this era, you will likely notice small bubbles in the glass and no seam. Some designers were able to add embossing to the glass, but it was not a common practice and reserved for skilled glass blowers.
Manufacturing made mass production of glass much easier and more cost effective. Prior to Prohibition, different distillers began experimenting with placing their product in different shaped bottles--tall, square, rounded edges--anything that stood out from the next bottle on the shelf. When Prohibition hit, the distilleries that were allowed to remain open and produce their whiskey for medicinal use almost universally adopted the classic glass “medicine bottle” pint bottles.  

Hey, it just needed to get the job done, right?
It was just after Prohibition that bottle shapes really started taking off and showing their individual personalities. The federal government required that whatever the shape or color, the bottle needed to bear the embossing “Federal Law Forbids Sale of Re-Use of This Bottle.” The government also set very specific definitions on what sizes the bottles could be for distilled spirits: 1/10 pint, ½ pint, ⅘ quart, 1 quart, ½ gallon and 1 gallon. These sizes remained in effect until 1978 when the government decided to move the bottle sizes to the metric system sizes that we are used to seeing today--100 ml, 375 ml, 500 ml, 750ml, 1 liter and 1.75 liter.  
Bottling companies also began to emboss the bottoms of the bottles with the year in which they were produced and in some instances the initials of the city in which they were produced. Companies began to experiment with colors--clear was standard, but they also added an amber and black color which remained popular for a while. Most distillers settled on the fact that they wanted the consumer to see the distinct color of their whiskey, bourbon or other spirit. That’s when shape became the deciding factor.  
My last column talked about the time and effort Margie Samuels put into making Makers Mark a distinct brand that you could recognize by its bottle shape. Jack Daniel's is also another product that is recognizable by its bottle silhouette. Blanton's is yet another that stands on its design on a shelf--easily recognizable based on the glass design alone.  
As antique collectors dig through old bottles, they are able to determine the age based on a few factors such as the glass quality, the embossing, the date on the bottom or lack of date on the bottom, color, and the liquid content labeling. I recently had a demolition project halted because the archeologists on site found an old ketchup bottle, a plate fragment and a rubber boot. Not really the same treasure as a Pre-Prohibition hand-blown glass bourbon bottle...but there’s plenty of neat things still waiting to be unearthed, so keep drinking and keep digging!
About Andrea Holak
Andrea Holak lives in sunny St. Louis, where she is the Executive Director of a local affordable housing agency. Andrea can usually be found at Busch Stadium watching baseball or hiking pretty trails, but you won’t find her without a flask of bourbon! She has joined the BZ team to tell the tales of bourbon history. Connect with Andrea on Twitter or Instagram at @redtumbleweed. 
Featured YouTube Video
Steve Talks to Freddie Johnson
Our very own Colonel Steve spoke to Freddie Johnson about his soda line and the important things he is doing with the money generated from the sale of those products.

Please subscribe to our Bourbon Sasquatch Channel while you are there!
Bourbon Ads of Yesteryear
Celebrating the history of bourbon by sharing ads used in the past.
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Bourbon Nuggets

Check out our catalog of Virtual Bourbon events by clicking here.
This Month's Selection...

Luchador at Sunrise
Clown Shoes Beer

It’s September, and if you live anywhere other than Diablo’s armpit, it should be cooling down a bit, time for stouts?


Back in February, Clown Shoes Beer began a series called Kung Fu Ballet. With richly told stories beginning on the back of the can with a finished chapter that you’d find once you scanned the code on the can. Chapter one was a barrel aged IPA that I’m sad I couldn’t get my hands on, because I love something barrel-aged outside of stouts. 

This is chapter 3, Luchador at Sunrise, an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels with cinnamon, vanilla, ancho and chipotle peppers. Larger than your typical 12 oz cans, this pint can came with a $12 price tag that made the cashier double check because she couldn’t believe one can cost that much. I assured her that that’s the going price for a BA stout. She hoped that it was worth it, and so did I. 

The pour is an opaque pitch black medium body with slight caramel colored head. The nose is cinnamon and nutmeg. First sip is thinner than the pour suggests and I don’t get a lot of the spice I was hoping for. At 10.5% ABV, it tastes kinda flat with subdued flavors and it wasn’t a stout I wanted to finish. So, unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the $12 price tag and I didn’t wanna waste my one beer a day on it, so I didn’t finish it. 



Try your bourbon in a beer!

About Della "Six Feet of Dynamite" Fain
Arizona resident. Chi-town girl. Avid craft brew drinker. Stout and porter lover. Getting to love all things craft... one brewery at a time. Like most of the BZ team, Dynamite is a regular member of the bourbon crew on Instagram and her Untappd account is not to be missed (@sixfeetofdynamite for either Instagram or Untappd).

Devil's River Bourbon

Wow! Where did the summer go? I wish, as the Beach Boys said, that there was an endless summer. I could keep on smoking meats and swimming all year long.

This month, I will be trying something that is new to Detroit. I found a bottle of Devils River Barrel Strength Texas Bourbon. You know how much I love barrel strength. This should be good. Their website says:

A part of the Rio Grande basin system, the Devils River is remote and wild, demanding respect for the raw power of its waters and the rugged beauty of its landscape. The river’s naturally filtered limestone spring water is considered the purest water in Texas. The sweet iron free water helps create a bold, Sinfully Smooth Whiskey with a warm finish. Crafted from a single barrel hand-selected by our Distiller, Devils River Single Barrel Bourbon is a 'grain to glass' Texas Straight Bourbon by sourcing only the best Texas grains to create our mash bill. This Single Barrel Straight Bourbon is distilled and aged in the Lone Star State of Texas for over two years. Here, the whiskey extracts more of the complex flavors from the staves because of the sweltering Texas climate naturally accelerates the aging cycle. It is bottled at 117 proof. 

Now, for my favorite part... the tasting. I have my blasting blue tooth and this month it's, Victim of Changes by Judas Priest. This song really showcases Rob Halford's voice. Supposedly, they are touring with Ozzy next year. I also have my BZ Glencairn glass right here in my hand. This is my take on Devil’s River Barrel Strength:

Color: Amber 
Body: Smooth Quick burn
Nose: Fruit, Caramel, and Vanilla
Palate: Caramel and Vanilla
Finish: Long burn with just enough corn in the aftertaste

This one gets \m/ \m/ Two horns up!!!!!! I would stack this up against some of Kentucky’s finest offerings. Please don’t think I am blaspheming Kentucky, I absolutely love their bourbon, but these guys have so many awards it would be too boring to list. I just know that one taste had me howling at the moon. I will find out what a few drams do. If you have never tried it, howling at the moon is one of the best stress relievers you will ever find. If you get a chance you should really try this bourbon. I don’t know if it is the water, being barrel strength or something else but I really like this offering. I can’t wait to pass it around the pool to my friends. Until next month, I’ll be enjoying what summer is left and keeping it totally Metal in Detroit! 
About Greg Schneider
Greg Schneider loves three things.... heavy metal music, bourbon and a good deal. He's managed to indulge all three in his \m/ Value Bottles column. Greg uses a simple system of "\m/" for bottles he recommends (the keyboard shortcut for the Ronnie James Dio "thumbs up") and "m/" for ones he doesn't like (the keyboard shortcut for "giving the bird").

Click here if you would like to email a suggest value bottle to Greg. His Twitter I.D. is: @schneiderg63.
Additional Reading
by the team at the ABV Network
Our blog, the Whiskey Corner covers whiskey reviews, the whiskey lifestyle, events, product sampling and much more. You can check out this ABV Network exclusive offering by clicking here.
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The Bourbon Zeppelin Sample Policy
Bourbon Zeppelin accepts product samples in exchange for a fair and honest review by a B.Z. team member or members.

The Bourbon Zeppelin Jack Daniel's Policy
We love it. While it's classified as "Tennessee Whiskey" it's treated with the same as any other bourbon here.
By the way, the same goes for George Dickel (we love them, too!)
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All-Time Bourbon Barrel-Aged Beer Reviews by Six Feet of Dynamite Rankings:
Here is the ranked complete list of all bourbon barrel-aged beer reviews that have been rated by Six Feet of Dynamite for Bourbon Zeppelin: 5 Sticks of Dynamite: County Pumpkin by Superstition Meadery -- -- Nojoch Mul by Superstition Meadery -- Black Butte XXXVIII by Deschutes Brewery -- Pump[KY]n by Avery Brewing --  Bourbon Barrel Quad by Boulevard Brewing Co.-- Maple Jesus by Evil Twin -- So Happens it's Tuesday by The Bruery -- Headless Heron by Central Waters Brewing -- Devil's Teeth by Modern Times -- 4.75 Sticks of Dynamite: Cake Eater by OHSO -- Double Vanilla King Snake by Wren House -- Shot in the Arm by McFate Brewing -- 4.5 Sticks of Dynamite: Steel Toed Flip Flops by Wren House -- Dosivdanya by Destihl Brewery -- Concurrence Blend 3 by Creature Comforts -- Who Hit John by Wren House -- Puvachev's Cobra by Hanger 24 -- Prairie Artisan Ales Bourbon Barrel Aged Weekend -- Stickee Monkey by Firestone Walker -- Old Leatherman by Lasting Brass Brewing Company  4.25 Sticks of Dynamite: Gordo by Clown Shoes -- Charleston BA Dream Crusher by The Shop Beer Co. -- Fourteen Barleywine by Surly Brewing Co. -- Highwaymen by Wren House -- Black is Beautiful by Second Chance Brewing Company -- Grand Cru by Tombstone Brewing Company -- Choosy Moms by Black Hog Brewing Co. -- Heavy Meddle by Meddlesome Brewing -- Whiskey & Cabernet Cask Finishd by Boulevard Brewing -Morning Grind by O.H.S.O. -- Harvest LE by J.W. Lees -Johnny Cash'd Imperial Coffee Stout by Mason Ale Work -- Dark Adrenaline by Shop Beer Co. -- Mash by The Bruery -- Kentucky Old Fashioned Bourbon Ale by Alltech -- 1st Anniversary by Stoic Cider -- 4 Sticks of Dynamite: AZ Nutt by Mount Wilderness -- Full of Sin by Meddlesome Brewing -- Legion (2019) by Community Beer Company -- Significant Stout by Buckledown Brewing -- OTHRORIR by Drinking Horn Meadery -- Genie in a Bottle by The Dudes' Brewing Company -- Mishka by Scottsdale Beer Company -- Dementia by Ska Brewing -- Oil Man by Elevation Beer Co. -- The Lost Abbey Track #08 -- 3 1/2 Sticks of Dynamite: Collaboration #6 by Boulevard Brewing -- Bell's Brewery Black Note Stout -- 3.75 Sticks of Dynamite: You Asked for It by The Bruery -- Barrel-Aged G&T Goes by Anderson Valley --3.25 Sticks of Dynamite: Dark Apparition by Jackie O's -- 3.50 Sticks of Dynamite Bruery Luchador at Sunrise by Clown Shoes --3 Sticks of Dynamite: No entries yet -- 2 1/2 Sticks of Dynamite: Quintaceratops by Brooklyn Brewery -- 2 1/4 Sticks of Dynamite: "K" is for Kriek  2 Sticks of Dynamite: Wild Ale by Soquel Fermentation Project -- 1 Stick of Dynamite: No entries yet
Bourbon Zeppelin - The Team

In addition to the guest contributors, Bourbon Zeppelin has an incredible staff in addition to editor and publisher Steve Akley. Steve's daughter Cat runs the BZ Facebook page. The writing team includes Editorial Writer Shane Leonard, Assignment Reporter Wes Hardin and the following Columnists: Will Whitfield, ix Feet of Dynamite, Andrea Holak, Ryan Blackwell, Greg Schneider and Raymond Culbert.

Interested in joining the B.Z. team as a contributor? If so, just email Steve Akley to talk about it!
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  2. When an author is listed for an individual article, that person is also acknowledged as well
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Bourbon Zeppelin is delivered to you raw an unedited by author Steve Akley on the 1st and 15th of every month. (Apologies for any errors.) Check out Steve's books by clicking here: Steve's Catalog on Amazon.