Bourbon Zeppelin
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Steve Akley Presents...

This Month's Bourbon Zeppelin Feature Article:

No GTS For You!
The King Takes A Year Off

by Colonel Steve Akley

No George T. Stagg for 2021

The biggest news in bourbon here recently was the announcement there would be no George T. Stagg this year. Buffalo Trace's Antique Collection will only be William Larue Weller, Sazerac, Eagle Rare and Thomas H. Handy.

Of course, this sent the internet via social media into a frenzy. The bourbon conspiracy theorists (believe me... there is such a thing) come up with these crazy ideas about how this is a small piece in a bigger plan. This drives up the secondary, which drives up interest in Buffalo Trace's products... I don't know... honestly, I quit reading once they start-in on this stuff.

I do have to take this announcement in two ways. First, there is disappointment. I'm a George T. Stagg fan. I've said that consistently since I started doing the things I do in the bourbon media world. For me, it's the sweet spot for proof and age with a mash bill that hits the mark for me. 

Did I get a bottle every year? 

No, I can't say I have but, through my network of friends, I've always been able to taste it. Again, it's what I like, I'm not trying to push it on anyone else, but for me, GTS is the King of Bourbon so, yes, there is disappointment I won't be getting my favorite bourbon this year.

That gets me to the second part of the equation... Am I furious with Buffalo Trace for not selling it this year?

No, I am not.

I have to say that as a fan of the brand, I'm actually happy that Buffalo Trace, and parent Sazerac, has the integrity to pull in the reins and not sell it if it doesn't meet their quality standards.

Heck, it would be easy for them to simply bottle up what they had, sell it... and trust me, it would sell out, and just go from there. If anyone questions why it isn't as good as year's past, Buffalo Trace could simply shrug its shoulders and say, "That's a matter of personal opinion and yearly releases are going to vary in taste," and just go on.

They didn't though... not to make a bunch of money in some tinfoil hat world conspiracy theory kinda way. They did it to preserve the integrity of their product.

As a bourbon fan, I think that's really kind of cool. 

No, I won't be drinking any GTS this year... but there are more years ahead and I look forward to drinking George T. Stagg as I know it... at the top of its game.

The King of Bourbon.

Yep, the loss of George T. Stagg for a year is tough to take, while at the same time being one of the best stories in bourbon. The rest of the news here is all good. We've got one helluva an issue for you. 

Hats off to my team for once again putting together so much great original content for you. As I always say, I hope you have as much fun reading Bourbon Zeppelin as we had putting it together for you.


Editor-in-Chief of Bourbon Zeppelin, Owner of the ABV Network, Podcast Writer, Producer & On-Air Personality, Filmmaker, 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 (2016), Executive Bourbon Steward (2017), Whiskey Warrior Award Winner (May '17), Founding Member Jefferson's Bourbon Ambassador Program (2017), Bourbons Bistro & Total Wine Barrel Selection Committee Member & Kentucky Colonel (2016).
Editorial by Colonel Steve
As a person who grew up wanting to be an author, that little banner "#1 New Release" means everything when it comes to selling books!

#1 on Amazon

Bourbon Assignments comes roaring out of the gate
by Colonel Steve Akley
As a kid, I saw an interview with an author and he talked about why he loved writing for a living. He spoke about the checks that continue to roll in years after you complete your work. Of course, I'm old enough, these were literally checks. Nowadays, it's all electronic deposits, but this interview showed this author (I don't remember who he was), going out to the mailbox to get his daily stack of paper checks he would have to go to the bank to deposit.

I was hooked. That's what I wanted to do for a living... I wanted to write books. Sadly, like many of us fall victim to, I became a casualty of "you can't do that, you need to take a more defined career path." Ultimately, this would take away 28-years of my career between my sales job I had out of college and my 20-years in corporate America.

Still, I always wanted to be a writer which would be just a "down the road" concept until my Dad passed away suddenly on December 12, 2012 (12/12/12). 

At that point, I realized "down the road" can end at any moment and I started writing. Success with a booked called
Bourbon Mixology, would spring me into the bourbon world and change my life from that point forward.

The three years between my father's death, and the success of Bourbon Mixology, were crazy in terms of creative output. I wrote about 25 books, and multiple short stories. My entire catalog had over 50 original pieces of work.

As we began to expand our presence into the world of bourbon, my time to write got stripped away. In 2018, I published my last original piece, but it had been something I had started back during that 3-year window of creativity. Since that time, I've published over 3,000 podcasts, written hundreds of pieces for Bourbon Zeppelin and our blogs but no more books.

Earlier this year, I took a few weeks off from podcasting running some "best of" shows. I dedicated one week of that vacation to putting together what would become
Bourbon Assignments (click on the name to check it out on Amazon). It would take me about six more months to complete it, but I got it together and released it this past week. 

Unlike anything I've ever written before, this book shot up to #1 in the spirits category immediately. It was one glorious day seeing my book rise up through the ranks. It even cracked the top 50 in travel books which is a huge category on Amazon.

I've had so many great things happen to me since I started my bourbon journey. Realizing the dream of my 8-year-old self, though... being a #1 bestselling author... that's the top of the mountain.

Thank you everybody!

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:
Laura and Adam Stumpf moments after their dream was approved!
Stumpy's Spirits Has its "Forever Home" Approved
by Colonel Steve Akley
Stumpy's Spirits (Columbia, Illinois), had a huge victory on October 4. Their plan to buy a second property just a four-minute drive from their flagship distillery was approved. This allows owners Laura and Adam Stumpf to move forward to turning their facility into a world-class destination distillery the likes of which can only be found on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky.

This new facility will include a visitor's center with a winery (operated independently by another business owner) along with an events center that can host weddings, bourbon industry events, corporate outings and much more. The property will also feature rick houses and corn for use in production. The whole area will be picturesque with lakes that overlook the bluffs of the Mississippi River.

Moving the visitor's center away from the distillery means it will be easy to ramp up production where Stumpy's sits today. Tours will take you via bus to both locations which should be a visitor's experience that is very memorable for those making the bourbon journey to Columbia, Illinois.

When you combine this new property with the vintage still Adam and team have installed and Stumpy's reputation for making second-to-none products, you can quickly see how Stumpy's Spirits is going to be a major player in the bourbon world very soon.

I couldn't be happier for Laura and Adam. All future success that is headed their way is well-deserved and not an accident. They have made this wonderful thing happen through their own hard work.

Click the button below to head to the ABV Network's online shop:

The Truth of it All!

My bourbon journey started a little over a year ago. The events leading up to it are unimportant. What’s most important to this story is the people I have met along the way. To understand them, you have to understand passion. Not passion in a sense of the definition, this is a passion created by doing what you love so intensely, that to do anything else would be insane.  

Craft spirits, start and end with the people. I can honestly say, that the people I’ve encountered are the gems along the way. From the guides, to the recommendations of spirits, the constant gifts sent of the aforementioned spirits. Community, defines it all. Take for instance this current space. A chance meeting with a virtual friend led me here, to this space. At the same time, this became the vehicle for me to dive deeper into the exploration of bourbon. A discovery which has led me to learn more and more, not about it, but more about my likes and dislikes.  I have found that I have a new found appreciation for rye whisk(e)y and bourbon in it’s entirety.

As of this publishing, I would have returned from a second bourbon trip, this one exclusively with people I have met online and in this digital landscape, culminating from a podcast and the persons we have met. Small world! I think we had fun, remember, this is a future write up. A little time travel is involved. I had tons of information that was communicated to me in the past about thing and places to go to in Louisville, I’ll let you know if I made it next month lol.  It should/have be/been interesting.  

See what I mean by time travel, weird right?

Anyway, we’re still in the process of moving or have moved and there will be much more of that to come as well….  the bourbon hunting is different; the allocation is different and some laws are just plain weird, but, it’s bourbon, and, there have been some major discoveries I cannot wait to share.  

Tune in for them.  

Until next time...


About Raymond Culbert
Raymond is a current resident of New England and is here purely because someone loves the four seasons that living here brings. He loves beer, bourbon, food and golf, not necessarily in that order, but it works alphabetically. You can usually find him drinking beer, sipping bourbon or eating good food in the company of my 5’ roadie, the four-season-lover! He is an Air Force veteran, but isn't biased and shares love with his military peeps, both veteran and active alike. Time away from the day job is in search of the next great craft made IPA! You can contact him on Twitter and Instagram via @My_Government_Name_Is 

All hate mail can be sent to: madlef2000 [ at ] 
ABV Network Texting Successfully Launched!
On June 14, 2020, the ABV Network successfully launched texting as means of communication. The first text blast was used to announce a one-day only sale for National Bourbon Day at the ABV Network Shop. Don't miss out on these message by filling out the opt-in form at
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.

Kris Koenig
Co-Founder / Distiller
Golden Beaver Distillery
Featured on The Bourbon Show - Today!

We have some great programming coming up on the ABV Network. Here's a sneak peek at some of the upcoming shows:
The Bourbon Show
October 15 - Kris Koenig, Golden Beaver Distillery
October 20 - Is Sourced Whiskey in Trouble?

The Bourbon Daily
October 15 - Bracket Challenge: The Coolest Thing About Booker's Bourbon
October 16 - Bourbon Assignments: Steve's New Book
October 19 - The Best Weird Bourbon Taste Descriptor

ABV Network shows can be found on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Libsyn and more. Just search for the name of the show!

Bourbon Nuggets
Key West in January? Heck yes. Join the ABV Network team, fans and bourbon industry celebrities January 27-30 in Key West, Florida. Click here to learn more.

Jonathan Byrd & Watershed Bourbon/Finished in Apple Brandy Barrels

It’s October, so it’s the perfect time for my favorite sub-genre of music; Murder Ballads. Last October, I shared entire playlists of some of my favorite country murder ballads. This year, I’m just focusing on one in particular. On the August 31st episode of Bottle Kills and Last Meals, I shared the story of Velma Barfield who poisoned almost everyone close to her. One of the men she married, then later murdered, was named Jennings Barfield and I made a joke that his name sounded like he should have been a country music singer.

Mr. Barfield was not a country singer, but he had a grandson he never got to meet, who later became a country music singer. His name is Johnathan Byrd and he wrote a song about Velma and her murders called Velma. He’s not famous by any means, just seems like he plays a lot of local gigs in and around Western North Carolina, but this is a good song that pretty accurately sums up the timeline of Velma’s poisoning victims. It has more of a southern rock sound, and you can find it on YouTube by just searching his name. 

I would pair this song with Watershed Bourbon finished in apple brandy barrels. I think it’s the perfect fall bourbon, and it makes a great old fashioned as well. It still tastes like bourbon but has just the slightest hint of apple brandy influence and it’s delicious. 

About McNew
Stephanie McNew is a regular co-host on The Bourbon Daily, an ABV Network podcast. In addition to her work on TBD, she can be heard hosting her own shows, W(h)ine Time with McNew and Bottle Kills and Last Meals. McNew lives in Indiana with a veritable zoo of dogs and cats. When she isn't podcasting, running the ABV Network Patreon page or writing, she can be found drinking Larceny bourbon from Heaven Hill... her all-time favorite bourbon. Follow McNew's journey on Instagram: @miss_mcnew.
A repository of whiskey knowledge for beginners and experts alike. As a tasting room manager at a craft distillery, I serve everyone from bourbon aficionados to whiskey acolytes, which can be an adventure in vocabulary and definitions. Hopefully, this series helps illuminate the obscure and refine the understanding of the obvious, for me, as much as you. 
Entry #24

Kilo-Calories, Alcohol & You

Whether it's the South Beach diet, Atkins, IIFYM, Weight Watchers, Paleo, or something else, counting calories is hard. Even when food labels provide all the relevant nutrition data, it can be a chore to weigh, measure and portion food properly to reach your goals.

What can be even worse?

Trying to fit alcohol into your diet plan.

Beer, wine and spirits labels almost never include nutrition info, and that's because alcoholic beverages aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Instead, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), administers the beverage alcohol industry, and specifically controls the rules around labeling. The predecessor to the TTB was established in 1935, so when the FDA mandated nutrition labeling on packaged foods in 1990, beverage alcohol was exempt. There have been many attempts to change this, but as you can see in the bourbon aisle of your liquor store, none of them have worked.

So the aspiring calorie or macro counter is at a crossroads. Exclude whiskey from your diet, making you quite sad, but accurate, or include alcohol, bringing some joy, but also guesswork into your life?

It doesn't need to be this way! Calculating the calorie content of whiskey is actually pretty straightforward. It just takes a little effort, math and control to fit whiskey and spirits into your diet. Here's how to do it:

  1. Get the proof or ABV of your whiskey. If you have the proof, divide by 2 to get the ABV. Move the decimal in the ABV 2 places to the left (ex. 46% would be .46).

  2. Using a digital food scale, measure how much whiskey you'd like to have for your drink. Measure in grams.

  3. Multiply the amount of whiskey by that decimal proof number from before (ex. 100 grams multiplied by .46 equals 46 grams).

  4. That number is the amount of alcohol in the pour. Multiply the number by 7 to get a very close approximation of the calories in your pour of whiskey (46 times 7 equals 322 calories, which sounds like a lot, but 100 grams is a really hefty pour).

  5. Remember this doesn't include any mixers you might be adding for a cocktail.

Why does this work?

It's known that every gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, so by using grams to measure our spirit, we can easily use ABV to work out how many grams of alcohol are in a pour. 45 grams of whiskey at 100 proof? 22.5 grams of alcohol for a total of 157.5 calories.

The equation can be written like this: (ABV x weight in grams) x 7 = total calories. This will work with virtually any spirit that doesn't have sugar or cream or anything added (so don't try this with bourbon cream or your favorite honey whiskey). This all can be done by volume instead of weight, but it adds a wrinkle because measuring volume isn't as exact as measuring weight. If you must use a jigger or a measuring cup, use 28 grams per ounce as the benchmark (1 ounce of 100 proof whiskey in this scenario would have 14 grams of alcohol, therefore 98 calories), if anything you will be over-counting calories slightly.

What about the other stuff in whiskey?

Whiskey is basically just alcohol where most of the calories come from, plus water, esters, phenols and other flavor compounds, which don't add any calories. The macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) in the corn, rye, barley, or wheat are left behind during the distillation process, and any simple sugars that are pulled out of the barrel during maturation are in low enough quantities to be negligible. That's why spirits are usually considered the best diet-friendly or “bang for your buck” alcoholic drinks; there aren't any additional carbs, proteins or fats in spirits to add calories, it's just alcohol contributing to the total.

Dieting (err … leading a healthy lifestyle, as I've been told we should refer to it as) is hard. It's about making the right choices most of the time, and not about punishment or restriction. Drinking alcohol in moderation as a part of a balanced lifestyle should be easy, but it isn't always, and I hope this little formula helps you better understand what's going into your body when you finally get your hands on that bottle of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon … or if you're just having a little Wild Turkey 101 to take the edge off.

Bonus: The above calculation doesn't work for beer or wine, but there is an approximation that you can do on the fly and it's pretty easy. Take the ABV and multiply by 2.5, then multiply that number by the number of ounces of beer or wine. So 12 ounces of 5% beer would be 5 x 2.5 = 12.5 x 12 = 150 calories.

About Ryan Blackwell
Ryan is a tasting room manager for Silverback Distillery at their Poconos location. Several years ago, he discovered a passion for homebrewing that led him to look for work in the beer industry, but somehow he ended up in the whiskey biz - crafting cocktails and getting to light things on fire isn't a bad gig. When he's not slinging drinks or contemplating fermentation, he likes to run 5Ks very slowly, and play rugby very poorly.
Bourbon Nuggets
Join us on a Virtual Bourbon event by clicking here.

Does the Inside Match the Outside?

“You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
-Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

There is a ton of planning, work, and marketing that goes into every bottle produced. Oftentimes, the bottle itself is what sells the product, not the specific whiskey that it holds. For years, we've seen a trend towards flashy labels and high impact graphic designs to draw consumers to the product. Private barrel store picks can go for ten-times over retail price simply because a group slapped on a sticker. Usually, these stickers appeal to pop culture in one form or another. Some distilleries have embraced this idea and are actively using it to their advantage.
One such distillery employing unique labelling to differentiate its offering is Rabbit Hole Distillery (Louisville, Kentucky). The company just released their first single barrel straight bourbon whiskey. They’re calling it Heigold and it’s a high-rye mash bill that’s bottled at full cask strength. Proof will vary by bottle (because it’s a single barrel product), of course, but will generally fall between 100 and 125. Bottle count for each barrel differed, but the most that was produced by any one barrel were 225 bottles. To complement this one-of-a-kind whiskey, each season's release will feature one of six original illustrations commissioned by Rabbit Hole’s founder Kaveh Zamanian.  
Renowned watercolorist, and fashion illustrator, Kasiq Jungwoo Lee made the bourbon world go bonkers with this year's illustrations for Rabbit Hole’s Heigold (pictured above). Kasiq took a modern interpretation of the classic Lewis Carroll, “Alice in Wonderland,” characters and the result is six, vibrant illustrations featuring Alice, the White Rabbit, the Hatter, the Queen, the King, and the Headsman. Each six-bottle case contains a bottle with each label design and features special glass and cork sourced exclusively for the single barrel program. The result is a true work of art, both inside and out. I look forward to this Rabbit Hole series and anxiously await to see how far down the rabbit hole Kaveh Zamanian will take us.

Rabbit Hole isn’t the only distillery who is contracting artists to develop a cool label. Still Austin Distillery out of Austin, Texas has been using art to capture whiskey drinkers’ attention. This Distillery Reserve release (pictured left) celebrates the quality of life: light and
dark, nature and technology, life and death, beauty and decay. The interactive label, created by Austin artist Tyler Skaggs, features an alluring maiden dancing with a mysterious serpent. When the viewer scans the QR code, the label’s art springs to life—and the maiden meets a spine-chilling fate. Still Austin has worked with other local artists to feature them and their artwork to capture the story of the whiskey inside. 
Collaborating with local artists is not a totally new thing in American whiskey. The most famous label that I can recall is Tonya LeNell Smothers (who now goes by the name LeNell Camacho Santa Ana) famous Red Hook Rye. Red Hook Rye is infamous in the whiskey industry. The iconic arm that has a tattoo on it. Red Hook is named to honor LeNell’s neighborhood in New York. The artwork was developed by Brooklyn artists who did LeNell’s postcard artwork. Though the label may certainly be memorable,
the whiskey inside is what ultimately made this bottle legendary.
Tonya LeNell Smothers visited Kentucky in 2007 and 2008 to pick a few barrels with Willett Master Distiller Drew Kulsveen. She selected just four barrels of straight rye whiskey distilled in 1984 and from Warehouse G at Willett Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. Between these four barrels, just 852 bottles of Red Hook Rye were ever in existence, each wrapped with her story of selecting that specific barrel.

The bottles were sold at LeNell’s Ltd., Smothers’ package store in Brooklyn, NYC. Red Hook Rye is non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength, ranging from 112.8 to 117.6 proof. They’re said to have a 51 percent low rye mash bill, making them sweeter than most of the ryes being made today.

Art on the outside of the bottle may get the consumer to buy one bottle, but the whiskey inside will determine if he/she buys more in the future. Many of the premium releases have lived up to the hype. I love the trend of artwork being on bottles, but I do not want the trend to go too far to the point of awesome artwork being on not ready to drink whiskey (no such thing as bad whiskey, some is just bottled too soon). As I await the next bottle with premier art, I have started to collect old whiskey advertisements from the end of prohibition to now. Marketing plays such a big role in the industry. I love capturing that history while admiring a piece of art. 

About Shane Leonard
Shane Leonard is an editorial writer for the Bourbon Zeppelin. Shane is a 30-year-old Kentucky spirit with bold flavor. His articles have a easy to read feel with a long lasting finish of spice. The proof of his journey can be followed on Instagram @BarrelofKnowledge. #openbottles
Further Reading...
by the ABV Network Team
Our blog is on our website and it's called the Whiskey Corner. You can check out this ABV Network exclusive offering by clicking here.
A Few Items of Note from Steve Akley
Steve Akley's new book, Bourbon Assignments, is part Bourbon Country travel guide and part bourbon insider's look at the cool things to do in Kentucky on your bourbon adventures. There is a fun scoring system and the top 10 point scorers for the full year 2022 get an invite to come on my podcast The Bourbon Daily where you can share your adventures in bourbon.

Get your copy today and start racking up those points!
Buy Now
Bourbon Mixology is author Steve Akley's best selling book of all-time. The premise is simple: have 50 iconic bars share their signature bourbon cocktail. The bars selected do not fail to impress with their unique takes on some classic drinks and well as some very original creations.

The book literally becomes a travel companion piece as you will want to see out these bars on your next business trip or vacation. Get your copy right now!
Buy Now
Bourbon Mixology Volume 4 is author Steve Akley's newest bourbon cocktail book. In this edition, 50 craft distilleries share signature bourbon cocktails made with their bourbon. 

Grab your copy today!
Buy Now
Mules and More takes a look at beer cocktails which have increased in popularity with the resurgence of the Moscow Mule. In this book, 40 craft breweries share their signature beer cocktail. 

Grab your copy today!
Buy Now
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Bourbon Zeppelin accepts product samples in exchange for a fair and honest review by a B.Z. team member or members.

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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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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 and the following Columnists: Six Feet of Dynamite, Andrea Holak, Wes Hardin, Greg Schneider, and Stephanie McNew.

Interested in joining the B.Z. team as a contributor? If so, just email Steve Akley to talk about it!
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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.