- Associated Press - Sunday, May 11, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - People from as far away as Poland have snapped up tickets for “Kentucky Bourbon Affair” - the Kentucky Distiller’s Association’s inaugural event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Congress declaring bourbon “America’s only native spirit.”

Think of the five-day affair that begins May 14 as a fantasy camp for bourbon lovers.

“Never before has there been an event quite like this in the Bluegrass or anywhere in the world,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distiller’s Association.

The showcase includes exclusive behind-the-scenes tours and events at local bourbon distilleries by day, and special bourbon cuisine and culture gatherings in the evenings.

About 3,000 people are expected to attend, and event organizers say they’ve gotten calls from people all over the world.

“We have guests coming to the Bluegrass for this showcase from Poland, Canada and from all over the United States,” Gregory said.

People are paying for the chance to have a real hands-on bourbon experience like blending their own small-batch bourbon straight from the barrel, and rolling and dumping barrels.

Wild Turkey master distiller Jimmy Russell will take a small group skeet shooting, and the Stitzel-Weller distillery in Shively will open to the public for the first time.

There is a list of rare opportunities for guests listed on the event website. Examples include a session with Jim Beam master distiller Fred Noe, who will share his favorite cocktail recipes in his “man cave”; or a visit to Maker’s Mark, where guests can dip bottles in that iconic red wax in the bottling line.

Tickets for these specialty opportunities have been extremely popular, in fact one event at Four Roses distillery sold out in four minutes. The $225-per-ticket opportunity lets 15 guests take part in “a day in the life of a Master Distiller.”

While mornings and afternoons will be spent at Kentucky’s distilleries, evenings will be spent at events in Louisville.

“I am excited to sample all the different bourbons paired with the incredible food being presented during the event,” says Sondra Powell, a member of the Bourbon Women’s organization. “This is really a time for Kentucky to shine and show the best of who we are.”

For instance, the home of the Old Fashioned cocktail, The Pendennis Club, will host a special evening with each of Kentucky’s 19 distilleries present and mixing their version of the Old Fashioned. On another night, Bill Samuels Jr., chairman emeritus of the Maker’s Mark Distillery, will host a tour and tastings at his home. Celebrity Chef Edward Lee will be among the culinary crew preparing gourmet, bourbon-inspired cuisine throughout the event.

“What makes our Kentucky Bourbon Affair unlike any other whiskey event in the world is the fact that Kentucky distillers are hosting this, not an event firm or some other group,” Gregory said.

Because distilleries are creating the event, attendees will be granted uncommon access and will be treated to many unique and extraordinary opportunities, he said.

Been hanging onto an old bottle of bourbon you found in your dad’s basement? Find out what it’s worth and a little about its history at the Filson Historical Society’s “American Liquors” event from 1 to 4 p.m. May 17.

Besides appraising that old bourbon bottle, experts will be available to discuss the history and value of bourbon memorabilia. Whiskey expert appraiser Bill Thomas and Mike Veach, the Filson Club’s bourbon historian, will check out what you’ve got.

It’s free (although a $10 donation to Filson Historical Society is suggested) and open to the public.

Another event planned is a polo tournament on the Louisville Waterfront on May 18, with a bourbon brunch served as part of the experience.

The event kicks off at 10 a.m. as the horses and players begin to warm up. General admission tickets are $25 each. There’s VIP tailgating for a carload of guests priced at $100 per vehicle, which includes a private tent, chairs and access to VIP areas.

A five-star brunch provided by Wild Eggs begins at 11 a.m. Diners will be seated at a 100-foot farm table, have access to open bars and get a nice seat for the polo matches, which feature teams from The Lexington Polo Club.

“It’s a perfect combination of today’s bourbon lifestyle - legendary distilleries by day, urban bourbon by night,” Mayor Greg Fischer stated in a news release about the five-day event.

Just throw in a bit of polo on the banks of the Ohio, stir and you have the first Kentucky Bourbon Affair.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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