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30 Bartenders Descend on Louisville for a Lesson in Bourbon | Partner Tip

Find out what happened at the Woodford Reserve Educational Experience in Kentucky.

The cross-country Woodfood Reserve Manhattan Experience challenges top bartenders to create the ultimate Manhattan using Woodford Reserve Bourbon. The competition just made its latest stop in Kentucky. Have you been following along?


On the heels of exciting regional events around the country, 30 winning bartenders were invited to attend the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Educational Experience, held from November 16–18. This special occasion took place at the Woodford Reserve Cooperage and Distillery in Louisville, and was hosted by Woodford Reserve and Liquor.com.

To celebrate the bartenders’ arrival, esteemed competition judges Jacques Bezuidenhout and Charles Joly welcomed the group by preparing Manhattans and specialty cocktails. Early the next day, the group got down to serious business, heading straight for the Woodford Reserve Cooperage and Distillery to enjoy tours and bourbon tastings led by Master Distiller Chris Morris and Master Taster Marianne Barnes.

After downing those illuminating sips, the bartenders finally got their hands dirty. From simulating the mash bill to charring barrels out in the snow, each bartender experienced the entire bourbon-making process face-to-face. The behind-the-scenes action continued with a full distillery tour that followed Woodford Reserve Bourbon’s journey from the fermentation tanks and stills to the rickhouses and bottling room.

That was just the beginning. After this insider view at the life of bourbon, the group was treated to a flavor-wheel tasting with Morris and Barnes, during which the bartenders were the first ever to taste Woodford’s newest, unreleased product. What could possibly top that? Well, a celebratory three-course meal at St. Charles Exchange paired with three craft cocktails, plus the grand finale: the long-awaited announcement of the competition’s finalists.

Capping off the experience with a celebratory toast, the judges addressed the group of 30 and announced the final six bartenders who will move on to the prestigious New York finals on January 12. There, each will vie for the ultimate title—Master of the Manhattan—and prove that only one cocktail is truly worthy of Gotham City glory.

Everyone at the Kentucky Educational Experience was a winner, having gained a new understanding and appreciation for Woodford’s fine spirit and Bourbon Country at large. Learn more about the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience.

The six finalist bartenders include: Sam Treadway from Backbar Boston, Tripper Duval from Goodkind Milwaukee, Jorge Vargas Baquedano from Jack Rose Libation House Los Gatos, Allison Widdecombe from Williams and Graham Denver, Ryan Puckett from The Libertine Liquor Bar Indianapolis, and Benjamin Amberg from Clyde Common Portland. Check out the Kentucky Educational Experience event photo gallery.

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