Written originally for The Bourbon Review.
There are those who read about history, those who go see it, and those who set out to reenact it. Count Trey Zoeller among the latter group.
On June 6, the owner of Jefferson’s Bourbon and his captain, Ted Gray, pushed away from an Ohio River dock at Louisville, Ky., to start a four-month trip to New York, drifting southward through a series of waterways en route to New Orleans.
Yes, drifting. At 3 to 5 knots. Just like the bourbon runners of yore did centuries ago. The Coast Guard insisted the boat be powered in order to navigate the complex system of locks along the way, but the engine will only idle on the journey to facilitate steering.
On the bow of their 23-foot Sea Pro craft rests two newly filled barrels of Jefferson’s bourbon, fresh off the line from Kentucky Artisan Distillery. (In case you’re wondering, they’re caged in metal for safety, but exposed to the elements.) A small cabin below the bow is the pair’s refuge from rain and sun along the way.
“I’ve had this idea for about three years,” Zoeller begins, “to do something that hasn’t been done in 150 years. And as you can imagine, the TTB and the Coast Guard were skeptical … their first reaction was, ‘No.’”
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