On December 11, the country woke to the first images of the massive destruction wrought by tornadoes tearing through Western Kentucky and surrounding states. Relief efforts began immediately as people everywhere asked, “how can I help?” While entire communities were devastated—especially the small town of Mayfield, Kentucky—it’s clear that community spirit is steadfast.
Members of the bourbon community banded together to organize an epic online auction, with all proceeds going directly to the state’s official Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund. The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit is live now at KyBourbonBenefit.com, with hundreds of rare bourbons, experiences, and related items on offer. Bidding closes at 10 p.m. Eastern Tuesday, December 21. A live-streaming auction of the top lots will also take place at 7 p.m. that evening, with bidding available online and over the phone. Direct monetary donations are also accepted via the website.
Sponsored and organized by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, author and bourbon personality Fred Minnick, and Bourbon Crusaders, a small group of industry professionals and bourbon enthusiasts dedicated to philanthropic efforts, the scope and diversity of available items is unprecedented—especially given that the auction came together in just a few days.
Highlights include a 2009 Old Rip Van Winkle 23 Year decanter, one of only 1,200 bottles made, donated by Preston Van Winkle. Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris donated a bottle of 1971 President’s Choice Single Barrel bourbon, given only as gifts by the president of Brown-Forman. There’s a bottle of 1997 Evan Williams Single Barrel bourbon signed by the late Parker Beam, numerous rare bottles of Smoke Wagon bourbon, and a 1937 bottle of Glencoe Bottled-in-Bond 5-year-old bourbon donated by former Microsoft executive Curt Kolcun.
Full barrel picks of Angel’s Envy cask strength, Willett Family Estate 8-year-old bourbon, Four Roses, Boone County, Barrell Bourbon, and from more than twenty other distilleries are also available. Exclusive experiences include a day at Castle & Key Distillery in Kentucky, tours and tastings with master distillers, a private tasting of vintage bourbons at Bardstown Bourbon Co., and VIP tickets to upcoming festivals and events.
Kentuckian and Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star pitcher Walker Buehler donated a signed jersey and three signed bottles of rare Michter’s bourbon. Maynard Keenan of the band Tool offers a private virtual wine or bourbon tasting; musician Mick Fleetwood donated a signed drumhead and drumsticks; and NFL Hall-of-Famer Charles Woodson is offering a personal tour at Green River Distilling Co. in Owensboro, Kentucky, which produces the mash for his bourbon brand.
“This is the bourbon community in action, but we knew we had to make it about more than just bourbon,” Minnick says.
“When the tornadoes hit, there wasn’t a soul in Kentucky who didn’t hurt. They could feel it in the pit of their stomach,” he says. “We want to help rebuild Western Kentucky and be there for our fellow Kentuckians.”