Life Lessons From The Bourbon Industry

Updated: Jan 15, 2019

Last summer decided to take “the show on the road” to Kentucky.  When you hear “Kentucky” you think of four things… Horses, Fried Chicken, Basketball, and Bourbon.  Though we enjoy horses, fried chicken and basketball, we decided to explore the world of Kentucky Bourbon for 4 days… and it was an incredible 4 days. Sixteen men from 8 different states converged upon an Embassy Suites in Lexington, Kentucky on a Thursday evening, in late February.  Why?  To be inspired by the history of the bourbon industry as we reclaim the vision for our lives… and maybe taste a few good bourbons while we were there. J Over the four day weekend, we visited multiple distilleries, tasted over 40 bourbons, experienced a private bourbon tasting from the Master Distiller/Blender of Kentucky Owl Bourbon, and ate some of the finest foods Kentucky had to offer.  We encouraged each other, shared our lives together, and connected with men around the country.  Besides tasting some great bourbons… we learned a few lessons about the rich history of the bourbon industry that we applied to our lives.  Here are just a few.

Approximately 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky because there is an amazing limestone “shelf” that filters all the water from the surrounding lakes and removes all the unwanted iron from the water naturally. This is of crucial importance because there are only 3 main “ingredients” that go into making straight bourbon.  1) Water, 2) Grains, and 3) the wood flavors from the charred oak barrel.  Every distillery wants the absolute best ingredients possible.  These distilleries understand the quality of the final product is directly related to the ingredients they put in. As it is with life.  Our lives will only be as good as the ingredients we use to make it.  Unlike bourbon however, there are many more ingredients that go into making a great life. Here are just three for you to consider… · Family – The family is a big deal… work hard… build a great legacy. · Faith – Living for something bigger keeps the focus off ourselves. · Friends – Stupid rubs off… but so does smart. Choose friends wisely.

After all the effort distilleries do in acquiring the finest ingredients, mixing the proper amount of grains to make your special “Mash Bill”, adding the secret yeast, cooking the mash at just the right temperature for the perfect amount of time, distilling the mash twice to get the perfect flavor, and filling the brand new, perfectly charred, oak barrels… there comes a point in the process of making bourbon when you have to trust the barrel to do work.  We can try to be the best men, husbands, and fathers we can possibly be.  We can get the best education possible, read every book known to man, and gain as much knowledge as our brains can possibly hold.  We can seek counsel from mentors, friends, and family, until we can’t hold any more wisdom.   But at some point, we have to trust God to do the work in our lives that only God can do.  “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” – Proverbs 21:31   Therefore, prepare the best you can with all the energy and all the passion you can generate, but then trust God with the results.  And prepare to wait.

There are literally thousands of whiskeys and bourbons around the world… and no two are exactly the same.  Each “brown liquor” has a unique blend, color, taste, bottle, label, price, etc.   Each distillery emphasized “knowing who are, where you came from, and do it well”.  Don’t try to be something you are not, or do something you can’t.  Focus on your strengths. No matter how gifted an individual is in a particular area, rarely, if ever, will one individual be exceptional in every area of life.  No matter how good the surgeon may be, he still must depend on other people to fix his car or build his house.  This is no less true with each one of us.  We must know where we came from and know who we are… and then do our thing… and do it well.

Every day we tasted bourbons that were created in the 20th century.  Think about it for a moment.  We tasted bourbons that were barreled in the 1990’s… and they were amazing!   Delayed gratification is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward.  Generally delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later.  Bourbon that is aged for 20+ years is darker, bolder, and often tastes better.   Distilleries wait… and wait… and wait… because they want the best product possible. We are tempted every day to take the quick fix or the instant reward.  We want a shortcut for everything.  The fact that a shortcut is important to us reveals a questionable part of our character.  We were reminded that in life, there are no shortcuts to any place that’s worth going.  If we want to get to any place worth going, there is generally going to be some suffering and pain to endure.  Don’t run from pain.

Distilleries emphasized having the finest ingredients, trusting in the process, doing what you do best, and planning for the future.  But they all made it a point to share the most important thing of all.  Family.  The need to pass down  information, lessons, procedures, recipes, and secrets to create successful bourbon… and a successful life. We arrived in Lexington as a group of 16 guys from all around the country… and  we left as family.  We were reminded that we need men in our lives to guide us and teach us the “ways of the lamb”.  We need men to challenge us to evaluate the ingredients necessary to make our lives great.  It is essential to surround yourself with individuals who are already where you want to be. If you’re looking for an opportunity to hang with some guys that will encourage and challenge you this spring… check out and join us in April for an amazing few days. Find a mentor… be a mentor… and drink a little bourbon.