In 10 years, the Owensboro Bourbon Society has grown from an initial 12 members to now more than 200 people who get together once a month to learn, discuss and — more often than not — drink.
Though the club of bourbon connoisseurs officially hit it’s 10-year anniversary in March, the group will hold a celebration in April.
While the Bourbon Society is mostly made up of locals, the organization was actually started by New Jersey native Vincent Carida.
Carida, who moved to Owensboro roughly 15 years ago, said he came up with the idea of creating a group dedicated to bourbon for a couple of reasons. He had always been well-read on the barrel-aged liquor, for starters. In fact, Carida said he once traveled to all of the bourbon distilleries across the state of Kentucky in a six-week period.
With a knowledge of bourbon under his belt, Carida also wanted to meet new people after moving to the bluegrass state. He stopped by J’s Liquors and asked if they could help him create a mailing list for other bourbon fans.
The first meeting of the Bourbon Society, held downtown at Gambrinus, brought out 12 people — Carida included.
“We talked about what we wanted to do,” Carida said. “I thought, ‘How do I establish value in being a bourbon society member?’”
That discussion led to Carida starting his own company — River Creek Distillery — that included its own letterhead and business license. Carida then sent letters to all the master distillers across the state of Kentucky, asking if they’d be interested in educating the group about all things bourbon.
By May 2011, the Bourbon Society booked its first guest speaker. Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge taught Carida’s group the ins and outs of the Four Roses brand, the distilling process and the company’s history.
“Now he’s a personal friend of mine,” Carida said.
Former J’s Liquors owner Jeff Oldham played a huge role in the group’s success, Carida added. Oldham gave members of the organization access to private barrels and provided discounts for those who opted to buy a bottle.
After that, the group began meeting on the second Wednesday of each month. This Wednesday, they’ll meet for one of the first times since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Kentucky.
For the last couple of years, the organization held their meetings at Green River Distilling Co. — which contains enough space to hold the ever-growing group.
“They approached me, and we’ve formed a great friendship,” Carida said.
One of the organizations’ first members, Jeff Medley, commended Carida for creating the Owensboro Bourbon Society, describing his longtime friend as someone who “has a passion for everything he does.”
“It goes beyond drinking,” Medley said of the organization. “We’re in Kentucky, and there’s so much history behind the bourbon here in the state, particularly in our region. I’ve made quite a number of very good, very close friends as a result of bringing folks together with similar interests.”
One of Medley’s fondest memories of the Bourbon Society stems from a road trip the group took to the Woodford Reserve Distillery, where they were able to taste bourbon poured from the company’s first barrel ever produced.
In April, the group will pay tribute to its own history by holding a blind tasting of each of the bourbons offered at its first meeting 10 years ago. Though many things have changed since then, the two most important things about the Owensboro Bourbon Society — bourbon and friendships — have aged well.
“Following my divorce … the Owensboro Bourbon Society is what’s kept me here,” Carida said. “It’s probably the reason I stayed here.”