The Beginning of a Bourbon Journey

In How to Be a Bourbon Badass, Linda Ruffenach gives new and experienced bourbon drinkers alike some new pointers on their journey with this iconic drink and shares recipes and behind-the-scenes tales from bourbon industry experts and rock stars, capturing the storied history of America's native spirit.

In this excerpt, Linda shares the story of how her own personal bourbon adventure began.


Not until I was older did I realize what an amazing privilege it was to grow up in the heart of bourbon country. Going for a Sunday drive through the winding roads and rolling hills of Kentucky's backcountry is magical. It remains one of my favorite childhood memories. My parents, sister, two brothers, and I would pile into our baby blue 1963 Chevy Nova station wagon and set off for our next big adventure. As the youngest, I had to strain to get a glimpse of the graceful thoroughbreds lazily grazing in fields of bluegrass. I can still smell the scent of tobacco drying in open barns and the sweet aroma of corn mash wafting from the aging warehouses that dotted the countryside. This was home to me. little did I know that years later I would once again travel those same backroads to discover and explore the magic of Kentucky bourbon.

When I was younger and we were celebrating a birthday or special occasion, my dad's parents, Pepaww and Memaw, would take us to the Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky. It was just a few miles outside downtown Louisville, but for a child it was a destination. The Melrose meant fresh-baked yeast rolls, tangy corn relish, and the sweet flavor of spice cake with bourbon caramel frosting or, if we were really lucky, a piece of Kern's Kitchen's famous Derby-Pie. Of course, on our way out there, we had to stop at a roadside "package shop" to buy a pint of bourbon, since Prospect was in a dry county. We settled into the private family dining room, where set-ups for cocktails awaited us. Well, not for the kids, but for the adults. I watched in fascination as my regal grandfather meticulously measured the shots and carefully balanced the portions of whiskey, soda, and ice for the perfect Bourbon Highball. It's no wonder I developed a taste for that caramel brown elixir and a love for all things Kentucky.

The truth is, my bourbon tasting days started early. My oldest brother, Rob, loves to tell this story. One Christmas Eve when I was just a few years old, my parents were entertaining in the basement, and just like every Christmas Eve, they were making frozen Whiskey Sours for the crowd of family, friends, and neighbors. They were too busy to notice the little girl in footie pajamas with a natural curiosity and a knack for getting into trouble. I spotted that bright red maraschino cherry on top of that sweet frozen concoction, and before anyone noticed, I had downed the entire drink. Rob told on me, the family panicked, but I managed to survive. I have no memory of the incident. Perhaps I was too young. Perhaps the bourbon had something to do with it. To this day, bourbon will always be connected with family, friends, and celebration.


Book Information— How to Be a Bourbon Badass

By Linda Ruffenach

175 pages, 7.5 x 8.5

Hardback ISBN 978-1-68435-008-7 $24.00

eBook ISBN 978-1-68435-009-4 $23.99

Publication Date: April 1, 2018

For review copies, press kit, or interview requests contact Michelle Sybert, info@redlightningbooks.com