Cuyahoga Railway Offers a Little Taste of Yellowstone Right Here in Ohio
“My cousins (at Jim Beam) spill more than we make” at Limestone Branch Distillery, quips Steve Beam, president and distiller of Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky.
Limestone makes Yellowstone Select and Limited Edition Bourbons, plus Minor Case Rye Whiskey. It’s a craft distillery that produces only about a barrel per day of bourbon.
And while Steve is distantly related to the more famous side of this bourbon-making family, he and his brother Paul in 2011 revived their ancestors’ tradition of making bourbon that began with Jacob Beam in 1795.
Northeast Ohioans recently had the chance to sample Steve and Paul’s wares while soaking in the sylvan scenery aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSRR.) Dubbed the “Bourbon Train,” this vintage locomotive departed at 7:30pm sharp on July 20 from the Rockside Station in Independence, then wended its way south through the lush landscape of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Riders got to sample Yellowstone Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey both neat and in a Manhattan, and to sip Minor Case Rye both straight and mixed with Champagne and bitters in a Bourbon Lancer, all while noshing on substantial appetizers and sandwiches prepared by Creekside Catering in Brecksville.
The amiable Steve Beam was our tasting guide. He explained Yellowstone Select is a blend of four- and seven-year-old bourbons that are 75 percent corn, 13 percent rye and the rest malt. He pointed out aromas of caramel and vanilla; I picked up the caramel, along with a hint of brown sugar, in the finish. The bourbon paired beautifully with the bacon-wrapped shrimp skewer with a maple glaze.
The bourbon train was sold out and is just one excursion among many popular adult-beverage-themed evening rides the CVSRR offers, including Ales on Rails, the wine train and others.
Why drink Yellowstone bourbon in the wilderness? Maybe it’s because the brand is named for the oldest preserve in our national park system. Steve explained the Yellowstone name derives from a trip that Charles Townsend, a distillery salesman, took in 1872. Yellowstone had just become America’s first national park. There was so much enthusiasm about this geothermal paradise that Townsend advised Steve’s great-great Uncle Bernard he should launch a bourbon under that name. Yellowstone brand bourbon was born, and sales took off.
Today, Limestone honors its affinity for America’s National Parks via its “One Bottle at a Time” campaign. Limestone Branch Distillery is donating $1 to the National Parks Conservation Association for each bottle of Yellowstone Select sold between May 1 and Aug. 31.
I’m not a fan of Manhattans, so I skipped that cocktail and sampled Minor Case Rye — a new experience for me. Named for Steve’s great grandfather, M.C. Beam, whose ambition to make rye whiskey was frustrated by Prohibition, this golden-chestnut-hued elixir had aromas of sherry, with a hint of butterscotch on the palate. I could be enticed to try some cocktails that contain rye whiskey based on my experience with Minor Case.
My favorite drink, however, was the Bourbon Lancer. I would have savored every drop with the “millionaire bar” made of caramel and chocolate on shortbread crust, but I was sated. So I limited myself to a few sips and bites.
Next time I’m looking for a bourbon cocktail to serve at a Kentucky Derby party, I might just skip the mint juleps in favor of Bourbon Lancers — made with Yellowstone Select, of course.