With a flourish of vintage fanfare Monday, Kentucky's bourbon distillers and political minds sent a barrel of good will to Washington.
Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen said she and Gov. Steve Beshear hoped that the "Bourbon Barrel of Compromise" encouraged the "spirit of statesmanship" that Henry Clay represents.
"From Frankfort, let's just offer wishes that the contents of this barrel thaw the cold ranks of partisanship and serve as an elixir that heralds a new day of progress in our nation's capital," Luallen said.
Nine distilleries poured symbolic samples of their wares into the barrel, which will arrive Tuesday at the Intercontinental Willard Hotel. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, is scheduled to greet it.
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McConnell will host a bipartisan reception and bourbon tasting. Whether anyone from the White House attends is uncertain.
The idea for the Bourbon Summit arose after President Obama expressed a desire to share some Kentucky bourbon with McConnell.
The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship and Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate in Lexington, teamed with the Kentucky Distillers Association to make that happen. Or at least make it possible.
At Ashland on Monday, Robert Clay, co-chairman of the Clay Center and a descendant of the Kentucky statesman, said the art of compromise was sorely needed in Washington these days.
"Nearly two centuries ago, Henry Clay would depart these grounds with a barrel of Kentucky bourbon on his trips to Washington to, as he put it, lubricate the wheels of government. With our national government in a seeming perpetual state of gridlock, we can't think of a more opportune time to apply lubrication, regardless of the source," Clay said. "As one journalist put it, bourbon is stronger than tea."
Clay said the hope was that the re-enactment of the delivery of the barrel would remind politicians in Washington of the value of dialogue and negotiation.
"We strongly believe it is time to follow in the traditions that Clay himself, the Great Compromiser, instituted during turbulent times in our history," Clay said. "Remembering, as he did, that we all must give of ourselves in order to make the impossible seem possible for the sake of the nation. Our students each summer are reminded of his words, that 'there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right for America.'"
Austin Berringer, a Danville High School senior who attended the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship's student congress to which Robert Clay referred, said polls showed that people think better of cockroaches and root canals than of Congress.
"Henry Clay taught us that compromise is possible. He fought not to push his agenda but to make progress with policy," Berringer said.
On Monday, distillers poured samples of Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, Four Roses, Evan Williams, Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Michter's, Town Branch and Wild Turkey into the barrel.
Actor George McGee, as Henry Clay, helped KDA president Eric Gregory put the bung in the barrel.
Then, while Saxton's Cornet Band played a fanfare, the Bourbon Barrel of Compromise was loaded onto a horse-drawn carriage and taken down Main Street to circle Clay's grave in Lexington Cemetery, where a wreath was laid in honor of the Great Compromiser.
The barrel was then loaded onto a bus bound for Washington.