In Frankfort, the bourbon issue du jour involves a bill that would allow Kentucky distillers to provide promotional samplings of their products at such events as the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
In typical fashion for the General Assembly, a good idea for showcasing a signature state industry that should be a no-brainer has instead fallen victim — so far at least — to a childish political squabble.
If the special session ends today without approval of the "tastings" legislation, it will be a disappointment for the state's bourbon industry, but one the distillers can live with.
By contrast, a pending piece of federal legislation could have some serious negative impact on the industry.
If enacted, H.R. 5034 would authorize more state-based alcohol regulation. It's being pushed by beer and wine wholesalers. And it appears to be an attempt to get around a 2005 U.S. Supreme court ruling that said states that allow in-state wineries to sell directly to consumers must also allow out-of-state wineries to make direct sales.
But one potential byproduct of this legislation could be that states might start setting their own standards for various kinds of liquors that now must conform to federal standards.
If that should happen, bourbon labels could get slapped on bottles of inferior stuff that wasn't distilled according to longstanding requirements for such things as the proper mixture of grain and the use of new charred oak barrels in the aging process.
And that would dilute the brand of one of Kentucky's signature industries. Surely, no member of the state's congressional delegation would want to do that.