Bourbon Industry

This year’s $1,000 Woodford Reserve Mint Julep honors the late voice of Churchill Downs

This year’s $1,000 Mint Julep starts under the spires

Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris and assistant master distiller Elizabeth McCall "rested" Kentucky honey in a barrel in the Twin Spires for 145 days. Now it is ready for the $1,000 Woodford Reserve Mint Juleps served at Kentucky Derby.
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Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris and assistant master distiller Elizabeth McCall "rested" Kentucky honey in a barrel in the Twin Spires for 145 days. Now it is ready for the $1,000 Woodford Reserve Mint Juleps served at Kentucky Derby.

Every year, Woodford Reserve releases a limited edition Kentucky Derby souvenir. And for a select few, the $1,000 mint julep cup has become a special tradition.

This year’s version will be extra special, honoring the longtime Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher, who died in August at 62. A memorial scholarship fund has been established at Western Kentucky University in his name and this year’s cup will benefit the fund as well as celebrate his life.

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John Asher, vice president of racing communications for Churchill Downs, spoke at the 2017 Kentucky Derby Post Draw at Churchill Downs. Asher, 62, died in August of an apparent heart attack. Adam Creech

There are 145 cups, including 125 silver and 20 silver cups plated with gold. The silver cups are $1,000 each and the gold-plated ones are $2,500 each. Go online to woodfordreservemintjulep.com to order before noon on April 30. On Derby day, the master distillers will make your julep in your cup before the big race.

The silver cup this year, from Louisville jeweler From the Vault, is etched with the Twin Spires, where an oak barrel of Hosey’s Honey from Kentucky rested over the winter.

“Woodford Reserve is honored to bring together two of Kentucky’s greatest traditions — Derby and bourbon — through our $1,000 Mint Julep Cup program,” said Chris Morris, master distiller. “A premium celebration like The Kentucky Derby deserves an opulent cocktail. This year we are deeply honored to celebrate the life and legacy of John Asher.”

In December, Morris and assistant master distiller Elizabeth McCall climbed into the Twin Spires to leave a barrel of honey syrup to sit for 145 days, in honor of the 145th running the Kentucky Derby, which Woodford Reserve sponsors.

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This year’s Woodford Reserve $1,000 Mint Julep Cup and the $2,500 gold version will feature honey from Hosey’s Honey in Midway that “rested” for 145 in a mini barrel in the actual Twin Spires of Churchill Downs. Photo provided

Here’s the recipe for this year’s julep, which will be made at Churchill Downs for buyers in their own cups by Morris and McCall:

  • 2 ounces Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • 2 bar spoons of Inspired Honey Sweetener, made with Hosey Honey of Midway
  • 2 mint leaves
  • Rub the mint around the julep cup, drizzle in two bar spoons of honey sweetener, followed by two ounces of Woodford Reserve. Mix together and pack ice into the cup. Garnish: shaved honeycomb and a sprig of mint.
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