Courtesy Mount Washington Tavern

Winter may be hard to endure, but cold weather can be forgotten when surrounded by warmth. This February, feel the radiance of a cozy restaurant, great food and body-warming, small-batch bourbon from craft distilleries. Pair that with the company of new friends and a feel-good fundraiser and you’re describing “Kentucky Nights Bourbon Tasting.”

The much-anticipated event at Mount Washington Tavern combines fine food and aged spirits with education from the area’s bourbon aficionados. “It’s a great event, even if you’re not already a bourbon aficionado,” says Mount Washington Tavern owner Rob Frisch. “There are so many varieties of bourbon, each one a completely different drink. We let you taste them all, you get to learn the reasons for the different flavors and we even give you a notebook to take notes.” An excellent idea, considering most of our memory skills after a night of drinking hard alcohol.

Ticket holders for the Feb. 23 event will experience bourbon tastings from more than 10 distilleries, carefully food from the Tavern paired to compliment each new drink and lessons in the distilling process from the experts. The full profit from the $35 ticket goes to benefit Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, a cause that Frisch has been backing for a decade. Years ago, with his business partner in full agreement, Frisch chose the hospital as a main beneficiary to the Tavern’s multiple charities based on their location as a neighbor and their focus on children.

“Kids causes are just always an easy thing for me to get behind,” Frisch says. “They were a perfect fit.”

The restaurant and tavern hosts multiple events per year to benefit Mt. Washington Pediatric, including a golf tournament and a brick sale, in addition to February’s event. In total, the Mount Washington Tavern has donated over $250,000 to the hospital.

Aging Barrels Stacked High at KO Distillery in Manassas, VA

The distilleries involved in this year’s event range from well-established to nearly brand new. One of the latter, KO Distilling, is the main sponsor for the event. The distillery is just over a year old out of historic Manassas, Va.

KO Distilling hit the ground running in mid-2015, producing clear, non-aged spirits on a large scale (three original gins and a white whiskey) and an array of small batch bourbon, rye and wheat whiskeys, aged on-site. KO is one of a handful of distilleries in Virginia and only 1,000 or so nationwide. Opened by two longtime friends and former Merchant Marines, the craft distillery is both a maker and a destination,with a 2,500-sq. ft visitor’s center on their sprawling facility for guided tours, tastings, sales and special events.

Part of that education is to school us all on our assumptions about where and how specific whiskeys, like bourbon, are classified. “Most people think bourbon has to be produced in Kentucky,” co-owner Bill Karlson told Northern Virginia magazine shortly after opening. “The requirement is that it is produced in America and aged for at least two years in charred white American oak barrels.”

The distillery has over 700 of the barrels full of their own aging bourbon at any given time.

Though it would be hard to deny Kentucky’s ownership of bourbon’s history, we Mid-Atlantic folks can officially rejoice in the pride of buying our bourbon locally, too. As to the question of superiority of one state’s brown liquor over another’s, we’ll leave it to a room full of thirsty judges to decide this February in Mount Washington.

Kentucky Nights Bourbon Tasting will be held Feb. 23, 5:30-8 p.m. at Mt. Washington Tavern, 5700 Newbury Street in Baltimore, Maryland 21209. Tickets can be purchased online through eventbrite.

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