Old Friends, Horses & A Taste Of Kentucky Bourbon

Written by stuestler on June 13th, 2009

Back from a trip out to Lexington, Kentucky – very appropriately named the Thoroughbred Capital Of The World. Everywhere you go and everything you do, you’re reminded that this is horse country.


I didn’t go there to visit horses though (although, as I said, they were an inevitable part of the agenda).


Twelve years ago my good friends moved from here in Maryland to Lexington to be closer to family and for a different quality of life. I’d made a trip out there right after they moved, but as I talked about in my post about uncle Rudy, life sort of got in the way and I hadn’t been out to see them since, nor have they returned here to Maryland.


I would regularly think “I need to get out there and see them”, but never made the trip. I knew that if nothing else got me there, I would go out for the high school graduation of their daughter Alex. I’ve known her since she was a baby and watched her grow up, until they moved away. Well, this was the time.


She was just five or six when they moved to Kentucky, and it is a joy to see the young woman that she’s become. Always creative and talented, she carried her love of ballet throughout her school years. Now she’s on to college and an amazing future full of possibilities.


Isn’t it interesting – sometimes we feel that we’re close to people, think of each other as good friends, yet unless we’re in frequent contact, we tend to become detached. A true expression of close friendship is when you can be separated by distance and time, then finally see each other again and feel like you’re picking up the conversation in mid-sentence.


This was that kind of weekend. We’re that kind of friends. Although we hadn’t seen each other in twelve years it felt like it could have been twelve hours. Sure, we’ve all grown in our lives, but the core feelings and beliefs that originally brought us together haven’t changed a bit.


We even all agreed that we all looked just like we did twelve years ago (except, of course, Alex). Like I said, we’re GOOD friends.


Mike has become a tremendously talented photographer, creating wonderful photos of ballet, and of the horses that define the area. I hope to share some of his images with you soon.


In addition to the graduation and celebration, the weekend itinerary included a visit to a premier stud farm and Lexington’s Keeneland race track where many past and no doubt future triple crown racers train.

(c) 2009 Stu Estler

(c) 2009 Stu Estler


Even if you have no particular attraction to horses you can’t help being drawn to the incredible beauty and power of these thoroughbreds. You begin to appreciate and understand the pristine farms that surround the area, with their miles of plank fencing and “stables” that rival the most exotic luxury homes I’ve seen.


Photographing these animals grazing in the field or at rest can be done with many cameras and in a variety of conditions. To truly capture their power and grace on the track, however, requires SPEED. Fast, long lenses and high ISO are the order of the day to freeze these creatures in action. Having an advanced SLR which allows you to follow with continuous auto-focus is highly desirable. And of course, the more you practice, the better your skills develop.

(c) 2009 Stu Estler

(c) 2009 Stu Estler



If California is about wine, and Milwaukee is about beer, Kentucky is certainly about bourbon. We think of the emergence and growth of boutique wineries, breweries and distilleries and a recent trend, but several of the elite bourbon distilleries in the central Kentucky area date back into the 1800’s.


It seems they all say the same thing – the secret is in the Kentucky limestone water. Whatever the secrets – and each distillery has it’s own – the fine bourbon that they produce is a long step above the typical off-the-shelf mass-produced liquors. Even though I’ve never been a devoted bourbon aficionado, I was duly impressed.

(c) 2009 Stu Estler

(c) 2009 Stu Estler




The tours typically take you through the actual distillery that produces the product. Some areas are the actual production facilities, while others, like the barrel-making display here, are set up to show the process which actually takes place elsewhere.


Photo opportunities abound and are welcomed and encouraged, though you may have to be at the head of the tour group or lag behind and wait for the rest of the people to move on if you don’t want your shots full of strangers.


Traveling to an unfamiliar location provides tremendous opportunities to look at things in a new way and stimulate your creative juices. Doing your homework to know what to anticipate is important, and exploring on your own can reveal unexpected treasures. Still, local knowledge, whether in the form of a professional tour guide or someone who is familiar with what the area offers, will afford insights that you may miss on your own.

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