In October of 2005, a member of Bourbon royalty visited Skaneateles. Of course, most residents of Skaneateles recall the House of Bourbon as a branch of the Capetian dynasty, a family that graced thrones in France, Spain, Naples and Sicily. However, this piece is not about that branch.
Rather, this story begins in Bourbon County, named after France’s royal house in 1785, by way of honoring the French contribution to our success in the Revolutionary War. The county was originally in Virginia, but in 1792, with the maps redrawn, found itself in the new state of Kentucky. The whiskeys of this region were made mostly from corn, and came to be called Bourbon to set them apart from others, such as Pennsylvania’s Monongahela whiskeys, which were based primarily on rye.
I pause here to mention that “Monongahela” means “falling banks,” a reference to the instability of this particular river’s edge. Moravian missionary David Zeisberger (1721-1808) noted that the Native American word was “Mechmenawungihilla.” I bring this up because Zeisberger spent a night in Skaneateles in 1750, camped on the lake’s shore by what is now St. James’ Episcopal Church, and because I am grateful the Bourbon designation prevailed, and I do not have to ask for “Mechmenawungihilla” at the Sherwood Inn.
Getting back to the point, the Bourbon royal who visited us here in Skaneateles was Frederick “Fred” Noe III, a seventh generation distiller, great-grandson of Jim Beam, and the son of Frederick “Booker” Noe Jr. A resident of Bardstown, Kentucky, Fred occasionally goes on the road as an ambassador for his family’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection – Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek, Baker’s and Booker’s – special whiskeys created under his father’s guidance in the early 1990s.
In that capacity, Fred Noe found himself at the Sherwood Inn one evening, hosting a bourbon tasting. Michael Tutor, the general manager of the Sherwood Inn, recalls that Mr. Noe insisted all of the bourbon be “prepoured,” which created an atmosphere in the Inn that might be described as heady.
Fred Noe himself, contacted this past week, remembers the evening fondly:
“The attendees all enjoyed the event and they asked great questions and we had a great dinner following the event. The trip was my first visit to the upstate part of New York and I never knew there was a rural part of New York that reminded me so much of home. I look forward to getting a chance to return to the area.”
One does hope he will return to us soon.