I’ve had more than one group that caused me a bit of concern at the start of a tour on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. Some of those unnerving groups, however, deserved far more credit than what my little mind wanted to give them. One of these episodes started early one Saturday, departing Louisville and headed toward, for whatever reason, Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg where we’d planned our first experience. These vibrant young fellas, all under 30, were full of energy, excitement, and fun first thing in the morning. They were pounding beer after beer during the hour-long drive to our first stop. My bourbon 101 spiel was pointless to dig into. The music was loud. They were loud, too. But they were happy, so I just jumped on the board to ride the growing wave in. So each of the dozen or so guys had had several drinks in them by the time I pulled up to drop them off at the front door. For some not-so-unusual reason, we were running a few minutes behind. I can’t recall if it was the emergency pee break on the way, the delay getting the boys out of their hotel beds or what, but we were like many other days before, a few minutes behind. So upon dropping them off, I hopped inside to check them in, get their tickets and point out the restroom that I was confident someone else would need by then. Then rushed back out to get the bus moved from the front door, parked and out of the way. I was a little rushed, but no sweat. It wasn’t the first time. Leaving the bus in the last 40 acres of the parking lot, I hustled back toward the gift shop where the tour would begin. Around this time, I thought to myself, “I hope these guys aren’t as wild inside there, as they were on the bus, or else this could go far south real soon.” It wasn’t even 10 a.m. yet, and these fellas already had a belly full of beer. “I’d better rush to be sure these guys are doing ok, and ensure they hadn’t got the staff upset just yet,” I told myself. I made my way through the front door and into the gift shop, assuming to find a not-so-positive environment. Boy, was I wrong – and pleasantly surprised. Once inside the gift shop, I see the crew of four young women being surrounded by my guests as though something was going on. But nobody seemed upset. There were no raised voices or finger-pointing or ushering my guys toward the door or anything of the sort. In fact, it was smiles all around from both parties – staff and tourists. And not just my guys. The whole gift shop was smiling. Taking a closer look, a tattoo party came into view.
My guys were raising their shirts, holding out their arms, and even pulling the back of their pants down just a bit for what I learned were stick-on tattoo transfers – little patches with four red roses resembling the bourbon brand we were there to learn all about. Awesome. And what a great surprise! Everyone was happy, and that joy and fun set the tone for all the other guests inside the gift shop that Saturday morning. In fact, the tone for the rest of our day together had been set. And in the right place. That day ended up being among the most enjoyable and, with all things considered, one of the more innocent guys’ trips I have ever had the pleasure of guiding around Kentucky’s bourbon country. What a joy to learn that assumptions on my part could be as far as accurate as possible. And kudos to the great team at Four Roses that day for keeping it fun, not stressing out over my vibrant young drinkers so early on the busiest day of the week; and for pulling out the stops with the tattoos for each and everyone who decided they wanted wherever – regardless of where they wanted it stuck. Yup, one guy’s tattoo would best be described as a “tramp stamp.” And a beautiful stamp it was.