The St. Louis Bourbon Society......more than just people that share a love of Bourbon!Mar 20, 2021 12:46PM ● By Joe Siess
Bourbon first emerged out of the rough Kentucky backcountry in the 18th century.
Created by Scots Irish, and other early immigrants to the area, the true story behind the genesis of bourbon has entered the realm of legend.
Hundreds of years after its humble beginnings, the US government, in 1964, would designate bourbon whisky “a Distinctive Product of the United States,” creating for the first time a spirit that was uniquely American.
This kind of rich history is part of what drives the St. Louis Bourbon Society to create a community dedicated to learning about, and of course drinking, good bourbon.
“We are an educational group. That is what our genesis is and what we strive to help people with, is education,” Bourbon Society co-founder Drew Chostner said.
Education, according to Chostner, not only includes where to obtain certain bottles of bourbon, but also the history of each spirit that happens to grace your palette.
“Every bottle is a history of bourbon, Chostner said.
“All these labels go back hundreds of years and they are all interconnected amongst each other.”
The education, Chostner said, also includes understanding that there are a lot of great bourbons that are not hard to find.
“People get fixated on the hard-to-find bottles when there is so much great bourbon right in front of our eyes. We try to spend lots of time on our page exploring the bourbons that are easily looked over just because there isn’t a horse on top of the stopper,” Chostner said about the group’s Facebook page.
“I think we have done a great job bringing those bourbons to our page and really diving into what makes them great.”
The Facebook page, where the Bourbon Society showcases upcoming events and shares information about bourbon, is free for anyone to join.
The Bourbon Society is made up of people from all over the world, but while its members are mainly local Missourians, the group accepts anybody interested in learning, socializing, and enjoying good spirits.
Additionally, the Bourbon Society is celebrating the large but under-appreciated contribution of women in the bourbon industry as a tribute to Women's History Month, which runs through March.
“The whole point of our bourbon society, and we take some flak for it, the whole point of our bourbon society is to be inclusive. We accept everybody. I don’t care if you are a man, woman, where you are from, whatever, we don’t care,” Chostner said.
Chostner said that the group loves it when new members, or “newbies” join the club.
“We were all newbies at some point. And that is the frustrating part for me, everyone seems to forget so quickly that you all started somewhere, you didn’t just start one day appreciating bourbon and whisky, you were all newbies at some point,” he said.
For Chostner, the Bourbon Society is about fellowship, learning, inclusivity, and of course bourbon, whisky, or any variation of the sort.
One of the primary points Chostner wanted to make about the Bourbon Society and about bourbon in general is that it is a product that can and should be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone, and not just the elite.
“It [bourbon] was created by common people in the back hills of Kentucky,” Chostner said. “It’s not an elitist thing.”
Chostner and his partner and Bourbon Society co-founder, James Thomas, started the group back in December of 2016 to bring people together to talk about a variety of things related to bourbon.
However, the pandemic threw a wrench in the plan, but that didn’t stop the Bourbon Society from adapting.
The group managed to continue its regular discussions and tasting events via Zoom, an adaptation that turned out to be super popular with Bourbon Society members.
Chostner said that the Zoom meetings were a “big hit”, and that they managed to work with distributors and their on-premises partners to put together high-quality tasting kits that members can pick up before a virtual meeting.
The meetings take place twice a month, and usually consist of a keynote speaker, for example a distillery owner, who presents and then answers questions from the audience.
Chostner said that the audience has time to ask the presenters whatever they want.
“It’s very interactive and the whole time we get to sip some wonderful bourbon,” Chostner said. “It’s quite a cathartic experience considering what’s going on in the world these days. To sit in your living room and still have a hundred faces in front of you and interact, instead of just maybe streaming your favorite show all night long.”
For Women's History Month, the Bourbon Society is putting on a Maker’s Mark event on March 30 and will donate 10 percent of proceeds from ticket sales to the Women’s Safe House, a domestic violence shelter located in St. Louis.
Why Maker’s Mark you ask?
Chostner explained that Maker’s Mark founder, Bill Samuels Sr.’s mother, Margie Samuels, basically built the Maker’s Mark brand as we all enjoy it today, all the way down to the iconic red wax sealed bottles.
Her contribution to the industry is impressive, and the Bourbon Society hopes to highlight her innovation in Samuels’ honor, as well as to give something back to the community.
The sense of community is a major part of what the Bourbon Society stands for, and their values are expressed in events such as the recent #sharethelove event, where the Bourbon Society gave away about 40 bottles of bourbon to locals who were able to show they spent 50 dollars at a local restaurant or bar.
Chostner said that getting people to eat and drink local is important, especially during the pandemic, as local eateries were losing business volume.
“People had to eat anyway,” Chostner added. “So we tried to get that money back into the local community as best we could.”
St. Louis Bourbon Society