Kentucky-born and bred, Chad Perkins and Sara Ahlgrim grew up surrounded by bourbon culture. Considering Kentucky makes up 95 percent of the world’s bourbon supply, it makes sense that the duo felt drawn to this specific spirit. After all, they had access to the best of it.
Sara Cooley of Casey and Sara Pictures.
As lovers of all things wine and spirits, those of us at ICONIC LIFE were captivated by their partnered exploration of the whiskey world and desire to find the best bourbon. So, our publisher interviewed them on her podcast ICONIC HOUR to learn more about their love story, passion for collectible bourbon and their bourbon bunker (yes, we said bunker).
The couple met by chance—fate, the stars aligning, whatever brings two people who would have otherwise never met together—when Perkins’s video production company was tasked with shooting a video at Ahlgrim’s place of work: a restaurant group that was opening a bourbon bar.
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That project launched their business relationship and friendship. In 2016, their combined passions for video production and the best bourbon led to the creation of their own YouTube channel, It’s Bourbon Night, which focuses on celebrating America’s only native spirit. Their content is designed to encourage the discovery of the whiskey universe.
What at first was an interesting way to share a common interest and palette turned into a YouTube channel with more than 400 videos and 65,000 subscribers, as well as a deeply rooted romance between the two bourbon lovers.
Though they’ve found great success in focusing on the best bourbon, it was a slow burn. “I remember when we first got into it, people then were saying, ‘Oh, nobody used to ever care about bourbon. I used to be able to get the best stuff because nobody was looking for it.’” Ahligrim said.
Then came the “Bourbon Boom.” In 2019, off-premise dollar sales grew 12.9 percent, bringing the bourbon industry to $1.78 billion, according to Nielsen data. It was also the third fastest-growing spirit in 2019, beaten only by tequila and rye whiskey.
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But what sparked such a significant increase in interest in bourbon, let alone finding the best bourbon?
“I think people are attracted to what’s the story behind this and what goes into this product. Bourbon and whiskey have that rich texture to the story where it gets a certain level of quality going into the barrels,” Ahlgrim said. “It has to have the time. There are so many generational families involved in the industry. There’s so much opportunity for great stories there. I feel like that’s really one of the main reasons why it’s skyrocketed so much. I mean, also it’s delicious.”
Another thing we love about the couple is their knack for catchy and witty sayings around finding the best bourbon, such as “no bottom shelf shaming.”
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I think people are attracted to what’s the story behind this and what goes into this product. Bourbon and whiskey have that rich texture to the story where it gets a certain level of quality going into the barrels.
“We see the trend of limited editions coming out each year that keep going up in price. You know, $20 or $30 every year,” Perkins said. “But the good thing is, there are still a lot of great bourbons that you can find down on the bottom shelf. One of our sayings from the beginning has always been no bottom shelf shaming. You can take $15 into a liquor store as long as they have a good bourbon selection and walk out with a pretty exceptional bourbon.”
When it comes to their living situation, Ahlgrim and Perkins live inside a bourbon bunker—essentially, a newly remodeled house that bourbon has completely taken over. Their spaces, known as the uncorking set and the flight fight stage, are used mainly for the show, with a stair-step bar and various shelves that house the best bourbon. Then, there’s the space where they stock what doesn’t fit on the other shelves, as well as a “bourbon library.”
Oleksandra Naumenko / Shutterstock
“We’re trying to give it a speakeasy vibe. We call it the bourbon library. You can go in and check something out, but you have to return it,” Perkins and Ahlgrim explained together.
No matter your beverage of choice, you’re sure to find “It’s Bourbon Night” both entertaining and educational. There’s also great value in their goal to remain authentic and trustworthy when reviewing bottles.
“We don’t do paid advertising or endorsements with any brand in particular, and that’s because, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that there’s no question about are our reviews being truthful and honest,” Ahlgrim said.
There's no wrong way to drink bourbon, despite how other connoisseurs believe it should be consumed.
Another one of their main viewpoints is that there’s no wrong way to drink bourbon, despite how other connoisseurs believe it should be consumed. The best bourbon is what’s best for your own palette.
“Some people say, ‘You have to drink it neat. Don’t mix it with anything. Don’t put any ice or any water in it.’ But we say drink it however you want, especially if you’re first trying to get into it,” Perkins said. “We both started with training wheels—Coke, cola, ginger ale, anything like that—then eventually you start developing a taste that you don’t want those.
You wean yourself off them. That’s how we got to drinking bourbon straight. I would suggest starting with a mixture, with bourbon forward cocktails, because you do want to get the flavor.”
For more from Chad and Sara, make sure you tune into our podcast, ICONIC HOUR, where you can hear the full interview.
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