The Bourbon Crusaders is a small but mighty group of 30 bourbon aficionados from across the United States. They come from a wide range of backgrounds, from farmers to lawyers, firefighters to authors, distillers and more. Since its founding in 2015 the group has raised nearly $6 million for a wide range of charitable organizations like the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, ALS Association, American Cancer Society and more.
For 2022 and again in 2023 the organization chose to partner with the American Heart Association. The Heart Association was a great choice because if you watch the video below, you’ll see that hearts were beating rapidly as a single barrel of Old Forester President’s Choice bourbon not only sold at auction for $250,000 but through the generosity of Old Forester Distillery, they ponied up a second barrel to two bidders making Lot #107 worth an astonishing half a million dollars.
The event took place on November 18 at the Ice House and featured a tasting experience of rare bourbons, dinner, an online silent auction as well as an in-person live auction. The highlight of the evening was the live auction, which exceeded all expectations by bringing in an astounding $740,000 alone.
Live Auction Highlights
Two extraordinary items doubled their impact, with Michter’s Distillery generously offering a second Michter’s Experience to two winning bidders who contributed $15,000 each.
The next big highlight was the auctioning off an 11-Year-Old Willett Distillery Private Barrel Pick. If you have ever tried to purchase a Willett single barrel you know you can’t do it, unless as Willett Distillery’s Master Distiller Drew Kulsveen explains you do it for charity. Watch the video to hear more about it in Drews own words. In the end, this Willett Single Barrel sold for a whopping $170,000.
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And the heart pounding moment of the evening came about with Lot No. #107 which offered the first-ever Old Forester President’s Choice Barrel Pick. Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris shared the history of President’s Choice, how it was introduced in 1964 by George Garvin Brown II. Five years later Brown unexpectedly died at the young at of 57 and the program ended until the President’s Choice returned in 2018 when Old Forester celebrated the opening of its new distillery on Louisville’s Whiskey Row.
Bidding for the Old Forester President’s Choice Barrel Pick started out at $50,000 then quickly jumped to over $200,000. As the bidding hit $240k folks from the Brown-Forman team stepped on stage and whispered in Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory’s ear that if the two highest bidders were willing to commit $250,000 they would both get a barrel. Gregory, who played Emcee and Auctioneer for the evening turned and announced the ‘double the impact’ offer to the room. A few heart palpitations later both high bidders agreed, and the pair of Old Forester President’s Choice Barrel Picks set the record for the evening generating $500,000 making them the two most expensive bourbon barrels ever sold in Brown-Forman’s 153 years.
And that is how you get a standing ovation. Wow!
Master Distillers Chris Morris and Elizabeth McCall were visibly moved by the passion and philanthropy present in the room. Chris Morris, who selected the American Heart Association as the charity of choice, expressed his pride in the incredible legacy created during the evening.
Results of Bourbon Crusaders 2023 Live Auction
#101: Make it a Double – Case of Woodford Reserve Double Double Oaked – $10,100
#102: Holladay Distillery Barrel Selection Experience – $17,000
#103: Ultimate Woodford Reserve Experience – $10,500
#104: A Special Day at Michter’s Two Distilleries – $15,000 for two experiences for a total of $30,000
#105: Bardstown Bourbon Company Origin Series Bourbon Single Barrel for 6 – $12,000
#106: 11-Year Willett Distillery Private Barrel Selection – $170,000
#107 – First-Ever Old Forester President’s Choice Barrel Pick – $250,000 for two barrels for a total of $500,000
RJ Sargent, President of the Bourbon Crusaders, remarked, “The purpose of the Crusaders is to combine a passion for bourbon with a heart of philanthropy to make a significant charitable impact. And that night, we did just that. We’re proud to be able to bring the bourbon community together to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
”We’re overwhelmed with the generosity in the room and what this did for the American Heart Association. I know The Crusaders, Woodford, and Old Forester are very proud to be a part of this historic night.”
The Bourbon Crusaders estimate a net gain of approximately $700,000 from ticket sales, bottle sales, and both silent and live auctions, making this the highest netting in-person event in the organization’s history. Representatives from the American Heart Association, in attendance that night, were deeply touched by the generosity of the room, recognizing the significant impact it will have on the local community.
There’s No Crying in Bourbon – Unless They’re Tears of Joy
Folks from the American Heart Association were literally brought to tears by the generosity on display this night. And as Gregory wrapped up the night he commented, “Your crying, there’s no crying in bourbon!”
Keep sipping, responsibly of course, and keep giving. See y’all next year!
– The Bourbon Crusaders 2023 Event and Fundraiser Promises One-of-a-Kind Picks Up for Auction
– Watch as a Willett Distillery 10-Year-Old Single Barrel Sells for $225,000 at Bourbon Crusaders’ Fund Raiser in 130 Seconds
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