ANGOLA — Bourbon and whiskey customers at Gays Hops-N-Schnapps can look forward to names like Whistle Pig Rye, Corsair Triple Smoked, Buffalo Trace and many more thanks to an annual trek Gays in-house experts.

Each year, Gays Hops-N-Schnapps specialists travel to Kentucky to do something special for its customers, according to a company statement.

“The team sorts through barrels of some of the most famous bourbon makers to select the best pick for its stores,” according to the statement.

The “private selection” barrels are bottled specifically for Gays’ customers to provide the unique experience of tasting the best flavor and quality available.

The most recent trip involved all three of Gay’s “in house” specialists: Jared Diller, sommelier; Matt Thomas, cicerone; and Bobby VanWormer, bourbon steward.

Over three days they visited Maker’s Mark (Maker’s Mark Private Selection), Jim Beam (Knob Creek 120 Single Barrel) and Four Roses (Four Roses Cask Strength Single Barrel) distilleries.

“The key was to find the best barrels and taste each one to get the finest characteristics available. Over the course of a given year, Gays’ specialists will select more than 10 barrels of unique bourbons and whiskeys,” according to the statement. “The qualities and characteristics the team is looking for are unique characteristics that make this bourbon or whiskey different from what you find every day on the shelf from that particular distillery.”

The most important thing about selecting a barrel is to make sure it has a complete flavor profile of spice, grain and wood. Balance isn’t necessarily always a good thing when picking a barrel of bourbon or whiskey. These barrels are unique, and if the spice stands out more than the grain or the wood, this is what makes it unique.

A barrel selection is a deeply sensory experience, nosing and tasting bourbons that often only have slight variations is a difficult task. The Maker’s Mark Private Selection is a perfect example and one of the most unique barrel experiences out there, the release said.

The private selection is manipulating Maker’s Mark Cask Strength by aging it an additional nine weeks at roughly 50 degrees with 10 wood staves added to the barrel. This will change the flavor profile from the combination of five different varietals of wood. There are thousands of possible combinations that can be used in the creation of this unique barrel. Over the last five years, Gay’s Hops-N-Schnapps has done more than 35 barrel picks. These picks provide a unique experience for its customers, the news release said.

Single barrels that are in the pipeline for 2019-2020 include Weller 107 Antique, Bulleit, 1792 Bottle in Bond, Knob Creek 120 proof, Buffalo Trace, 1792 Full Proof, Eagle Rare, New Riff, Whistle Pig Rye, Corsair Triple Smoked, Four Roses, Old Forester and Woodford Reserve along with countless more.

Gays has stores in Angola, Auburn, Fremont and LaGrange.

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