Proof That A Bourbon Journey Can Sometimes Get Emotional


by Colonel Steve Akley

I never thought anything to do with being in the world of whiskey would make me cry... but I never thought there would be a day like this either. Luke Otero (@santafeboutiquewines on Instagram or is one of the nicest people I have ever met. How we actually met was pretty random. We happened to be on a couple of the same adventures during the KY Bourbon Affair. He introduced himself as a fan of our shows and we hit it off right away. I’m pleased to say we have maintained a great friendship in the time since the KY Bourbon Affair. 

As I have worked to make this transition into the bourbon world, so many great things have happened. I have met so many people I have looked up to for many years. I have a whole new group of amazing friends that have had a hand in building the ABV Network. We have also built this incredible network of people through our podcast listeners, and our social networking as well as our readers of Bourbon Zeppelin and our blogs. 

The work to get to where we are hasn’t been easy, but it is easy to do it with a smile on your face. I mean I worked a corporate job for a multi-billion dollar company for 20-years. I got my ass handed to me in the form of a “corporate downsizing” as a 49-year-old man. Ultimately, I needed that ass-kicking to give me the motivation to chase a dream. That’s kinda sad really, but when they strip away your job, and your prospects of jumping back into the game at my age being pretty limited, you have to find a way to get motivated to control your destiny and that’s what we’re trying to do at the ABV Network. We want to be part of the bourbon world and specifically your bourbon world because we earn that right. Hopefully you like our shows and the creativity we bring to the topic of bourbon. 

So back to my friend Luke.

Renee, Jeremy and I did this amazing interview on The Bourbon Show (check it out by clicking here) with Dave Pickerell, the former Maker’s Mark Master Distiller who became the Pied Piper of the craft bourbon industry helping out more than 100 craft distilleries on his own whiskey journey. Never was Dave better in an interview then he was on that day and never were we better in simply engaging a person.

That interview had a powerful impact on us and if you listen to our shows after that fateful day, you heard us repeatedly talk about Dave and that interview over-and-over again even though he wasn’t the most famous person we have ever spoke to. Of course, we all know the story of Dave ends in his tragic death the past November. 

His death hit us hard and once again reminded us that as much fun as being in bourbon is, our time here is limited. We should be doing things like Dave did… being nice to others, making ourselves accessible to those with questions, encouraging others to get involved in bourbon in a positive way.

So today, I got a parcel delivered. It was a belated Christmas gift from my new friend Luke Otero. A guy I have know for less than a year, but have made a bond with that will last a lifetime. Inside of that package was a card and a bottle of Whistle Pig… autographed by Dave Pickerell.

I admit it… I lost it.

I mean it it this amazing piece of history from a moment in Dave’s life but there was so much more going on. The fact that Luke would do that for me… a guy he met of a shared love for bourbon… that’s pretty powerful. The fact that the reason he sought me out to shake my hand the day we met because he liked the shows we did. An affirmation of the fact that a band of regular people, with a shared passion for bourbon can make the difference in other’s lives to the point of wanting to shake someone’s hand for doing so… also pretty powerful.

I will hang onto this bottle forever. It’s never to be opened and consumed. To me, it’s a representation of friendship with Luke, an accomplishment that the team at the ABV Network is truly taking the right approach in everything we do and a tribute to the special moment when I got to spend some time talking to Dave Pickerell.

As I continue my journey… I do so not to become rich… famous… or respected as a “bourbon person.” In reality, the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing is for moments like what happened today. If I can continue to make friendships like that, then I may not have a big house or fancy car… but I may, in fact, be the richest person alive.