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Masters of BourbonThursday, Oct. 5 - Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023

The Masters of Bourbon series returns to Big Cedar Lodge on Thursday, October 5th with a VIP Meet & Greet followed by a Tasting Dinner featuring Holladay Bourbon's Master Distiller, Kyle Merklein. Spend an evening enjoying many expressions of the "Whiskey Row" on Friday, October 6th at the Old Forrester Bourbon Tasting Dinner. On Saturday, October 7th, enjoy neat tastings and seminars from Horse Soldier, Heaven Hill, Holladay Bourbon, Wild Turkey, & Russell's and end the afternoon at our 4th Annual Masters of Bourbon Signature Event. Join us in celebration of tradition with fine bourbon, delicious food, and great company!

The Details

The Events

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Please check our event calendar for upcoming things to do at Big Cedar Lodge.

Meet The Hosts

Kyle Merklein

Kyle Merklein

Master Distiller, Holladay Distillery

Kyle Merklein is Kansas-born and raised and earned his biological and agricultural engineering degrees from Kansas State, with a Master’s research focus on the optimization of various fermentation systems. He is currently working toward a Ph.D. in industrial engineering as well. Merklein is passionate about bourbon - both making it and drinking it - and notes that he probably thinks about time more than most, knowing that what he does today is not what is most convenient now but rather what will be best for six or ten years in the future. “If you produce a high-quality distillate using time-tested traditions, place the distillate in a well-made barrel, and then store the barrel in a rickhouse for several years - good things will happen. That line of thinking is how I try to approach all areas of life beyond just bourbon.”

As a Master Distiller, Kyle brings his passion for the bourbon industry to production, and the evidence is clear in the taste of Holladay Bourbon. When asked what he enjoys most about his career, Kyle shared that he has always been drawn to technical challenges, so he thoroughly enjoys working through the complexities involved with making bourbon and other spirits.

Between troubleshooting a processing issue to analyzing flavor compounds on a GC/MS Chromatogram, there is always a new challenge to explore.


David Jennings


A passionate spirits writer and critic, David Jennings has cemented himself as the leading independent authority on Wild Turkey Bourbon. His 2020 book, American Spirit: Wild Turkey Bourbon from Ripy to Russell, is regarded as the ultimate resource for Wild Turkey’s brand history. Its follow-up, 2023’s Wild Turkey Musings: A Whiskey Writer’s Retrospective, dives deeper into the storied brand and provides insight into the mind and motivations of a whiskey enthusiast. David has been featured in publications like Whisky Advocate and The Bourbon Review, and has appeared as a guest on popular whiskey podcasts, such as Bourbon Pursuit and Whisky Cast. His blog, Rare Bird 101, has received over 1.6 million reads since its launch in 2016.


Mark Nutsch

Former U.S. Army Ranger & Special Forces Officer

Mark Nutsch is a former U.S. Army Ranger and Special Forces Officer. As Captain and Commander of the ODA 595 Special Forces group, Mark led a team 12 Green Berets, to be the first to land in Afghanistan in response to the attacks on our country on 9/11. Their historic and unconventional warfare experience earned them the moniker, “The Horse Soldiers”, and has been brought to life in the Hollywood film, “12 Strong”, as well as in other numerous leading books, and documentaries. Today, Mark is a Brand Ambassador for the international award-winning ultra-premium Horse Soldier Bourbon brand.