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A day in 'The Bourbon Life'

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Sam Dick
Mark Rucker with co-host Matt Hughes in their basement podcast studio

Go down the steps into the basement of 54-year-old Mark Rucker’s home in Lexington and you immediately come upon small tables, shelves, and closets full of bourbon. All sizes, shapes, and brands.

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Sam Dick
A closet full of bourbon in the basement studio

Rucker does not have an exact count, but he says his wife estimates it’s in the range of 500 to 600 bottles. Many come from Kentucky distilleries. Most of the bourbon made in the world is produced and aged in Kentucky according to the Kentucky Department of Tourism.

And bourbon has quite an impact on the state’s economy. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce says bourbon accounts for 22,500 jobs and nine billion dollars a year. Those kinds of numbers only add fuel to Rucker’s passion for the beverage.

“It’s kinda weird because I don’t make bourbon, I don’t produce it, but I take a great sense of pride in what bourbon does, and what that represents in the worldwide economy. And how it’s perceived and accepted now,” says Rucker.

Several years ago, Rucker combined his love of bourbon with photography. He began posting pictures and information about bourbon on Instagram, and within a year attracted 20,000 followers. That led Rucker to start The Bourbon Life podcast.

After three seasons with more than 159 episodes Rucker’s podcast has attracted listeners from 45 countries, and 275,000 downloads. Those numbers he says now rank his podcast second among all those devoted to bourbon.

“It’s a very humbling experience to know that someone from around the world, someone who I will never meet is listening to a show that I did, sharing these great stories from all these wonderful people.”

The Bourbon Life is a weekly podcast that usually runs at least one hour. Rucker wants to give his guests plenty of time to discuss bourbon.

“I just see myself kind of as a conduit. So, the stories are there, and I just afford these master distillers or these master blenders, these people in this industry the opportunity to share these stories with people around the world.”

Rucker, who is a Lexington attorney, co-hosts “The Bourbon Life” with 36-year-old Matt Hughes. He’s also passionate about bourbon.

Hughes who works in the Engineering Department of the Urban County Government in Lexington spent years working as a cook in restaurants. That experience he says, prepared his palate for smelling and tasting the nuances of bourbon.

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Sam Dick
Hughes sampling bourbon during a podcast episode in February

“I got to cook a lot of different cuisines, try a lot of different spices, and had a lot of carte blanche within a couple different kitchens to really play and experiment. When I’m tasting whiskey or bourbon, I like to try and think of a food or a memory or something that it ties me to.”

Hughes and Rucker have at least one guest on each podcast. Sometimes they are from out of state. Last month the pair talked with Al Laws, President and Founder of Laws Whiskey House in Denver, Colorado.

Sometimes the guests come to Rucker’s home studio in his basement. He has a large table set up with four microphones and earphones to accommodate everyone.

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Sam Dick
The basement studio includes an area to interview podcast guests

He says he’s spent thousands of dollars on recording and editing gear on the podcast to make it as professional as possible. He has some corporate sponsors that help defray the costs.

“I didn’t do it for the money. I did it because I loved it. Don’t go into it expecting that you’re going to make a lot of money doing it.” I asked him if was now making some money. “I’m doing okay. Yea not enough go quit my day job. But enough to buy nice equipment and to be able to market and do some things that I think other podcasts aren’t financially able to do.”

In the end, he and Hughes love sampling bourbon of all brands and talking about it. “I enjoy the flavors. I’m always looking for the complexities, for the different profiles, for the taste, to nose it. So, when I drink bourbon, I don’t want to say it’s an extravaganza, but it’s a sensory adventure for me every time I drink a different bourbon.”

Hughes agrees. “We have gotten to meet so many interesting people and spend so much quality time sharing great stories, not just about good bourbon, good rye, good whiskey, but just getting to know the people. It’s the people that totally make this industry what it is.”

The Bourbon Life is available wherever you get your podcasts.

 Mark Rucker works on The Bourbon Life podcast
Sam Dick
Mark Rucker works on The Bourbon Life podcast

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Sam is a veteran broadcast journalist who is best known for his 34-year career as a News Anchor at WKYT-TV in Lexington. Sam retired from the CBS affiliate in 2021.
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