Last week, I embarked on an unforgettable voyage aboard Holland America Line’s illustrious Rotterdam cruise ship. This journey was not only a quest to explore new horizons but also a deep dive into the exquisite world of bourbon. My adventure was elevated by a memorable dinner at the Pinnacle Grill, the ship’s premier steakhouse, where I dined with Sazerac Master Blender Drew Mayville and his wife, Ellen. Over a perfectly cooked filet mignon and exceptional Buffalo Trace bourbon, Drew shared insights from his extensive career in the spirits industry, setting the stage for the enlightening experiences that awaited.

A Unique Bourbon Tasting Experience

Holland America Line Sazerac Barrel Select
I had the privledge of being one of the first to try Holland America Line’s Buffalo Trace Sazerac Barrel Select during a private dinner with Drew Maryville in Rotterdam’s Pinnacle Grill.

I had the privilege of being among the first to sample Holland America Line’s exclusive Sazerac Barrel Select, a special selection of Buffalo Trace bourbon now available fleetwide. This initiative offers passengers a chance to enjoy a bourbon chosen for its superior quality and distinctive flavor profile.

For connoisseurs seeking a remarkable bourbon experience, I highly recommend the Sazerac Barrel Select. Try it in a Manhattan cocktail to fully appreciate its robust and nuanced flavors, which enhance this classic drink with its unique character.

Educational Masterclasses at Sea

Whiskey Master Class and Tasting on Holland America Line Rotterdam
The setting for our 5 bourbons we would taste all from the Sazerac Company

The voyage’s highlight was undoubtedly the Bourbon Master Class, conducted by Drew Mayville in the ship’s Rolling Stone Lounge. At $25 per person, attendees enjoyed an exclusive tasting of bourbons from the Sazerac family, including Benchmark, Buffalo Trace, 1792, Eagle Rare, and Sazerac Rye. Each selection showcased a different price point and flavor profile, providing a thorough exploration of what makes each bourbon special.

Watch my video documenting the class below:


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Enhancing the Experience

Meat, cheese and fruit for whiskey tasting

Complementing the bourbon selection, Holland America Line provided a delightful array of meats, cheeses, fruits, and breads. Though not specifically paired with the bourbons, these savory snacks played a crucial role in balancing the strong spirits, ensuring a pleasant tasting experience without overwhelming the palate. This thoughtful provision underscored the cruise line’s dedication to guest comfort and satisfaction.

Immersive Storytelling

Drew Maryville hosting whiskey master class on Rotterdam cruise ship
Drew Maryville sharing with us one last “surprise” pour.

Buffalo Trace distillery family tree

Drew Mayville captivated us with his storytelling about the Buffalo Trace distillery, offering insights as rich and complex as the bourbons we savored. My friend and I, along with other participants, were deeply engrossed by his detailed explanations of the bourbon-making process. We concluded the masterclass with a greater appreciation for the craftsmanship involved in producing high-quality whiskey and the Sazerac family’s commitment to excellence.

If you ever find yourself on a Holland America Line cruise, attending a session like this is a must. It’s more than just an opportunity to taste exceptional bourbon—it’s an enlightening experience that is as entertaining as it is educational.