In early May Trent Wolbe traveled to the High End trade show in Munich, Germany. This is part one of a two part series exploring the cutting edge of audiophile technology.

Every American should be required to tour the eight distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail before they are allowed to die. It’s got history (Buffalo Trace goes back to 1773!), free booze for mom and dad (don’t sleep on Woodford Reserve’s loaded truffles!), and kid stuff (Junior can seal his very own bottle of Maker’s in hot red wax!). The raw core of the USA is laid bare as tours unwind: Pioneering entrepreneurs exploited Kentucky’s limestone-filtered water reserves and brought prosperity to future generations, seeing the family businesses through the Civil War and prohibition to their current status as icons worth taking a three-hour tour of.

The most magical part of every tour is the sticky-sweet warehouse where burnt-oak barrels are stacked from floor to ceiling, busy turning a pungent and colorless fermented mash into amber nectar. Years become decades as the barrels approach the ceiling; $10 hooch becomes a $1,000 reserve and then, at the very, very top?