Derby bottles

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- For the second year, a local artist is the man behind the design of the Woodford Reserve official Derby bottle.

Keith Anderson's a fixture at the Bourbon Street Cafe at the Brown-Forman Headquarters.

He works as a team leader in the private dining room, but really he's a salesman.

"It's work but we really do have a great time," said Anderson.

It's here where he made his biggest pitch, one that made his dream come true.

Mark Bacon, Global Director for Woodford Reserve, said, "Keith is a great salesman, because he got me two years ago, and was telling me during lunch one day that 'I'm going to do this Derby bottle.'"

Anderson's true passion is art.

"I wasn't trying to be cocky or anything, but I was like, 'dude I have a talent too,'" Anderson said.

He set his sights on a special canvas -- the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottle.

"Once I saw the work, it spoke for itself," Bacon said.

In 2018, Anderson made history when he was chosen to design the bottle, becoming the first African-American artist and first Brown-Forman employee hired to do the artwork.

"I said 'I promise I won't let you down,'" Anderson said.

The opportunity did wonders for Anderson's art career. "My plate is full and that is what I wanted it to do," Anderson said.

He stays busy in his basement studio and he's not done just yet.

"It's funny because I told him 'whoever comes behind me to do this bottle, good luck.' I didn't know it was going to be me," said Anderson.

In 2019, his paintings return.

"He had this vision of how he wanted to do the bottle, and it really was more than one picture in his mind, so I think we needed to give him two years so he could get his total vision out there," Bacon said.

"The first one took me three weeks. The second one took me two," Anderson said.

The Louisville native has seen the Derby from every angle. "Living here in Louisville, Kentucky, going to the Derby, working Derby," Anderson said.

He used that perspective to paint two distinct designs.

"The first bottle is like you're standing on the track and they're coming at you, but the second one, I wanted to have it like you're in the grand stand and they pass you. That's the image that I want," Anderson said.

Using his unorthodox style to bring the feeling of Derby Day to life.

"I love it when the horses come out of the gate, when they're all in there. Derby is quiet, once those horses get there," Anderson said.

With the bourbon available worldwide, Anderson says seeing his work never gets old. "To go to an establishment and have somebody pouring a beverage and it's like wow," he said.

Anderson's determined to make the most of this now twice in a lifetime masterpiece. "Part of history. Two years in a row and you can't take that away," he said.

A new exhibit featuring Derby bottles through the years will open March 20 at the Frazier Museum.

Anderson will also be doing several bottle signings during the month of April.

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