Friday, March 12, 2010

Talkin' bout Bourbon

Talkin’ bout Bourbon

What is Bourbon anyway? To be called Bourbon the spirit must be at least 51% corn derived. It must be no less than 80 proof and be no less than 2 years old. In addition it must be matured in charred new oak barrels. 99% of Bourbons come from Kentucky but there is no law or regulation that states where Bourbon must come from. The taste of a particular Bourbon is varied from its brethren by changing the combination of other grains and by working with different yeast strains. Ok enough with the academic stuff.

I have discussed some of the lower end Bourbons in another article here on the blog but now I want to concentrate on the higher end. Some names you may have tried are Booker’s, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Elijah Craig Single Barrel, Ezra Brooks, and Evan Williams. I have tried Elijah and Ezra and Evan’s and they are my Bourbon buds when I am in the mood for Bourbon. I find the single barrel bourbons very smooth and tasty no matter what brand I have tried so far. Usually these have some age to them, 10, 12, 16, or 18 year old and the time married to the charcoaled oak really smoothes them right out making for a really pleasurable drink. While there are Bourbon snobs out there just as there are with any drink, I am not one and while I enjoy the single barrels and the higher end I still enjoy many of the lower end products as well. To me if it tastes good then drink it, if it doesn’t taste good use it for car part cleaner or charcoal lighter fluid but don’t drink it. It is all about what you like and what you enjoy.
A year or so ago my friend was down from Alabama for a visit and I broke out the Evan Williams and he balked. “I can’t do Bourbon” he said. I said that it had been many years since he had any so please just give it a shot. He did and was amazed at how good and how enjoyable it was. We sampled the rest of my Bourbon stock that week and while he is pretty much into Crown Royal these days he did enjoy the trip down Bourbon lane we took that Super Bowl weekend.
Ever hear of Bourbon and Branch Water? You might have heard that order in old Western movies or from Colonel Potter on the old MASH Television show. It was the classic order from a southern gentleman when sending for his afternoon drink from the veranda. So what is Branch Water anyway? I must admit that when I was watching some of those old movies as a kid I just figured that people someway cut open branches on some weird trees and water came out which was captured and sent up to the house for the gentleman of the home to use with his Bourbon. Well like so many times in my life I was wrong again. Now I know that Branch Water simply means good clean fresh water from a spring or brook. The branch they were referring to was the branch of the creek not the branch of a tree. So if you go into a bar and order Bourbon and Branch Water you may get a blank stare in return. If you do then just ask for Bourbon and spring water and that should get you what you are after. You can also buy straight 100% corn liquor and I actually kind of like that too. It is simple and clean tasting and of course it is not Bourbon but nonetheless it is also worth a try with several brands to choose from. So go out and pick your favorite Bourbon or one you would like to try and taste away or get several bottles and invite your friends over for a Bourbon tasting. You can have everyone bring their favorite and everyone try all the different ones. It is suggested you serve only nuts and crackers during the tasting portion of the evening as they will help cleanse the pallet between the samplings. Save the cheese and meat for after the tasting is complete as the oils and fats might alter the tastes of the spirits. You only have to have 5 to 10 different Bourbons for a very successful tasting you need not put a 3rd mortgage on the homestead to do this. It is a good idea to include some low end product as well as high end so your guests can really get a feel for the differences in age, single barrel or batch method, and the quality of each spirit. Hopefully they will find one among the many that they like and can enjoy in greater quantity at a later date. Don’t forget to have non-alcoholic products available for your guests who either don’t drink or are the designated drivers for the evening. Lots of couples we know include one drinker and one non-drinker but they usually both come to these events.
Enjoy and remember always it’s not how much you can drink it is how much you can drink without getting drunk…..and never drive drunk. Designated drivers or cabs are the best.
The Whiskey Warrior

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