Here at the bourbon journal, we love to blog about the great bourbons that we drink. Some bourbons suit us better than others so they make the cut and end up with an honorable mention on our site. Just to be clear to our readers, we only write about bourbons that we drink, and we aim to drink’em all at least once! That being said, we buy our own bourbon so that we can write about it without bias or influence outside of the regular old enjoyment of it. I might mention getting our hands on a “review bottle” from time to time, but that is only when I want to taste a bourbon before it makes its debut on the store shelves. Any commercially available bourbon that I write about on this blog has been purchased, placed in a brown bag, and carried out of a store, no bells and whistles about it!
The point of this rant is to make sure that you all, my faithful readers, know that you are reading genuine material when you stop by our blog. We don’t sell out to any endorsements and we certainly don’t benefit from any corporate handouts. We love bourbon because it is a down to earth spirit that can be enjoyed by anyone. It would just be a damn shame to disrespect that in any way!
Now that I got that out of the way, I want to let you all know that we are making great progress on our bourbon reviews page. I know it seems like we have been taking our sweet time putting that together, but you should know that my co-editor and I have been busy bees with it for over a month now. Just when we think we got it all figured out, we find a new bourbon or a new idea and it just mixes things all up! It has also been quite a task deciding on the template for our forum, which I think we have pretty much nailed down now. So keep your eyes peeled for bourbon reviews to start popping up on our site soon!
I should start by saying thanks to the good people with the Maker’s Mark ambassador program for hosting the local Raleigh ambassadors at Isaac Hunter’s Oak City Tavern this past Thursday evening. It was a great opportunity to socialize with other bourbonphiles while getting the word out about the Bourbon Journal! We had a unique opportunity to meet the owners of the tavern and hear about its legendary history, which I do not want to spoil for you here. I will at least tell you that the bar itself is made from historic barn wood that was salvaged just before the barn was destroyed for a road expansion project. That alone should tell you that this place is all about preserving history and tradition, which makes it a perfect place for a bourbon meet and greet!
If you have not been to Isaac Hunter’s, you are missing out on one of the most robust bourbon selections that we have seen to date in Raleigh. Most impressively, they have a bottle of the elusive Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection that I spoke so highly about in my post a few weeks ago. While you are there, be sure to take note of the beautiful custom woodwork and see if you can get the bartender to take a second to tell you the story of Mr. Hunter and why his tavern belongs right where it is.
Overall, our trip to Isaac Hunter’s this past Thursday was a great success for the Bourbon Journal. We had a chance to talk with Nikki (the ambassador coach for North Carolina) about the new Maker’s Mark bourbon that is slated to hit the shelves in mid July. Despite our efforts to get her to share a taste from her personal stash, she was not about to let anyone drag her out in the rain to bootleg bourbon out of her trunk! Never-the-less, we should be getting our hands on a review bottle in the next couple of weeks so that we can include it in out first round of bourbon ratings.
So far I have heard good things about the new Maker’s Mark experimental bourbon, code named “Maker’s Mark Profile #51″. Although the idea of mass producing an experimental bourbon is not new for most distillers, Maker’s Mark has managed to resist the temptation for 50 years. I for one hope this departure will prove to be a success for Maker’s Mark and encourage other distillers open up their experimental collections to the general public.
Whether you are drinking an exclusive high end sipping bourbon or an inexpensive well bourbon, the key is to drink what you like the way you like it. That’s not to say that you can’t develop a taste for something new. Many people don’t care for caviar or oysters the first time they try them, so don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. If you usually go for the “Jim and Ginger” try a Blantons, or another bourbon on the top shelf with a little water or a couple of rocks. If you’ve read my bio then you’d know that I grew up watching my grandparents drink Yellowstone and only later did I discover that it runs about $12 a bottle (hardly a sipping bourbon). When I was over at my grandmothers house over Christmas break I saw someone had bought her a bottle of Eagle Rare, a very nice 10 year old, single barrel bourbon. I asked her if I could have a glass, to which she said “Oh, you won’t like that, it’s too harsh”. To my palate the Eagle Rare is far superior in taste and complexity, but to Grand Zoe its “to harsh”. She knows what she likes and she’s been drinking Yellowstone and water since before I was born. As long as its bourbon I don’t mind. If your “go to” drink is a well brand with a mixer that’s fine but you could hardly consider yourself a connoisseur. Take Wild Turkey for example, most people associate that name, with slugging down shots of “151″ on your 21st birthday and being sick as a dog as a result, but if you try their Rare Breed or Kentucky Spirit you are in for a completely different bourbon experience. I have been very pleased with both, Rare Breed in particular, less expensive than Kentucky Spirit, it has a light sweet flavor with hints of oak and honey. I promise, it is not the Wild Turkey you remember from college.
When it comes to the actual tasting of a high end bourbon the technique is a little different. Just as wouldn’t put ketchup on a prime cut filet mignon, you wouldn’t want to add a mixer or even too much water to a fine bourbon. Anything you do/add to a great bourbon should be about enhancing its natural flavor. My personal preference is to add about two cubes of ice. This allows me to start out with the strong rich flavors of the untainted bourbon and then as the ice melts it opens up a new taste profile. While adding water will reveal new flavors in the bourbon, adding too much water or ice will simply dilute subtle nuances. The important thing is to find what works for you. Start out straight and add a little water or ice incrementally until you get it to the point where you like it and keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to drink bourbon as long as you enjoy it.