Whiskey

11 Bourbons you should be drinking

 

Firstly may I apologise for the length of time between updates, but as it has been ‘Bourbon Heritage Month’ I felt I should dedicate myself to promoting this fine spirit in various countries across Europe! Last month I shared with you a few things that everyone should know about Bourbon, so it seems only right to share some of the Bourbons I enjoy drinking. To be honest, for me narrowing it down to just 11 has been challenging as there are over 80 Bourbons in the b&t drinking room at the moment. Of those 80, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a bottle that hasn’t been opened, and most of them get enjoyed on a regular basis.

In tackling this task, I considered breaking them up into different styles to make sure that Bourbons with high rye, corn or wheat recipes were well represented, but somehow that didn’t balance out, as I tend to be a little biased towards rye heavy Bourbons. Then I tried breaking them down by distillery, but there are just too many distilleries! Doing it by price seemed like a reasonable course, but once again I didn’t find the balance I was looking for, so instead I have done something a little less formulaic. Below you will simply find a selection of Bourbons that I like, with a description, and a cocktail for each. There is everything from super premium to entry level Bourbon, some made with wheat some with rye. There are lots of Kentucky Bourbons, but also a few from newer distilleries in other parts of the US. The main thing that they all have in common is that they’re tasty examples of this fine and versatile spirit.

11 things you should know about Bourbon

 

Over in the US it’s ‘National Bourbon Heritage Month’ which is a celebration of Bourbon as America’s native spirit, so it seems only right that I dedicate a bit of time to my favourite spirit. Bourbon has an amazing history, and given its rising popularity a very bright future; yet as a category it is still often misunderstood. Back in March and April I wrote about rum, posting a blog titled ‘9 things you should know about rum’ and then following it up with ‘9 rums you should be drinking’ and as they both proved incredibly popular I thought I’d follow a similar format for Bourbon (although apparently I have 11 things to say on this subject!).

I hope that my thoughts below will inspire you to explore this amazing spirit category and truly get into the swing of Bourbon Appreciation Month. There are so many wonderful products available today, especially with smaller producers popping up at an astonishing rate, that hopefully with a bit of understanding and perhaps a few pointers towards some of my favourites, you’ll find something new to enjoy.

Spirit and Cocktail gifts, all wrapped up

Well it’s that time of year again, the weather’s turned cold, the shops are packed full off people battling to spend their money as fast as possible and every bar has mulled wine or hot spiced cider bubbling away. Yep the run up to Christmas is in full swing, like it or not. So I thought rather than simply trot out a few recipes for hot cocktails or recommend where you should go for your office party, I’d instead work up a list of booze related presents to suit every relative or friend. So below is the official b&t cocktail and spirit Christmas list.

The great thing about giving spirits or cocktail related goodies for Christmas is that you’re likely to be able to share in the enjoyment of the gifts. I know they say that the pleasure is in the giving rather than the receiving, but as far as I’m concerned the pleasure is also in the sipping. So below you’ll find some of my favourite tipples, bits of cocktail equipment and booze related paraphernalia that should help you to have a very merry Christmas indeed!

 

Classic winter warmers

Well Christmas and New Year have come and gone, but judging by the temperature and weather outside, we’re still in the throws of winter! It seems that in every bar I walk into at these days someone is sipping either a mulled drink or some incarnation of a Hot Toddy. On a cold winters’ day there are few things more rewarding than a well-made, hot alcoholic drink.
 
 
It seems that few bartenders actually know what a Hot Toddy is, and when asked for one, serve something that’s a cross between a Blazer and a Skin, but that’s just fine with me as long as they get the balance of ingredients right. You see the Toddy is the simplest of drinks, comprising hot water, your alcohol of choice and sugar; a Skin is similar but with the addition of citrus peel, and a Blazer is in essence a Skin that has been ignited and thrown from one cup to another.
 

Maybe I don't know Jack!

A couple of week’s back I was invited to attend a dinner with Jack Daniel’s 7th master distiller, Jeff Arnett. It was one of those interesting invitations where I didn’t know whether to say yes or no; on one hand it’s always a great experience to meet a master distiller, on the other (if I’m honest), I’ve never been a huge fan of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Of course I ended up saying yes, if nothing else just to see if meeting the man behind the brand could change my thoughts on the product.
 
 
No one can question the popularity or success of Jack Daniel’s. It’s the number one selling American Whiskey; more cases will be sold in the UK this year than of all other American whiskies combined. The brand is certainly well known, to the point where you would struggle to find anyone who hasn’t heard of it. The ongoing advertising campaign around the brand is instantly recognisable and truly iconic, and of course anyone who’s worked in a bar knows that it’s one of the most frequently brand called products ever.

Maybe I'll be a distiller for a month... or maybe you will?!

I have a pretty good job; but if there is one thing I have always wanted to do it’s to work as a distiller. I love the craft that goes into making spirits, especially those that are aged and blended. There is a real art form to it and while I am sure the actual work is hard, the reward of being able to taste and enjoy your finished product and seeing other people enjoy it must be amazing!
 
 
Well as chance would have it, the guys at Spook Media who look after PR for Bushmills Whiskey dropped me a line to let me know that they are running a competition for someone to win exactly that opportunity! Not being fully familiar with the Bushmills range I asked them to fill the gaps for me, and after a weekend spent enjoying and experimenting with a drop or two of their fine Irish nectar I thought it would be rude not to share my findings with you.
 
 
But first a word about this competition. It’s not often that you’re presented the chance to work in a distillery, let alone spend 30 days in Ireland, all expenses paid with £5000 spending money and at the end of it have the chance to produce your own blend of whiskey! To a drinks geek such as myself that really does sound like the next best thing to actually being a master distiller!
 

Whiskey o'clock... make mine a Four Roses, right out of the barrel

With Tales over, hangovers recovered from and New Orleans left as a distant memory in the rearview mirror, we have finally made it into the heart of American Whiskey country. As we drove from New Orleans the countryside slowly changed from monotonous swampland (how and why anyone settled this area is a mystery to me) to heavily forested flatlands, to wooded hills and finally to more open farming land with rolling hills stretching as far as the eye can see.

 

Our original plan was to hit Kentucky and do ‘the bourbon trail’ but someone told us that we might be pleasantly surprised if we stopped in at Lynchburg to check out Jack Daniel’s. So that’s where we find ourselves on a hot and sunny Tennessee afternoon. After a quick pit stop in town for a bite to eat at the bbq caboose (if you get there try the pulled pork sandwich!) and to stretch our legs it’s up the road to the main attraction.