Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bourbon & BBQ



Since 1787, The Buffalo Trace Distillery has been hard at work producing one of the nation’s best bourbons out of their facility in Frankfort, Kentucky.  The distillery recently sponsored a tasting of the whiskey manufactured by The Sazerac Company at New York City’s Union Square Wines & Spirits, also providing attendees with some rather scrumptious Kentucky barbeque for dinner to accompany the tasting while we were treated to the musical talents of a jazz trio that played throughout the night.  With a variety of bourbons and ryes available for the asking, we were given the all-too-rare opportunity to try each of their American made whiskey products to enjoy and contrast their various distinctions. 


Beginning the evening with Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, I was surprised at how unlike a typical bourbon it tasted.  Upon my initial sampling, I actually thought it was a rye due to its strong spicy flavor.  While it technically has to be called a bourbon because it contains 51% corn, I learned that its spiciness is attributable to the fact that its recipe is made up of an unusually high concentration of rye, which accounts for the considerable burn on its finish.  At 100 proof, it is aged for a total of eight years in charred new American Oak barrels. 


My dinner for the evening consisted of pork ribs with bean stew and a side of corn bread (the requisite wet wipes were of course provided alongside the food). 


Next up was Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey.  Aged for five years, this 100 proof bourbon is between 60 – 65% corn, as compared to the much sweeter Buffalo Trace, which is around 70 – 75% corn.  While Buffalo Trace might be considered something of an everyday bourbon that could also be used in cocktails, Taylor is more special, designed to sip on its own.  Personally, I found that the couple of drops of water I added to it from the dropper that the company representative had handily available definitely opened it up both in its scent and in its taste, making it considerably more accessible.  This is the preferred method of tasting the bourbon due to its high alcohol content. 


Last – and the one I recommend – was Blanton’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon.  Aged for eight years, it is very sweet on the nose and contains a hint of vanilla on the palate with a nice, soft finish.  Another distinguishing feature is its exquisitely crafted bottle, which is somewhat reminiscent of the look of Chambord.  Blanton’s has been compared to some of the finest VSOP Cognacs and Single Malt Scotches – and once you’ve tried this one, you’ll completely understand why the comparison is so deserved.  This company has been producing its bourbons aged in a single barrel for nearly a century.    


The reason why the single barrel aging is important is because it distinguishes the spirit from other whiskies that are blended from different barrels; Blanton instead bottles each of its bourbons at the peak of its maturation after it has extracted the maximum amount of flavor possible from the lone barrel in which it has lived.  I enjoyed this one so much, I purchased a bottle at the conclusion of the evening’s tasting.


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