A view from my side.
On my frequent trips to visit family in Louisville, KY, I often visit a local liquor store favored by my brother for its selection of Bourbons. So, over the years, I’ve acquired a taste for it. It’s not something I drink nightly or even weekly, but occasionally, I enjoy a good bourbon. Fortunately for me, the stores sell mini bottles, so it’s easy to sample a bourbon for about $5. My friends at home now eagerly anticipate my return and will even “fund” my trip to the store to bring them something to try. It’s not that we can’t get bourbon in Alabama, we simply enjoy the ritual we’ve created around the mini bottles.
The most recent addition to our little group had never really had bourbon and she wanted “in.” We agreed and put together a little Bourbon Tour list for her. Thus began her introduction to Bourbons. To start with, we made sure she understood a basic principle: all Bourbons are whiskeys, not but all whiskeys are Bourbons. To be classified as a Bourbon, the whiskey must meet a few standards. By law, bourbon must be:
Pretty simple really. The other main grain used is barley. Additionally, wheat or rye is used to alter the flavor. Most Bourbons can be divided into three main groups. (I know some purists out there will argue with me, but this is a “general knowledge” post so cut me some slack.) Traditional Recipe Group – about 70% corn, then equal amounts of barely and rye. Bourbons in this group include Bourbons such as Jim Beam, Wild Turkey and Elijah Craig. High Rye Group – a spicier flavor with a higher rye content. You’ll find Buffalo Trace, Basil Hayden, and Four Roses in this group. Finally, there is the Traditional Wheat Group – this one is known for its softer/sweeter flavor brought on by the wheat in the recipe. Bourbons in this group include Maker’s Mark, Weller, and Van Winkle. This is a good group for bourbon “newbies” to start with.
I’m partial to the High Rye group myself, but enjoy the varied flavors they all offer. Back to the Tour. I put together a simple list of Bourbons and off we went to find a bar that could offer some up. Most of the list is easily available at just about any bar, but there are a few that you probably won’t find just anywhere. Fortunately for us there are plenty of “Bourbon Bars” in town and a handful of restaurants that brag about their bourbon selections.
I’m also partial to drinking my Bourbons neat, that is, simply poured into a glass, no mixer or ice. I suggest you give it a try neat as well, but if you’re new to drinking Bourbon, have is served neat with a side glass of water with a straw. Take your first sip neat to get the full flavor. Then, if you’d like to tone it down a bit, dip your straw into your water glass, put your finger on the top to hold the water in the straw and let some of it go into your Bourbon. Give it a swirl and try it again. The flavor and taste will be a bit milder and you can always add more if you want.
So, finally now, the list. “Gina’s Bourbon Tour”:
Basically, a representative list from each of the three main groups, with a slant toward the High Rye group. So far, her favorite is Makers Mark. We only sample about 2 Bourbons an outing and have only been “on tour” three times so far. It gives us something fun and different to do and is a nice distraction from the ordinary. It’s something we look forward to. We should be getting together again later this week for the next stop on our Bourbon Tour.