September is bourbon heritage month and I thought I would have my favorite bourbon connoisseur give you some fun tips about drinking Kentucky’s favorite beverage. Joe enjoys bourbon more than anyone I know, so I thought I’d have him take it away.
Like any responsible Kentuckian, I cheer on my C-A-T-S, know every word to “My Old Kentucky Home,” and pretend to know (I don’t) a thing or two about what a winning race horse looks like. But it is Kentucky’s oldest tradition that has captured my imagination (and my taste buds) for as long as I can remember, and that tradition is making – & drinking – incredible bourbon.
No, not all bourbon is from Kentucky (just 95% of the world’s supply), but it was invented in the Commonwealth and if you try and convince any of the locals that a good bottle was distilled and barreled outside of the bluegrass state, you will have your work cut out for you.
Everyone has heard of Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam and Woodford Reserve, as these are some of the most popular brands across the world, but there are so many other great bottles to be had, shared and tried. So, as a true responsible Kentuckian, it is my duty to share with you some of my local favorites and the best way to sip them.
HAVE IT WITH SOME ICE
There are many ways to drink bourbon, and I like different bourbons for different cocktails. If I am drinking bourbon on the rocks, I like to grab a bottle of Russell’s Reserve. You can get a bottle that is aged 10 years or the reserve single barrel, and it is made by the Wild Turkey distillery, so it has some of that great Wild Turkey bite to it. Add a little ice and it will tame the burn, but Russel’s still will have a great tasty finish and won’t break the bank at about $30 per bottle.
BOURBON AND BRANCH
If you want to seem like a real expert at ordering bourbon, instead of saying “I want bourbon with a little water,” you should ask for a bourbon and branch. This is bourbon with just a splash of the most local water source (this was cooler when there weren’t faucets). The idea of a bourbon and branch stems from taking a little bit of the water source used to distill the bourbon in order to bring out all the great flavors that are locked in each bottle. For a bourbon and branch, try I.W. Harper. It is one of the smaller batches made here in Louisville by a larger distiller, but is super smooth. A bottle of I.W. Harper will run you about $30 and is always in my decanter.
DRINK IT STRAIGHT, PLEASE!
There are some things you just don’t mess with, because they are created perfectly. Several years ago, Jefferson’s Reserve released their first experimental project called Jefferson’s Ocean. It is bourbon that is distilled and barreled here in Kentucky, then sent on freight liners around the world to age. All of the sloshing and temperature changes pull the great tastes of the wood into the bourbon and enhance what is already a great recipe. It is rare and it seems like bottles are disappearing at a rapid rate, but this $80-$90 bottle should be drank as is – straight.
These are just a few of my favorites, and I have many more as I find my mind sometimes is burdened by good bourbon. Have you tried any favorites you enjoy?