- On September 4, 2015
September is the month of the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, so this week we’ll be digging into our native spirit with a little more depth. While rum and brandy were the first spirits widely consumed in America, bourbon became our national liquor of choice shortly after gaining independence. There were a myriad number of economic and political reasons for this, but the end result is the delicious whiskey we have today! The US has since classified bourbon as a very specific type of whiskey that must meet a number of requirements, of which the most important state that it must be: produced in the US, made from at least 51% corn, and aged in new, charred American Oak barrels. As strict as these basic guidelines are, there is a TON of variety to be had with different bourbons. Let’s dive into some of our favorites!
The most traditional whiskey we’ll delve into today is Booker’s. Booker’s was the masterpiece of Jim Beam’s former Master Distiller Booker Noe, and represents the crown jewel of Jim Beam’s portfolio. This is bourbon in its purest form. Each batch is a little bit different, but it is somewhere between 6-8 years old and 121-130 proof. It is uncut, and unfiltered; all go, no slow! This is the epitome of “chewy” bourbon. Made from a pretty standard recipe of 77% corn, 13% rye, and 10% malted barley, this has a lot of the musty, earthy sweetness of the corn coupled with the rich tannins and vanilla of the wood, as well as a touch of savory smoke. It screams for a dash of water to open up, and will do so joyously! ($39.99/was $44.99)
Basil Hayden’s is a bourbon made with a slightly more aggressive mash bill than a traditional bourbon, in that it is comprised of 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley. The quantity of rye in this recipe is about double what a standard bourbon would use as their usual “flavor grain”. This gives the whiskey a big, spicy flavor. Think of peppermint or ginger, with that crisp bite they have, this is yet another element rye brings to whiskey. Basil Hayden’s is a mellow 80 proof spirit, but it has a warm, peppery flavor and a crackly mint back note to balance it out. A tiny citrus pop at the finish makes this bourbon extremely well balanced! ($26.99/was $33.99)
Bourbon derives its name from a classic French dynasty, and Maker’s 46 takes that influence to the next level! Maker’s Mark is one of the go-to premium bourbons, and it boasts the unusual “wheater” mash bill in that it is made from 70% corn, 16% soft red winter wheat, and 14% malted barley. This gives the spirit a softer, sweeter flavor and a big, round mouthfeel. Classic Maker’s Mark is aged for, roughly, 6-7 years. Maker’s 46 builds from that, but throws a bit of a curveball in. In a game-changing move, at around the 6 year mark they suspend five #4 char French Oak staves in the barrel for 3-6 months. This builds on an already fantastic honeyed, nutty flavor of Maker’s and adds a toasty, spicy flavor that is intrinsic to French Oak. We didn’t think they could improve on a mainstay, but somehow they did! ($29.99/was $39.99)