You won’t find a soul more passionate about his bourbon than our long time customer and connoisseur Steve Berry. Nor one more knowledgeable.
With bourbon bungs in the smoker and new labels on the shelf, Steve (Blind Tastes in the food blogosphere) humored us with a little schooling on this uniquely American spirit and its home at MGFD.
Bourbon and cheese? You heard it first here.
How long have you been an MGFD customer and what’s your favorite seat at the restaurant? I’ve been visiting Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink since early 2008 and have continued doing so about once a week ever since. My favorite seat is at the bar.
Why bourbon? I enjoy the flavor of bourbon and that it’s an assertive spirit. It’s also the only spirit classified as a distinct product of the United States and I take pride in supporting that.
What would you recommend from our list at the restaurant? Hmmm… That would depend on a person’s mood. For a casual bourbon, or for the scotch drinker who would like to make the move to bourbon, I’d go with Maker’s 46 or Basil Hayden neat or with a few cubes. Both have a dry, woody finish similar to scotch but with a little spice that creates a wee bit of fire as it makes it’s way down the hatch. Woodford Reserve also has a nice dryness to it along with a floral finish that is rather unique. A Buffalo Trace or Four Roses would be a nice middle of the road in terms of sweetness and spice. My favorites on the current list are the Eagle Rare 17yr and Blanton’s, neat. Both are a little more alcohol forward and have a nice spicy flavor and finish. The Sazerac (Rye whiskey) you carry is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (as is the Eagle Rare 17yr) and it’s a new favorite of mine.
How does our selection stack up to what you can find locally, nationally? If you could make additions and subtractions to our list, what would they be? Locally, MGFD is the spot for bourbon. You guys carry the greatest variety of bourbons and a nice selection at that. Not only that but Michael’s Genuine bar has what every bar with a variety of spirits should have but most do not – a bar menu. Ryan (Goodspeed, the bar manager) does a phenomenal job keeping up with the latest and greatest, incorporating some of the rarer bourbons to the bar stock when they come out each year. I’d like to see a Van Winkle back on the list though. Nationally? Well, your selection is good but it’s no Louisville. Some bars I’ve frequented in Louisville carry 75+ varieties of bourbon. Other spots in San Fran and Seattle boast nice selections as well. I sipped a bourbon in Seattle that was barreled in 1918 and bottled in 1933. That’s pre-Prohibition!
What do you like to eat with bourbon and why? Give a few examples.
The only time I really make an effort to pair a bourbon with my food is when I finish my meal with a plate of cheese. I like a soft, triple fat cheese paired with an in-your-face bourbon like Booker’s or Blanton’s, neat. The best was last year when Ryan brought in the George T. Stagg when it was released in September. This is an uncut/unfiltered bourbon that weighed in at a hefty 141.4 proof for 2009. Adding a small cube or a splash of water dilutes it and draws out different characteristics of the bourbon ever so slightly. I loved that one with the soft Latour that was occasionally “Cheese of the Week”.
If you could craft your perfect bourbon what characteristics would you take from those out there? Honestly, I leave that to the experts. I get more enjoyment out of sipping a variety of bourbons than I would dissecting each bourbon I liked to form a “super bourbon”. Bourbon is very much like scotch and wine but on a smaller scale. There are a ton of varieties to try and each will appeal differently to different people. Just having one would be no fun at all.
What are your thoughts on using the Maker’s Mark bungs for smoking? What characteristics will they impart to a product like bacon based on what you know of this brand? What brand bungs would you personally be interested in using as a smoking wood? I obviously love the idea but boy is that an awful name for those things. You’re not going to taste bourbon so to speak but the smokiness from the plug and barrel char and maybe some of the sweetness from the Maker’s (vanilla, caramel, dried fruit, molasses) will show up in the flavor. I liked the smoky flavor imparted on the Bourbon Smoked Pork Belly that I had last week. The smoked mussels on the pizza with chorizo were crazy good too! I just got a bag of bourbon barrel chips along with some bourbon smoked sea salt and bourbon smoked peppercorns from Bourbon Barrel Foods that I plan to experiment with. The salt is very interesting. I’ll keep you posted.