Happy Fourth of July, friends and comrades! We’re celebrating with America’s spirit and transporting you to the Blind Tastes Speakeasy. That’s where Michael and some friends gathered last week with our good buddy Steve Berry, a trusted Bourbon advisor and honorary member of team genuine to whom we come often (and him to us!) to compare notes and taste some Bourbon. We last checked in with him here on the blog in September of 2010 so clearly we are due for an update. And timing couldn’t be better, especially since Beverage Director Ryan Goodspeed has added a few kicking labels to our (at least 51%) distilled corn shelf, in addition to our first barrel aged cocktail!
This story begins one night last fall in Grand Cayman, an unlikely setting since the brown liquor you’ll typically find
cascading going down easy is distilled and aged from sugarcane. Michael, Ryan and myself were settled up to the bar, a usual occurrence, but this night was special. Michael had an idea to swap bourbon for the gin in a classic Negroni. I think this was around the time we did our first pop-up at Harry’s Pizzeria with Gabrielle Hamilton, whose everyday negroni is with Noilly Prat but on certain occasions the Carpano Antica, depending on the weather! After a few different versions altering the proportion of sweet and dry Vermouth, he nailed the Old Pal (or was it the Old Pill?) with Bulleit Bourbon, Campari, Dry Vermouth, Carpano Antico, and Orange Bitters.
It wasn’t until Cochon 555 that our old friend, an American Negroni some might say, reared its glorious head once again, this time flowing from a Hudson Whisky barrel, which you can find now as Michael’s Twitter profile picture.
Well, this Old Pal is back, and now it has aged 3 months and is killing it. Steve-approved, of course. Make its acquaintance at the bar in Miami for the first time tonight (!!!), and get the scoop with Steve’s commentary on our new Bourbons, below. There you’ll also find pictures from the Speakeasy, including one of a killer mango snack Michael concocted that I hope – hint hint – shows up at the restaurant, too!
Weller Antique, Kentucky
107 proof – No Age Statement (7yrs) $12
W.L. Weller, Kentucky
90 proof – No Age Statement (7yrs) $10
Ryan’s Overview:W. L. Weller is a brand of wheated bourbon whiskey. The brand was originally owned by the Stitzel-Weller Distilling Company, which was sold several times after 1972. The brand is currently owned by the Sazerac Company and produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. Like all bourbons, Weller is distilled from a mash composed of at least 51% corn. The secondary grain used for the Weller brand is wheat, whereas most bourbons use rye. The bourbon was named after William Larue Weller (1825–1899), who was a bourbon whiskey distiller in the early days of Kentucky. He is famous for allegedly being the first to produce straight bourbon using wheat instead of rye. His wheated bourbon was first produced in 1849.
Steve-Style: Nice summary there. Old Weller Antique (OWA) is currently one of my favorite value bourbons on the market. Bourbon fans have all heard the name “Pappy Van Winkle”. That brand has developed a bit of a cult following and gained a sort of celebrity status. Well, did you know that Pappy Van Winkle (PVW) bourbons also use a “wheated” mash bill? And did you know that PVW brands are also produced at the Buffalo Trace distillery? Wait, there’s more! Did you know that the same mash bill that is used for Pappy 15yr is used for OWA? And that both PVW 15yr and OWA are bottled at the same 107 proof? All of that is true. For awhile there has been wild speculation that OWA is really just a 7yr PVW. The key word being “speculation”. Definitely a “young” flavor to OWA when compared to the more developed flavors of PVW15 but still a great pour for those like me who enjoy a higher proof bourbon. See for yourself sometime! Now, as for the 90 proof offering… This used to be known as W.L. Weller 7yr (WLW) before the age statement was removed from the label. Why? Well, WLW is not a “single barrel” or “small batch” bourbon. What this means is that bourbon from a large number of barrels that vary in age, rickhouse location, etc, gets married together by the Master Distiller to create a consistent flavor profile for the final product. Bourbon law states that in order to have an age statement, the age listed must be the age of the youngest bourbon in the blend. That used to be a 7yr bourbon. What it likely means today is that there is bourbon younger than 7yrs in the batch and that’s why they moved away from the age statement, much to the displeasure of many whiskey enthusiasts who prefer knowing what, exactly, is in their bottle.
Rock Hill Farms, Kentucky
100 proof – No Age Statement (8yrs) $16
Ryan’s Overview: Made by Buffalo Trace. If you want a bourbon that is true to the essence of what a great bourbon should be, look no further than this one. It pays homage to all the proper bourbon ingredients…….. the oak tannins, the vanillas, caramels, rye, the interesting background spices (nutmeg, allspice) all work in unison.
Steve-Style: Another favorite of mine that I happened to enjoy last night at home. Rock Hill Farms is a “single barrel” bourbon. What that means is that each bottle contains bourbon poured from one barrel rather than a blend of various barrels. It also means that while flavor profile will be consistent for the most part, it may occasionally showcase different tasting notes depending on the bottling. Fans of Blanton’s or Elmer T. Lee bourbon should take note as this bourbon uses the same high rye mash bill recipe. I’m a big fan of the spicy notes that come with a high rye bourbon (side note – loved Goodspeed’s move to Redemption High Rye Bourbon as the MGFD “well” bourbon. It’s a great value at happy hour and even better in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan). This one starts out smooth and a little sweet then explodes with peppery rye flavor and finishes with that rye spice along with a little bit of wood grain and char. Fantastic stuff and VERY rarely seen on store shelves down here in South Florida.
Wild Turkey 15 yr American Spirit, Kentucky
100proof – 15yrs $20
Ryan’s Overview: Copper color. Dense and intense aromas of sweet tobacco roasted nuts, baked apples, brown spices, coconut custard, peppercorns, molasses, and ash. A bold entry leads to a spicy and dryish full body of vibrant toffee, honey buttered rye toast, star anise, creme brulee, blackstrap molasses, and cigar box flavors. Finishes with a long spicy, tobacco, praline, and ash fade with firm wood tannins. A powerhouse bourbon for those seeking a walk on the wild side. Smoothes out beautifully with a few drops of spring water that really accents the rye grain, anise and toffee notes.
Steve-Style: Hard as it may be to believe, I have yet to try this one.