#BourbonHeritage Part II: Take Flight(s)!

Steve Berry is a native New Englander now living in Coconut Grove for the length of time that qualifies him as a Miami local. Find him online on Twitter @SteveBM, at Blind Tastes where he blogs on bourbon and the dining group Cobaya which he co-founded, and of course, at the @MGFD_MIA bar. Follow along as we explore America’s spirit in September at #BourbonHeritage.

Ok, so last week we covered your bourbon basics and made mention of some bourbon tasting flights I’ve selected for National #BourbonHeritage Month.  This week, we’ll examine each flight in detail.

The Gateway Bourbons – Your introduction to bourbon whiskey.  Coincidentally, the bourbons in this flight are all produced by Jim Beam.
Maker’s Mark – 90 proof – This one is the ultimate gateway bourbon.  Easily recognizable for its red wax seal, this wheat recipe bourbon can be found on nearly every shelf.  Oak and slight fruit & citrus on the nose; sweet entry with dried fruit, vanilla, and toffee; smooth caramel finish with hints of oak.
Basil Hayden – 80 proof – For the Scotch or Canadian Whiskey drinker looking to get into bourbon.  The high rye recipe here brings notes of wood, grain, and fresh flowers on the nose; dry entry with floral notes; spicy dry finish
Knob Creek – 100 proof – Another widely distributed bourbon that packs a punch at 100 proof.  Nutty, oak-y nose; nice viscosity on entry with notes of wood and dried fruit; finish is a nice balance of sweetness and spice with a nice alcohol burn.
“Wheaters” – Bourbon whiskey is made from a mash of corn, malted barley, and a tertiary grain that is either wheat or rye (in rare instances both have been used).  Both tertiary grains affect the final product.  Wheat recipe bourbons bring out the flavors of the natural sugars of the oak barrel they are aged in.  These bourbons tend to be smooth and flavorful.
Maker’s Mark – 90 proof – see above
Old Rip Van Winkle 10yr – 90 proof – A smooth bourbon from the infamous Van Winkle family.  This bourbon was the sole label held onto by the Van Winkle’s when their family business was sold off before being reincarnated into the premium brand it is today.  Rich aroma of vanilla, caramel, corn, and spice on the nose; sweet entry with more vanilla and a hint of cherry flavor; smooth finish with lots of caramel present.
Old Weller Antique – 107 proof – You might remember this bourbon from our previous update.  Made from the same mash recipe as Pappy Van Winkle 15yr and bottled at the same proof, this is one of my favorite value bourbons on the shelf.  Just a fantastic sipper.  A bit of alcohol gives way to a nose with caramel, corn, and citrus; sweet entry with notes of wood grain, barrel char, and a touch of citrus with a nice chew to it; long and strong finish with hints of vanilla and pipe tobacco.

“Rye Progression” – Think of the flavors that pop out when you bite into a piece of rye bread.  Much like rye bread, rye recipe bourbon bourbons showcase the spicy flavors of the rye grain.  I thought it would be interesting to show how rye impacts the flavor of the final product.  This trio consists of recipe bourbons from low to high rye content
Buffalo Trace – 90 proof – The flagship brand of the Buffalo Trace distillery.  Using a mash recipe that contains around 8% rye grain, this bourbon provides a nice contrast between sweet corn and spicy rye.  The nose starts sweet with corn and vanilla before giving way to dried spices, grain, and oak.  Those flavors continue on entry with the vanilla notes becoming more pronounced before finishing a little dry as the rye spice makes a final appearance.
Elmer T. Lee – 90 proof – This single barrel bourbon, named for the man who pioneered bourbon in the “ultra premium” market, uses a mash bill that contains 15% rye.  High notes of rye spice on the nose along with some char, vanilla, and cinnamon; entry is thick and chewy with sweet corn, caramel, and cinnamon notes; finish is long and warm with rye spice and a nice alcohol burn.
Redemption High Rye Bourbon – 92 proof – The current “well” bourbon at the MGFD bar, this bourbon weighs in with a mash bill containing a whopping 38.2% rye.  That rye spice combined with a short 2+ years in the barrel means this one packs a punch.  Nose of cinnamon, mint, rye rain, and corn; entry is hot as is the finish.  While it may not be a fantastic bourbon to sip neat, this one shines in classic cocktails.  Try it in a Manhattan or, my favorite, an Old Fashioned.

“One in the Chamber” – Single Barrel Bourbons.  Believe it or not, where a barrel of bourbon is aged in the rickhouse affects its flavor.  More often than not, many barrels of bourbon are blended together to achieve a consistent flavor profile.  Single barrel bourbons are exactly as advertised – bourbon bottled from a single, unblended barrel.  They are carefully hand selected by the Master Distiller to keep their flavor profile relatively consistent.  I decided to showcase 3 different single barrel bourbons from 3 different distilleries for variety.
Willett Single Barrel – 94 proof – This one is produced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) which is not an actual distillery.  They are strictly a bottler who sources their whiskey from others.  Chef Schwartz’s favorite bourbon, Black Maple Hill is also believed to be a KBD bourbon.  Housed in a bottle mimicking a pot still, this single barrel bourbon has a nose of corn, leather, oak, and caramel; entry hints of sweetness – corn, vanilla, caramel but then goes dry and the barrel notes shine – oak, char, rye spice.  Finish is nice and dry with the rye spice taming the sweetness of the corn and vanilla.
Four Roses Single Barrel – 100 proof – I wouldn’t be going out on a limb if I said that Four Roses is the most interesting distillery producing bourbon whiskey today.  They’ve won Distillery of the Year for the past 2 years!  This single barrel offering is made using one of Four Roses 10 proprietary mash bills that contains 35% rye.  This one has it all.  Fruity nose with oak, fresh flowers, and grain; entry starts fruity and robust and gives way to some nice spice; finish is long and smooth with dried fruit and the spice of the rye grain.
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon – 93 proof – Produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery and named for whiskey’s Colonel Albert B. Blanton (the “B” stands for Bacon!), Blanton’s was the original single barrel bourbon and the 1st bourbon to enter the “ultra premium” market.  A nose of citrus and hints of vanilla and caramel; entry is smooth and consistent with notes of citrus, caramel, and a hint of floral flavor; finishes consistent yet slightly sweet with vanilla, caramel, and citrus.

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