A New Beginning?

Nah! Just time I got back to it!

Happy 2020 to all you bourboneers out there! I’d first like to apologize for my lengthy absence. I had no intention of taking such a hiatus. Life just got in the way I guess. However, the time away did give me the opportunity to broaden, not only my bourbon palette, but my bourbon knowledge as well. Now, I can thankfully add such labels as Cream of Kentucky (KY), Slipknot No. 9 (IA), Walking Dead (Unk), Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style (KY), Rowan’s Creek (KY), St. Augustine Double Cask (FL) and Seacrets Distilling (MD) to my bourbon palette repository, just to name a few. I’d have to say the the Cream of Kentucky was delicious and what I expected from a Jim Rutledge offering. Of course you will pay a bit more for such a fine bourbon (@ $150 per 750ml). I was most surprised by the Walking Dead. It’s distilled from an unknown location, however, Diageo has their hand involved in the production. I was a bit wary of a bourbon semi-associated with the popular long-running television series. But I have to say it wasn’t bad, not bad at all. I’d even recommend trying it if you have the chance.

I added The Bourbon Bartender, The Old Fashioned and The Field Guide to Whisky titles to my ever growing library and would recommend all of them especially the Field Guide to Whisky. It’s incredibly informative, beautifully crafted and eye catching from front cover to back.

But enough about my absence and experiences. I am just happy to be back sharing all things bourbon. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season highlighted by bourbon in its many delicious forms. I look forward to staying in touch throughout 2020. Happy New Year!

BTW, Was Santa good to you this year?

I hope so. I guess I made the “nice” list. Under the tree this year, I found 2 bottles of Blanton’s, a bottle of Basil Hayden, Longbranch, Willett Pot Still Reserve and the coup de grace, a hand selected “Noe Country for Old Men” signature labeled bottle (#4513) of Knob Creek Single Barrel. Special thanks to my daughter, Erica, for cleverly figuring out on getting me such a thoughtful gift!

– The Bourboneer

Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Willett “Pot Still” Reserve KSBW. 94 proof (47%ABV), Aged 8 – 10 years. Willett Distillery, Bardstown, KY.

Fall is in the…glass

Fall is here and there is no better time to get creative with your bourbon. Nothing will warm you up better on a crisp autumn day like the four offerings I’ve listed below. Apple, maple syrup and honey are the prominent seasonal flavors in these drinks. Try one out and enjoy!

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Black Walnut Old Fashioned

  •      2 oz. bourbon (High Rye is preferable – Bulleit)
  •      1/2 oz. walnut liqueur
  •      3 dashes Angostura bitters
  •      Orange peel twist

 

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Hot Pants

  •      8 oz. apple cider
  •      3/4 oz lemon juice
  •      2 oz. maple bourbon (Knob Creek Smoked maple bourbon)
  •      1/4 oz. amaro nonino
  •      3/4 oz. salted caramel sauce
  •      dash of nutmeg
  •      cinnamon stick

 

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Apple Bottom

  •      2 oz. bourbon (Jim Beam)
  •      3/4 oz. maple syrup
  •      3/4 oz. lemon juice
  •      Gala apples

 

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Brown Derby

  •      1.5 oz. bourbon (Woodford Reserve)
  •      1 oz. grapefruit juice
  •      1.2 oz. honey syrup
  •      grapefruit peel twist

 

If none of these offerings meet your fancy or sound just too time consuming to make, then just do what I do. Pour a glass of your favorite bourbon and add a few drops of your preferred cinnamon whiskey (Jim Beam Kentucky Fire or Fireball) or maybe even a few ounces of apple cider like Angry Orchard or Bold Rock. It’s like fall in a glass! Cheers!

 

-The Bourboneer

 

 

Gettin’ “Wiggly” With It

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My friend “Neebs” recently returned from a long weekend get-away in “The Pine Tree State.” Yes, that would be Maine…York, Maine to be more precise. His wife surprised him with a trip just for two, sans children. Can’t deny that I am envious of this fact, but I digress.

During their cozy stay in the quaint, yet well known resort town, a visit/tour of the Wiggly Bridge Distillery ended up being one of their stops. Lucky for me! Named after the smallest pedestrian suspension bridge in the country, the Wiggly Bridge Distillery was founded in 2013 and has been producing an impressive line of spirits, including several award winners, since that time. Their selection includes small batch dry gin, vodka, white rum, award winning small barrel rum, white whisky and small barrel bourbon. Naturally, the small barrel bourbon is what stirred my interest. And graciously enough Neebs picked up a bottle for me to sample. Thanks Neebs!

Here’s The Bourboneer’s review:

The Wiggly Bridge small barrel bourbon is a high-rye offering with a mash-bill of 57% corn, 38% rye and 5% malted barley. It’s bottled at 96 proof (or 48% ABV). Along with the high rye content the 96 proof accentuates the nice, smooth, cinnamon tingle finish.

The bourbon is a “small barrel” offering which generally means the aging process is sped up as compared to the traditional size barrel method. This process also allows the distillery to have their product out to the market sooner (cha-ching $$$).

The age statement on the bottle says the spirit was aged less than 4 years, however, according to the distillery, it has actually been aged “for 10 months.” Anything aged less than 2 years does not qualify as a “straight” bourbon and therefore cannot say so on the bottle. But remember, the process of aging in small barrels accelerates the aging process which in turn gives the Wiggly Bridge bourbon that nice burnt caramel or amber color. Normally such coloration is not achieved for several years in the larger, traditional size barrels.

The nose of the bourbon certainly provides hints of dark fruit and wood, even leather to a degree. However, sweet tobacco seems to be the most prominent note. And if I am not mistaken, I pick up occasional whiffs of agave (tequila) which I’ve never quite experienced in a bourbon. I did not detect the usual vanilla tones found in many bourbons, but there is certainly an overture of caramel oakyness to the palate followed by a finale of ever-present sweet tobacco. And much like in the nose, I sense what I believe to be highlights of agave sweetness rather than the more common notes of honey. The finish doesn’t stray far from the company’s description on their website, “dry long and pleasant with cinnamon and clove.” That’s right on the money!

All in all, I enjoyed my first Wiggly Bridge bourbon experience. Due to its prevalent tobacco and fruit notes, this bourbon drinks much better standing on its own, with ice or with a little water to accentuate the complexity of the flavors. Personally, I don’t think it would blend well in most bourbon cocktails. Anyhow, a young bourbon with an award winning pedigree such as this should honestly be enjoyed for its own merits and not interfered with in a mixer.

I want to thank Neebs for supplying me a bottle of the Wiggly Bridge small barrel bourbon. I am very appreciative. I know Wiggly Bridge has only been made available outside the state of Maine for a few years now, but unfortunately I will still have to wait a bit longer before this hand crafted whisky graces the shelves in my local liquor establishments here in Maryland. Boo!

If you can get your hands on a bottle of Wiggly Bridge small barrel bourbon, I wouldn’t think twice before buying it. Cheers and enjoy!

 

The Bourboneer

 

Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Wiggly Bridge Small Barrel Bourbon Whisky, 48% ABV or 96 proof (aged 10 months), Wiggly Bridge Distillery, York, Ma.

References: Wiggly Bridge Distillery website (wigglybridgedistillery.com), “Wiggly Bridge”, Wikipedia.

Tribute

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Personally, I am glad autumn is upon us. The summer was long and quite taxing at times. In July, my father Lt. Col. C.D. Breme USMC,  passed away. He was only 73.  Life never really seemed to get back on track from that point on. The exhausting tug-o-war of emotions has been constant. Good days filled with laughs of fond memories and, of course, those difficult days heavy, aching from his absence. I miss him very much.

So today I wanted to post this tribute to thank him for the lifetime of love and education. Honestly, I could fill volumes of grateful testimony recalling all my father imparted, but this page is about bourbon. So what Pop and I shared relating to whiskey (bourbon specifically) will be the focus of this narrative.

I wanted to begin by stating that without Pop my interest in bourbon would be scant and I certainly wouldn’t espouse myself as The Bourboneer. Pop was one of the most intelligent people I ever knew and I am not just saying that because I am his son. He was highly educated, overflowing with practicality and common sense and possessed the gifted faculty of knowing vast amounts of information on just about everything, much like the topic of whiskey. Yes, that wonderful distilled spirit from fermented grain.

As far back as I can remember, Pop’s favorite whiskey (whisky) was scotch. Blended or single malt it didn’t matter, he was a scotch man through and through reminiscent of the legendary Ron Burgundy. Growing up in our household I can distinctly recall Pop always having bottles of Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Johnny Walker, Dewars, J&B or even Cutty on hand, rather in a crystal decanter I should say. He imbibed the majority of the time either “on the rocks” or with a little club soda, rarely ever neat. In fact, my first encounter with any alcohol came from an unsuspecting gulp of Glenlivet on ice. To a 10 year old, a mouth full of scotch that was expected to be ice tea was quite the eye-popping experience. I believe I could have sipped gasoline and wouldn’t have had the same reaction. Pure burn! Pop chuckled as I gasped for precious air and chugged water to dissolve the smokey hell fire. A valuable lesson learned about asking before taking.

“How in the world is that enjoyable or even palatable!?!” I’d ask repeatedly over the years. “A refined sense of taste son…a refined sense of taste.” He’d always quip.

Simply put, Pop just had an affinity for scotch and there wasn’t much he didn’t know about it either. He was a literal encyclopedia on the subject. He could explain the “peating” process in remarkable detail, he could, by memory, list the regions of Scotland that produced the specific kinds of scotch and then rattle off many of the labels belonging to each, he would happily recite how scotch was a proprietary spirit of Scotland and could’t be made anywhere else and be called scotch. And I am fairly confident this wealth of knowledge derived not by anything of the written word but more osmotically through his lifetime of imbibing. Scotch and it’s history seeped into his understanding with every drink he took. Seeing how much Pop enjoyed scotch piqued my curiosity for whiskey and essentially poured the foundation for my love of bourbon.

What was even more impressive than his love and knowledge of scotch, was his familiarity with all spirits. You’d think that a man who consumed only scotch wouldn’t concern himself with other “lesser” alcohol. Sure, he had the obligatory gin, bourbon, vodka and rum offerings on the bar, but was a complete and thorough education on other spirits even necessary? I didn’t think so, but like I said earlier he possessed vast amounts of knowledge on just about everything. A true pedagog. Quite frankly, I was captivated by it. I wanted to know more. I wanted to be the Padawan learner to his Jedi.

Pop never seemed to tire from my endless questioning on whiskey. He always took time to answer just about anything I wanted to know.

“So, is bourbon a whiskey?”

“Why is whiskey spelled with and without an ‘e’?”

“What is rum or gin distilled from?”

“What’s the difference between scotch and Irish whiskey or Canadian whiskey?”

“What is straight bourbon?”

The list went on and on. Pop knew every answer. I don’t know if I appreciated him or that time as much as I do now. I miss those precious teaching moments so very much today.

For me, after sampling many, many spirits in search of the one I could call my own, I discovered there could only be one. It was bourbon and there was really no other competition. Like Pop with his scotch, I found the same nose and the same palate for bourbon. And despite not sharing his affinity for scotch, I definitely found a connection with him in my love for bourbon. Both are whiskies and both require that “refined sense of taste” as he always said. Because of that bond, that relationship shared between father and son, “whiskey will always be a part of my life”… just like Artie Lange said.

The last memory I recall sharing a drink with Pop was about 6 years ago. I brought a bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon down to my parents during the Christmas break. I knew he may have only heard of the label but never had any, so I took the opportunity to share my knowledge with him as he always did with me. I could see a “well-pleased” smile begin to stretch across his face. A moment of pride. I was not surprised when he knew much more than I expected about the label, not surprised at all. But what he said next was truly a surprise and one I will never forget. “Get a couple glasses and let’s try it out.” This wasn’t a blended or single malt scotch, this wasn’t Dewars or Glenlivet, this was Woodford, a Kentucky straight bourbon. This was not in his comfort zone. Yet for me, his son, he graciously sipped bourbon over ice as we talked and shared for an hour or more. Man, I miss him! I miss those times as well. There’s not a lot I wouldn’t do to share just one more whiskey with him.

Cheers Pop and rest easy Marine! I love you and I miss you. Thank you for always taking the time to teach. Most of what I know and who I am comes from what you knew and who you were. Thank you for sharing and making me the man I am today. I look forward to the time we can imbibe once again.

Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Woodford Reserve KSBW, 45.2% ABV or 90.4 proof (NAS), Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versalles, Ky.

The Art of Bourbon…(Bottles)

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             (painting by Claudia Hammer; claudiahammer.blogspot.com)

We all know there is a beautiful yet scientific process to making bourbon.  It is an art form really. The artist, or the master distiller in our case, must have a clear idea of the finished work before he or she begins. They must achieve the desired product from the medium and palate of their trade. The different grain combinations that make up the mash bill, the perfect yeast strain for fermentation, whether to pot still or not to pot still, the char level of the barrels and of course the length of the aging process are all aspects in the design that must be considered in order to create their finest work of art. We know this and, of course, we get to imbibe the fruits of their labor with each beautifully crafted bottle.

But what about that bottle? Not what’s inside the bottle, but the actual bottle. It’s the first thing you see on the shelf, right? It’s what captivates your sense of sight well before the contents inside can quench your thirst. For many, the process of selecting a bourbon (unless you are drawn specifically to the taste of your preferences) starts with the packaging. It’s advertisement in it’s basic form. For the Bourboneer, the more the bottle looks like old west canteen, flask or flagon, promising some medicinal value the better. In my anomalous mind, I rationalize such curative comparisons as being healthy and something that’s “healthy for you.” I mean if it’s in a medicine bottle there has to be a therapeutic benefit…right? Of course, there does! (see my past article: “What Bourbon Can’t Cure, There is No Cure For”). The art of the bottle, whether you realize it or not, has a lot to do with, subconsciously for some, the process of selecting a bourbon. The creativity in the packaging is sometimes lost on offerings from larger distilleries. There is less of a need for the wow factor because their product is a house hold name and has stood the test of time. But some of the smaller and even boutique distilleries have done their homework in conceptual design to get their product noticed. Their bottles hook the consumer and the bourbon either reals them in or releases them back into the market. In this age of bourbon growth and enlightenment, distilleries often just need to get their foot in the door (or bourbon in the mouth) to make their place in the glorious world of brown water.

Here are some perfect examples of how the packaging, the bottle itself, recalls an age of a simple, more independent, yet lawless time in ‘Merica!

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American Barrels Bourbon

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Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon

cooperstown bourbon

Cooperstown Bourbon

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Tin Cup American Whiskey

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Lusty Claw Bourbon

 

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Bulleit Frontier Whiskey

 

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Angel’s Envy Bourbon

 

Obviously there are numerous others and the thrust of the matter is clearly subjective. But no matter how creative and unique the design of the bottle, we all know it’s what’s inside that truly counts. The looks can only carry entire package so far, then substance, both literally and figuratively, must sustain the rest. Which is why, for the Bourboneer, there is nothing more aesthetically and delectably pleasing than my personal favorite, Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon. I mean just take at a look at her exquisite beauty. So incredibly smart, seductive, chic, can carry the conversation and tastefully refined to boot! Man I am thirsty!

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So the next time you’re in a liquor store or spirit shop, take a moment to look down the bourbon aisle as if you were at a gallery. Wonder at the many artistic renderings. Gaze at the nuances of the label, the embossed or etched glass, the unusual shapes and sizes. Pay respect to accoutrement and the regalia of each offering. Where does it take you? Then once you find out, snap out of it already and buy the stinkin’ bottle! What’s wrong with you!?! Its a just a glass bottle filled with bourbon. Take it home and drink it!

-The Bourboneer

 

Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Blanton’s Original Single Barrel Bourbon KSBW, 46.5% ABV or 93 proof (NAS), Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfurt, Ky.