Monday, December 5, 2011

Independent Study

To say I was inspired to continue my "studies" after my trip down the Bourbon Trail is a gross understatement. Basically, I got home, went to the liquor store, bought 5 different bottles of bourbon and decided to invite some friends over to do our own tasting (so I wouldn't feel self-conscious about drinking alone, of course).

I made my own Santa Barbara passport so people could check off each one they tried. Many were not avid or even pretend bourbon drinkers but they were all very good sports and everyone did sample. I'm happy to report some even came back for refills. It was fun to read people's comments.

Angel's Envy was one of the favorites of the night, especially for the non-bourbon drinkers. It was just released this year and has been getting rave reviews. I was in Louisville again a few weeks ago and every bar was sold out of it. Now, that's hard to do in Kentucky! What makes it so unique? It's aged in port barrels for six months after it's been aged in new white oak barrels for four to six years. The result: a very, very smooth bourbon with a fruity, jammy note. It's a bit lighter on the palette but I think that's why some "beginners" really took to it. If you can find it, do try it. It's a treat. Plus it has a cool bottle with angel wings on the back.

In case you're interested in doing some "independent studying" of your own, here's the drill:
1. Look it over — Pour yourself a drink and take some time to study the color. A darker color tends to mean longer storage time, higher proof or some combination of the two.
2. Give it a twirl — Get a firm grip on the glass and swish the bourbon around, a move called aerating. This allows the drink to breathe a bit, which makes for a better tasting experience.
3. Take a deep breath — Part your lips, place your nose deep into the glass, and give the brew a sniff. By opening your mouth slightly while inhaling, you can avoid being overpowered by the alcohol. The smell gives a preview to the taste.
4. Have a drink — To get a complete flavor profile, take a large sip from the glass and work it around to coat the inside of your mouth. This allows the mix to hit different parts of the tongue, from the sweet-sensing tip to the sour-sensing sides.
5. OK, now swallow — Pay careful attention to the flavors as the brew slides down your throat. Test how long those flavors linger. For quality bourbon, the taste should hang around for 15 - 20 seconds.
6. Water it down — Imagine the flavor of undiluted bourbon as a closed fist. Adding in a dose of water to your mix will help you customize the flavor, creating a more intense flavor than drinking the mix uncut.
7. On the rocks — Try pouring the bourbon over ice. As you slowly sip the beverage, the ice begins to melt, allowing you to slowly experience a full range of the bourbon's flavor.

We start them early in Santa Barbara! ;-)

And because I am a sucker for themes, I had to design a menu which included foods with bourbon in them. That way people could eat their bourbon too! The menu included: pulled pork sliders with bourbon BBQ sauce, butternut squash and bourbon bisque, and bourbon caramel topped brie. Recipes to come. For dessert, my friend, Meredith, made these ridiculous bourbon pecan pies. I know, I have nice friends!

I think a good time was had by all considering it didn't wind down until the wee hours of the morning.

After surveying the scene the morning after, I'd say a good bit of damage was done.

I guess it could've been worse: "How well I remember my first encounter with The Devil's Brew. I happened to stumble across a case of bourbon — and went right on stumbling for several days thereafter." — W.C. Fields, actor

Although I usually try to clean up somewhat before I go to bed after a party, there is always that elusive glass you find the next morning that just wreaks and reminds you of a fraternity house.


  1. Looks like such a fun party!

  2. Sounds like a lot more fun than the tasting we had on the ship.

  3. You have always thrown the best parties, even when the rest of us were tempted to serve Mad Dog and Velveeta...

  4. This is pretty much exactly how we learned to do it at the KA Mansion...