Tag Archives: bourbon

Walk the Line: Knob Creek

knob creek walk the line

Knob Creek is a familiar name for whiskey drinkers and widely available. Here we’ll add another brand to our long-running Walk the Line series with Knob Creek, a Jim Beam brand (now owned by Suntory) and one of the best-selling “small batch” lines at Beam. Bourbon Curious, my bourbon reference bible, places Knob Creek’s line with the cinnamon-forward bourbons, like Wild Turkey, Bulleit and Four Roses, most of which are my favorite bourbons, so Knob Creek is in good company in my liquor cabinet.

Here are some notes on each, pictured from left to right above:

Knob Creek Bourbon. 100 proof, about $35. For a 100-proof bourbon, Knob Creek is surprisingly sweet and smooth. The mashbill isn’t released by the company, but I’m assuming it’s a pretty typical corn/rye/barley, maybe wheat. The blend is balanced and cool, with just a mild touch of rye spiciness to it. This is a 9 year old bourbon.

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Bourbon. 120 proof, about $45. Similar in taste to the staple bourbon, S.B.R. is a touch spicier and has a more pronounced barrel flavor. It’s not uncommon to find a “high-end” high-proof bourbon these days, but for $45, this is a bargain as well.

Knob Creek Rye. 100 proof, about $40. I love the bite of a high-rye whiskey, and Knob Creek isn’t quite that. Hear me out, though: this is a rye that I really love to drink. Again, Knob Creek’s mashbills are secret, but many (including me) suspect it’s just a reversed version of the bourbon recipe. That is to say, this is not the 95% or 100% rye mashbill that some others brag on, but this whiskey is a balanced experience with the right amount of sweet and spice and ultimately, it’s a sipper with a little more character than the spice bombs out there. Knob Creek’s ryes don’t currently have an age statement, they just say “patiently aged.”

Baker’s Bourbon

bakers bourbon

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to meet Bobby “G,” Beam’s Master Mixologist, and we talked about whiskey and cigar pairings briefly. If you’d like, you can hear that interview on the podcast.

Bobby suggested that Baker’s Bourbon is a great cigar pairing, as the aging for Baker’s puts their barrels higher up in Beam’s rickhouses, creating a rich, bitter and quite spicy bourbon. Baker’s is a 7-year-old, 107 proof bourbon, too, bold enough to pair with even the boldest cigar as well.

Baker’s is shockingly smooth and easy to drink for being 107 proof. I’ve tried it with a bold cigar (Gurkha Red Witch) and a mild cigar (Arturo Fuente Dominican Seconds), and really enjoyed the interplay Baker’s had with both. The Red Witch is flavorful and Gurkhas tend to have lots of smoke output, so it was richness that was the stand-out in this pairing. The Fuente was a milder and earthier smoke, highlighting Baker’s nutmeg flavors. Alone as a nightcap, Baker’s spiciness is exceedingly clear: pepper and nutmeg are the standout flavors.

Baker’s is definitely a cigar smoker’s bourbon and those who prefer their whiskies spicy, like rye drinkers or even Four Roses drinkers, may want to give this bourbon a shot as well.

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

basil haydens

I must confess that Basil Hayden’s has had me a bit dumbfounded since I first broke the seal on this bottle. This is my first time sipping Hayden’s, and so I drank it the way I like to drink lots of my bourbons: with a lot of ice.

I was disappointed. I found it to be watery and extremely mild on my initial tasting of it. Instead of writing off Hayden’s as a bourbon that I don’t like, I began to research it to see how I might be approaching this bourbon wrong.

I had the incredible chance to attend New Mexico Cocktails and Culture this past weekend, and one of the speakers was Beam’s Master Mixologist Bobby G. Basil Hayden’s is a Beam product, so I asked him about it. Bobby told me two things that were helpful: First, Basil Hayden’s is a very mild bourbon, so it should be sipped neat and not on the rocks. Second, it’s the Beam bourbon that has tested to be the most popular with women.

From there, I consulted my favorite bourbon book: Bourbon Curious by Fred Minnick. There is a summary of Basil Hayden’s overall: founded in 1992, owner by Beam Suntory, and named after a famous Kentuckian. But then, a little earlier in the book, under Tricks to Getting Used to Bourbon, I read: “My favorite starter bourbon is Basil Hayden’s, because it’s 80 proof and carries some nuances.”

There you go. Basil Hayden’s is a mild, approachable starter bourbon with notes of citrus (especially orange) and mild tea with basically no spice. Enjoying it neat or in a 3:1 Manhattan is a great way to ease someone into the world of bourbon.

National Bourbon Heritage Month on the Morning Brew (Video)

I talked about National Bourbon Heritage Month on The Morning Brew in Albuquerque yesterday! Check out the video which includes the background behind the Month, some raving about Bourbon Curious, and drinking Four Roses at 7 am!

Here’s a link to our National Bourbon Heritage Month blog post if you’d like to read more about it. Lisa took some great behind-the-scenes photos as well: Continue reading

Bourbon Heritage Month 2013

bourbon heritage month

Bourbon Heritage Month is built on 2 congressional declarations: in 1964, Congress declared bourbon America’s Native Spirit, then in 2007,  Congress named September National Bourbon Heritage Month.

Last year, I talked you though 6 of the most popular brands of bourbon. This year, I grabbed some less familiar bourbon brands and tasted them throughout September. Remember that to be legally called bourbon, a spirit must be:

  • Distilled from a grain mash that’s at least 51% corn.
  • Aged in new, charred, oak barrels for a period of time (not specified).
  • Distilled and aged in the United States.

Here were the sippers that I enjoyed in September 2013 for Bourbon Heritage Month:

Peach Street Colorado ($66): Aged 9 years and bottled at 92 proof. This is an amazing bourbon – complex, strong, spicy, and a tad sweet. If you pressed me and the mood was right, I might tell you that this is the best bourbon I’ve ever had. I’ve become a big fan of Colorado whiskey.

Col. E. H. Taylor Small Batch ($45):Aged 7 years and bottled at 100 proof. A great, balanced bourbon with a bunch of history distilled in the bottle. There’s a good, sweet, and almost fruity, flavor to this bourbon.

McAfee’s Benchmark No. 8 ($12): No age statement, bottled at 80 proof. You will discover online that many claim this as the best bourbon you can buy for $12. I made a Manhattan with it, and it is a very good bourbon, though compared to pricier offerings, McAfee’s tastes a little bit young and hot.

How to: Make a Mint Julep

how to make a mint julep

Much like the Sazerac, the Mint Julep is a simple cocktail whose preparation and mystique makes it seem really complex. Mrs. Simple Cocktails got me a full-blown julep “kit” for Valentine’s this year, so I’m making them now using all the proper tools. I’ve provided Amazon links to everything I used below:

how to make a mint julep

Step 1: take a Lewis bag filled with ice and smash it to tiny bits using a wooden mallet. The Lewis Bag prevents the ice from being “wet” by wicking the water away as you crush it.

Step 2: Next take a nickel or silver julep cup and fill it with 15-20 mint leaves and 1/2 oz of simple syrup. Muddle them gently together for 30 seconds and add a scoop of crushed ice to the cup. Stir well.

how to make a mint julep

Step 3: Add 3 oz bourbon whiskey to the cup and stir more. Add more crushed ice, this time almost to the top. Stir more. Your shiny julep cup should start looking like mine in the photo: frosty and cold! Top once more with crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig and cocktail straws. Optionally, you can dust the top of the Julep with powdered sugar.

how to make a mint julep

Here’s the recipe list once more. Like I said, it’s simple and it’s theatrical:

Mint Julep

  • 3 oz bourbon
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 15-20 mint leaves and a sprig for garnish
Photography by Jasmine Nicole.

 

KGB Naranjo, Bourbon, and Absinthe

KGB Naranjo, Bourbon, and Absinthe

KGB Spirits in northern New Mexico has some new releases in their spirits catalog: Naranjo Orange Liqueur, Taos Lightning Bourbon, and Brimstone Absinthe.

Naranjo is a high proof orange liqueur, 45% ABV where most other triple secs are only about 20%. This means it’s not too sweet and Naranjo works well straight up, as a digestif. Naranjo’s orange flavor is very subtle, though, and you should think twice if you’re considering dumping this into a pitcher of margaritas. The color is pale orange, and the scent of citrus is very muted, but it’s all there on your taste buds.

Taos Lightning Bourbon shares it’s name with KGB’s Ryes-a historical throwback to 1800’s western whiskeys-and it’s sweet, spicy, and smooth. I found myself thinking about it all day after tasting it. Taos Lightning Bourbon is very balanced in it’s flavor, and the expected toasted-wood spice finishes it off.

Finally, Brimstone Absinthe has two unique qualities: first, KGB uses a potato base in their distilling process – just like their vodka and gin, which adds a minty, earthy flavor. Second, Brimstone is bottled at a pretty low proof, the lowest proof I’ve ever seen for an absinthe. Absinthe is typically known for it’s high (60-70%) proof, but Brimstone is a mellow 45%. Because of this, you can actually drink Brimstone on the rocks with no water or sugar added. The lower proof makes it a more viable cocktail ingredient, too.

KGB Spirits are available at retail shops around New Mexico.

Bourbon Heritage Month

Knob Creek, Buffalo Trace, Bulleit, Maker's Mark Bourbons

National Bourbon Heritage Month is September, and this year I decided that it was about time to give a whole bunch of bourbon whiskey a try. I drank bourbon all month, and now it’s time for a report.

To be legally called bourbon, a spirit must be:

  • Distilled from a grain mash that’s at least 51% corn
  • Aged in new, charred, oak barrels for a period of time (not specified)
  • Distilled and aged in the United States.

Congress recognized bourbon in 1964 as “America’s Official Native Spirit,” and while not required to be made in Kentucky, 90% of bourbon is. I tried bourbons from Knob Creek, Buffalo Trace, Bulleit, and Maker’s Mark, and outside of the above characteristics, they vary quite a bit from each other. A good bourbon is usually sweet from the corn and quite smooth, but there are some unique characteristics that each of these has:

Knob Creek ($30): Corn, rye, and barley, aged 9 years, 100 proof, black stamped wax seal on the bottle. Pretty spicy, and not the smoothest of the bunch. Abraham Lincoln’s father distilled whiskey near Knob Creek, and Hank served Walt some of this in the mid-season finale of Breaking Bad a few weeks ago.

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve ($40): Corn, rye, and barley, aged 9 years, black stamped wax seal on the bottle. Significantly smoother than it’s little brother and absolutely delicious. Add water, ice, or both, because this one is bottled at 120 proof.

Buffalo Trace ($20-25): Corn, rye, and barley, aged at least 8 years, 90 proof. Very spicy to the point you might mistaken it for a rye whiskey and likely the best bourbon you can drink in it’s price range.

Bulleit ($35): Known for being a bourbon with high rye content, it’s probably the spiciest bourbon you’ll try. Aged at least 6 years, 90 proof. These iconic bottles were used as props in the bars on Deadwood.

Maker’s Mark ($30): A stand-out in this bunch, Maker’s uses no rye and instead uses red winter wheat with the corn and barley mash. Aged “to taste,” so usually 5-8 years, 90 proof, with the red wax seal. The wheat makes Maker’s very smooth, probably the most accessible of the bunch. You can seal your own bottle with wax if you visit the distillery.

Maker’s 46 ($40): Similar to Maker’s in every way but one: when a barrel of Maker’s Mark is ready, it’s removed from the barrel and 10 seared French oak staves are added to the barrel. Maker’s 46 is then aged “for several more months,” then bottled at 94 proof. Maker’s 46 is a more serious, spicy drink than the standard Maker’s. The number 46 represents how many variations of a “new” Maker’s Mark they tried before the distillery settled on this product.

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