November 20, 2014

There ain't enough Bourbon in Kentucky! But there is in Ottawa!

Bourbon flowing at Woodford Reserve
Dierks Bentley's country rock song Bourbon in Kentucky laments insufficient bourbon supplies to aid his broken heart. With about 5 million barrels maturing in rickhouses in Kentucky, that's one mighty big broken heart, Dierk. But come on up to Ottawa. We'll cheer you up. It has been decreed that Ottawa Bourbon week is November 21st to 27th! With numerous venues showcasing some of Kentucky's finest, this is a great time to get to know a fabulous type of whiskey - wonderful on its own, exciting in cocktails and superb to cook with.
One of the bourbon shelves in Bardstown liquor store
In September, I spent an unforgettable week in Kentucky visiting distilleries, and immersing myself in bourbon events at the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival. This festival is an absolute "must" for bourbon lovers and you can read about it in my story coming up in Taste and Travel Magazine Spring 2015.
Meanwhile, head out to some of the Ottawa Bourbon events next week and taste a few!
Like all whiskies, bourbon is created from grains, yeast and water. Lovingly made from corn (at least 51%), a bit of malted barley, and rye or wheat, it's matured in freshly charred oak barrels, and is deliciously rich in flavour.  Each distillery has its own specific mash bills and slightly different production methodologies, resulting in a rich range of products to experience. Although it can be made anywhere in the US, and only in the US, 95% of it is created in Kentucky.

Here are a few of my favourite (bourbon) things..............

Highly affordable, relative to some other types of whisky, here are some of my favourite picks currently on the LCBO shelves. I tend to like higher alcohol bourbon - 45% and up rather than 40%. It brings out more of the rich caramel, spice, fruit, vanilla flavours, and makes for tastier cocktails.
In no particular order...............
Blanton's Original LCBO # 255349, 46.62% ABV, $65. Save the bottle for something decorative.
1792 Ridgemont Reserve Vintages #208918, 46.85%, $49.95. The official bourbon of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. And the one you can savour in your bourbon cocktail in the brand new Beckta 2.0 bar!
Elijah Craig 12 year old LCBO #547729, 47% $42.95. My bourbon of choice for an old-fashioned.
Woodford Reserve Distillers Select LCBO #480624, 45.2% ABV, $47.95. This bourbon is made in pot stills.
Pot stills at Woodford Reserve
Maker's Mark 46 LCBO #225565, 46.4%ABV, $49.85. These bottles are hand dipped in hot red wax and adorned with labels printed by a manual operated printing press. And the mash bill contains wheat rather than rye.

Four Roses Small Batch LCBO 256230, 45%ABV, $39.95. Master Distiller Jim Rutledge is passionate about his mash bills and yeast selections.
Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, 9 years LCBO #255232, 59.2%ABV, $54.90. Packs a punch. Part of the small batch collection from Jim Beam
Jim Beam Devil's Cut LCBO #272161, 45% ABV, $29.95. Toasty and affordable.
Bookers. I mention this teasingly as there is none left in Ottawa until the Spring. My favourite Jim Beam whiskey. Two bottles were snagged for a tasting I'm doing on Nov 27th at The Crown and Kilt Pub in Renfrew. Worth the drive to taste the Bookers!
Tasting bar at Jim Beam Distillery

And a couple of fave cocktails...............

Whether you like your cocktails sweet, sour, savoury or strange, bourbon is a fantastic base. There are literally thousands of possibilities for interesting concoctions, limited only by the imagination and a general understanding of the various elements needed to balance or skew the final product. With some sweet syrups, fresh citrus, countless interesting bitters, alcohol, fun garnishes and the right glass, creating cocktails is an art/science combo that's making a big comeback. If you fancy getting into it, pick up some old fashioned and martini glasses, a Boston shaker, a muddler, some measuring spoons, a jigger or two, a Hawthorne strainer and have fun.
Cocktail paraphernalia

Old FashionedA classic and one of my faves.
Muddle a tblsp simple syrup, a few dashes of angostura bitters, a cherry and an orange wedge. Add ice, 2oz water and 2oz bourbon, stir it up and add a maraschino cherry. Play around with the proportions to your own taste.
American Cocktail (from the incomparable Joy Perrine)
Combine and shake 2oz bourbon, 3/4 oz maple syrup, 1 oz fresh orange juice, 1 oz cranberry juice, 1 tblsp fresh lemon juice, strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with an orange twist.
These are simple and tasty to make at home. Check out the events listings for Ottawa Bourbon week. Mixologists are at the ready to delight you with new concoctions.
Cocktail competition at KBF

Cooking with Bourbon................

In Kentucky I was wowed by the fabulous flavours of bourbon in every type of dish from appetizers to desserts. Delicious in sauces and gravies, bourbon is an absolute staple in Southern cuisine, and an essential ingredient in my kitchen at this time of the year. Turkey with bourbon gravy. Yum! Google on "cooking with bourbon" and you'll get over 9 million results.
Not everything is healthy!
Check out the Ottawa Bourbon week for some culinary events to please the palate.
I'll be back soon with some Scotch whisky picks!