Bourbon. Barbecue. Unless you are a vegan teetotaler, these are likely two of your favourite words in the English language. For good reason too. They are two great tastes that should hopefully taste great together, right? All of those blogs and food shows can’t be wrong.
I have admitted many a time that I am not a food pairing guy. This still holds true. I typically drink my whisky on its own after dinner. In a dark room. Alone. Just kidding about those last two things. No need for an intervention at this time, I swear.
Anyhow, the food thing. It is hard to go wrong with Barbecue. We have paired it Beer and Wine in past tastings with great success, so why not Bourbon? Both have – maybe not their roots – but a lot of branches and at least a good portion of the trunk make their home in the midwest and southern states of the US of A. It is natural that they would pair well, since each has had such a great deal of influence on the other through the ages.
The other reason for doing this (beyond getting some excellent BBQ from Holy Smoke), is that it allowed us to put another American Whiskey/Bourbon tasting on our schedule. Whiskey from our neighbour’s to the south has been incredibly popular as of late, and the tastings we host with them as the showcase always seem to sell out fast despite the attendees having to put up with me for the duration. So adding another Bourbon tasting was a no brainer, but we didn’t want to just do the same thing twice.
We are seemingly going through a renaissance of Barbecue in Calgary right now. Some of the craft beer joints that have opened up have put in BBQ restaurants at the same time, such as Paddy’s and Prairie Dog. Hayden Block has been a Kensington staple since opening a few years back. But it is Holy Smoke that we chose to order from to pair with our Bourbon tasting, just as we had with the previously mentioned Wine and Beer tastings before.
The food did not last long enough for me to get a picture of it sadly, so without further ado, here is the lineup we tasted our way through:
Burwood Single Hive Rye Finish
Burwood Distillery is located right within Calgary, Alberta. It began distilling in mid-2017. The Single Hive Rye Finish was distilled from 100% Alberta Honey, the spirit was aged in a first-fill ex-rye whiskey barrel for nine months before being bottled in 375mL format at 44.2% ABV.
It is definitely not a whisky, since it is not only too young but also not made from grain, but it is a heck of an interesting dram. Burwood also made a Single Hive Bourbon Finish that was made in a similar fashion, aged in an ex-Bourbon barrel and bottled at 44.1% ABV. $40
This wheated bourbon left Billy Idol crying more, more, more and purportedly used to be a favourite of both Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. Bottled by a company named Luxco, who sources barrels for its various bottlings including Rebel Yell and Ezra Brooks. Luxco now operates its own distillery just outside of Bardstown, KY called Lux Row distillery. Lux Row Distillery just opened in 2018, so it will be a while before this Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is actually bottled from that new spirit. Rebel Yell was previously produced through a contract with Heaven Hill Distillers at their Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, KY. 40% ABV. $35
Elijah Craig KWM Single Barrel
Also from Bernheim Distillery and this time directly from Heaven Hill Distillers is this KWM Cask bottling of Elijah Craig. Bottled at 47% ABV like the regular Elijah Craig Small Batch, the KWM cask version was chosen by us after selecting from multiple samples tested by our staff. As of this posting we were down to less than 40 of the original 190 bottles remaining. $70
George Dickel No. 12
The No. 12 is a high corn mash (84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% barley) Bourbon/Tennessee Whiskey produced by the Cascade Hollow Distillery of Cascade Hollow, Tennessee. The distillery was formerly named the George Dickel Distillery until it was changed in 2018.
Being a Tennessee Whiskey, George Dickel is put through the Lincoln County Process, where the new make spirit is filtered through sugar maple, charcoal before being put into barrels. Apparently, the Cascade Hollow distillery goes a step beyond just using this as a filtration/mellowing method and actually lets the new make steep for a period of time in the charcoal before running it through.
The George Dickel brand and Cascade Hollow Distillery are owned by Diageo, which is the largest spirits maker in the world, also owns the Bulleit and IW Harper brands of Bourbon, to name a few. Even the company would likely admit they are currently playing catchup in American Whiskey right now though, as it’s only Bourbon Distillery just recently started operations. $37
Wild Turkey 101
A solid, bold bourbon at a great price, the Wild Turkey 101 is aged for about 6 to 8 years and bottled at 50.5% ABV. It is made at Wild Turkey Distillery in Anderson County near Lawrenceburg, KY.
Master Distiller Jimmy Russell and Associate Master Distiller Eddie Russell are the only father-son duo in the Bourbon Hall of Fame.
Wild Turkey was named such by an executive from Austin Nichols, who poured some barrel proof bourbon for friends on a wild turkey hunt. The whiskey was a hit and the next year he was asked to bring more of that Wild Turkey bourbon for the annual hunt. $43
Michter’s 10 year Rye
This 10-year-old Kentucky straight rye whiskey is a gem, 46.4%. Only very limited quantities available and infrequently.
While the Michter’s name has a long and storied history, the Michter’s Distillery of Louisville, KY has only been in operation since 2015. Any whiskey bottled that is older than that was sourced from other distilleries, typically within Kentucky. Luckily, the quality of anything bottled with the Michter’s label on it is typically high, regardless of their original provenance.
Other than their single barrel products, Michter’s typically bottles their whiskey from selected small batches of 20 barrels or less. $260
Westland Peated Single Malt
Produced according to the distillery, from “a mash of peated malt that is among the smokiest in the world.” The whisky is matured in new (virgin) and 1st Fill American oak barrels. It is bottled at 46% after maturing a minimum of 36 months.
Westland Distillery was founded in Seattle Washington in 2011. The distillery produces only single malt whisky, which is unique for American craft distilleries. The distillery primarily uses Virgin or new American oak but has also been maturing in Ex-Bourbon, Ex-Sherry and Port casks. The first whisky was released in 2013, and the distillery has quickly risen to the top amongst the crowded field of American craft distillers. In 2016, the distillery was sold to Remy Cointreau, who are also the owners of Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay in Scotland. $122
In order to allow the crew to focus on the food, I ran the tasting blind and did not reveal the bottles until we had tasted through them all as a group. The three favourites for the night ended up being:
The big winner was the food from Holy Smoke, which was devoured by those in attendance, leaving nothing left in remains. The loser of the night was me, as I was sure I ordered enough for myself and the rest of the staff to have some too, but failed. Hopefully, I learn from this mistake for our next tasting!