Our man in his living room samples three bluegrass bevvies
IF YOU HAD TOLD ME A WEEK AGO THAT A CLOSE friend of mine was so obsessed with bourbon as to have an entire room of his house devoted to it, I would have believed you and replied with, “And?” He’s a unique individual. But he’s not as different as you might think.
He’s one of the many, many connoisseurs that spend their free time scouring the back roads and byways, visiting out-of-the-way liquor stores and taverns in search of that one elusive bottle that has been languishing on a dusty shelf in the back storeroom for decades.
Bourbon is huge these days. Once regulated to the back porch of Southern homesteads, it’s now become top-shelf and in high demand. Some small-batch distilleries have such faithful followers that even high-end shops on Manhattan’s Upper West Side have private waiting lists with secret customer code numbers. (And I thought getting a low number at Katz Deli was precious!)
Bourbon has been around forever. It is produced mostly in Kentucky, although it can come from any state as long as it’s made from a minimum of 51 percent corn and is aged in new barrels. If you’re in Canada, Tennessee whiskey is considered bourbon as well because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, eh.
This week, we’re into a trio from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, located on the outskirts of the second-oldest city in the state, Bardstown. Also known as Willett Distilling Company, it’s a family-owned distillery that’s been boiling up mash since 1936.
First up to the task is Willett Pot Still Reserve. This amber-colored 94 proof is pretty just to look at in its rounded, long-neck bottle. I’ll have to remember it this Mother’s Day as it would look real nice on the fireplace mantle next to Elvis’s baby picture.
Anyway, this single-barrel eight-year-old’s first impression is nicely sweet with a definite corn flavor. It has hints of nut and rye. But, for the proof, it’s very mellow even without my usual drop of water in it. It finishes quite nice with a little char taste on the back of the throat. This is perfect after just finishing my din-dins.
A glance over to the right reveals a more ordinary bottle with a label that looks like it was once part of a treasure map. Rowan’s Creek, it says. Oh, of course. This is named after John Rowan. His house was the inspiration for the song, “My Old Kentucky Home”. This is a 100.1 proof small-batch bourbon that’s been held captive in a barrel for 12 long years. That should be enough time for it to learn to behave itself. And that it does so very nicely. This one is kinda spicy, but still sweet. I am apt to hold this on the tongue for a few seconds before letting it go down to get the woodier flavor. Again a little drop of water is all it needs.
Now I’ve come to try Noah’s Mill and am a little worried. The label has a serene little mill with a water wheel on it and then I notice, “114 proof”. Now if you’re wondering, that’s barrel-strength, kiddos. Another small batch, it sits patiently in its barrel for 15 years where it develops an extremely complex number of tastes. It’s fruity, spicy, sweet, all over the place. Dang, that’s mighty good! There’s no reason to fret about the proof, either. The mandatory drop of water and it is all happiness and light.
I think I’m going to have to add a room onto my house.
“A few more days for to tote the weary load,
No matter, ‘twill never be light;
A few more days till we totter on the road,
Then my old Kentucky home, goodnight.”