I'm just back from Bourbon Street, and I have bourbon on my mind. Of course, in New Orleans I drank Sazeracs, and the flavor of the city is really herbsaint as far as I'm concerned. But I'm thinking about bourbon and the young people I met in Louisville last Spring who told me that bourbon was what their granddaddies drank. It took them a while to come around to it, but they have now embraced it as their own.
Even though my father doesn't drink it, bourbon just seems like the quintessential spirit for dad. In my visit to bourbon country, I learned the distilleries were all pretty much family ventures, though now mostly owned by conglomerates. Even if you don't drink bourbon, a visit to this beautiful part of the country outside Louisville is a treat. I was a guest at the Maker's Mark distillery in Loretto which feels more like a national park than anything else. Historic wooden buildings with touches of their trademark red are set against a lush green backdrop. The tour of the distillery is very worthwhile. It's so old fashioned and small scale you might be surprised, I loved seeing the buckets of yeast and beautiful copper distillation pots.
Maker's Mark is made from corn, barley and local wheat. It is smooth and has featured prominently in my recipe development efforts. It has a sweetness and rich caramel and toffee notes with a hint of citrus. If you like Marker's Mark, try 46, which is also made from Maker's Mark, but is aged with more specially charred oak staves, it's a bit higher proof but still mellow and has more spice and vanilla to it.
There are lots of ways to enjoy bourbon, but if you are drinking it straight, by all means, check out the gorgeous American whisky glassware from Villeroy & Boch. The feel of these heavy glasses in your hands and the way the aroma builds and wafts up to my nose convinced me, these glasses are a must for bourbon purists. Villeroy & Boch make a whole line of whisky glasses for a range of whiskies and cocktails so you can get just the right glass to go with your drink. My thanks to Villeroy & Boch for sending me some samples to try out.
My favorite bartender in Louisville, Joy Perrine wrote the definitive book on bourbon cocktails, The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book. Her recipes are layered and balanced and introduced me to so many new ways to enjoy bourbon. She combines it with everything from amaretto to vermouth. The section on creating bourbon infusions explaining how to use herbs, spices and fruits to flavor bourbon is particularly intriguing.