Southern Charm: Tasting Kentucky Bourbon

February 24, 2014 Caitlin Hotchkiss

So far we’ve introduced you to France’s wine and Italy’s limoncello, and now it’s the Land of the Free’s turn to be in the liquor spotlight. Bourbon whiskey is the order of the day today, and its proud home is down in the American south. Produced since the 1850s, bourbon is a barrel-aged distilled spirit made from corn (but can include rye, malted barley, rye grain or wheat), and can trace its French name back to either Kentucky or New Orleans – this is a highly disputed argument, as you might imagine.

Regardless of origin, bourbon is the most well known type of whiskey coming out of the United States, and its popularity is starting to grow beyond North American borders. It remains true to its roots, though – much like how other liquors are regulated by their native governments (such as champagne in France), United States law states that American whiskeys must be aged in new oak barrels to be considered authentic. All that good stuff just means an even more quality product – true enough, it’s pretty tough to find a terrible (or even cheap), bourbon for sale at the liquor store. And for the very scientific purpose of this blog post, we tested out one of the best ones we could find: the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

This choice small-batch tipple was made by Barton Distilling in Bardstown, Kentucky, and has the honour of being the “official toasting bourbon” of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival (yes, that’s a thing). Unlike more corn-based bourbons, “the 1792” – named for the year Kentucky officially became a state – is made mostly of rye mash, which gives it a more complex, spicy taste that’s not quite as sweet as other bourbons. Although it’d be nice as a straight sipper on a summer afternoon, it’d also pair beautifully with barbeque meat – another reason why “bourbon and BBQ” restaurants are so popular.

According to Norbert K., our discerning whiskey taster, the 1792 was not as peaty as Scottish or Irish whiskeys, but was still a smooth drink that’s easy on the palate. It had a nice warmth when you swallow and it rose back through your senses, which is when you got some oaky notes as well as caramel apple and honey (which matches the 1792’s colour, a golden amber with “a bit of a glow to it”). And as always, a few words from Liz K. to sum it up: “It’s smooth. I like it.”

Is your mouth watering yet? It should be – and we’ve got just the solution for that: Highlights of the Deep South. This nine-day jaunt features a visit to an authentic Tennessee bourbon distillery so you can see centuries of tradition at work (and try a few tastings for yourself, of course). It really is a different world down south, and quality bourbon is just a part of it. In the meantime, we’re off to get ourselves some barbeque.

Rossi D’Asiago Limoncello

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