Yesterday I went to the La Grande Dégustation de Montréal. Unlike the 99% I was looking for bourbon. And of all the different things to taste, there was exactly one (1) bourbon. Woodford Reserve which was right next to the Jack Daniels stand, which makes sense as both are brands that are owned by Brown-Forman, unfortunately they decided not to bring Early Times or Early Times 354. The Woodford Reserve was as expected, extremely tasty.
However, we were able to think quickly on our feet, and sampled from very fine scotches. Our first stop was at the Edrington Group/Beam Global booths. While Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s and Booker’s are all available from the SAQ, they weren’t at La Grande Dégustation de Montréal. I spent some time talking with the folk at the booth about making Baker’s, Old Grand-Dad and Old Crow available in Quebec.
They did have Highland Park and The Macallan both of which were extremely tasty in a bunch of different variations. If I remember correctly, we sampled Macallan 15 year-old and 18 year-old along with the 18 year-old Highland Park. Video to follow as soon as I have time to edit things down.
All of which is a long winded way to get around to talking about Bourbon Whiskey, Our Native Spirit by Bernie Lubbers. Pretty much the first time in a long time I’ve picked up what I would call a textbook. If you didn’t realize, me and textbooks are not a terribly good mix, most of the time.
This time however, I’m probably going to go back and read it a second time. Voluntarily. While it just scratches the surface, it is a very nice entry into the world that is bourbon, and by extension whiskies and other distilled beverages.
Recently I’ve been doing some tastings of different types of bourbons (sadly, only ten) and for the most part end up concentrating on color, smell and taste. After reading Mr. Lubber’s book I was informed of a bunch of things about bourbon (and by extension American and Canadian whiskies) that enabled me to look like a superstar at La Grande Dégustation de Montréal.
Things like asking about how barrels were racked. Or the effects of different types of barrels on whiskies (because unlike bourbon which must be stored for at least four years in new oak barrels that have been charred, other types of whiskies don’t have such restrictions). I brought a checklist with me to the tasting in order to remember to discuss the recipe used, the number of distillations, how the grain is milled, the racking, the yeast and the barrels. All of which will affect the final product.
I only was able to think to ask those kind of questions, thanks to Mr. Lubber’s book, which goes into some detail about how those things affect bourbon.
The one fault I would point out with the book – which might not be a fault for you – is that there is a large chapter on places to visit in Kentucky when on the Bourbon Trail. And while Mr. Lubber is very good at explaining the various nuances about bourbon, he isn’t quite as compelling when writing about bars, restaurants and hotels in Kentucky. But that’s a minor point, given that he devotes two chapters to the history of bourbon, and another to various bourbon recipes.
I’m going to have to track down some more books on bourbon if I expect to become a better informed bourbon drinker.