Seems like Bourbon Bars, while a novelty a few years back, are taking a more prominent role in Houston’s night spots. In one weekend I went to 3 self-proclaimed Bourbon Bars and that was just in one neighbourhood. Persistent curiosity about the Kentucky spirit set me off on my own experiment. The ‘Bourbon Guy’ at our Home Depot sized liquor store was very helpful when I explained I was having a tasting and I wanted three distinctly different Bourbons.
He recommended the following, to be consumed in the order listed.
Bourbon Guy called this a good choice for the uninitiated. The lighter and more approachable of three had a spicy smell bordering on black pepper and licorice. The flavours were toasted hay, honey, pepper with an unexpected but very appealing spearmint on the very back of the tongue. The finish was short and clean.
Walking Stick, Single Barrell
When I first smelled Walking Stick I said “Creme Brulee!”. My research assistants laughed but little by little they starting making comments – ‘Vanilla, Caramel, Burnt Sugar, Custardy’. Call me crazy but when you sum those up, its Creme Brulee – QED. The taste was direct, medium bodied and sweet with oak, caramel, pecans, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish here was lingering and sweet, then it snuck out the back door with a quick goodbye.
Knob Creek, Small Batch, Single Barrell
Weighing in at 120 proof you’d expect this one to be the palate hammer. And it is. Bourbon Guy warned me that any bourbon tasted after this one will have no taste. I totally get it now. The flavours were complex and unfolded in layers. First a distinct dried fruit; peaches and apricot. That was followed by a roasted almond, roasted oats, charred oak and leather layer. Lastly I got some spice; a little black pepper, vanilla and cinnamon. The finish was very long and left my mouth feeling like I’d sipped a vanilla coke. An adult vanilla coke.
These were all very good; Walking Stick would probably be my go-to. I would serve Basil Hayden to those not familiar with bourbon or for those who are a bit adverse to strong flavours. Knob Creek, well, that’s likely for the confirmed bourbonistas, I imagine only they will be able to appreciate the bold and complex flavours.
When I asked Bourbon Guy about food pairings he said all I needed to remember was three things: bacon, pecans and peaches. I took his advice and created a bacon deviled egg, which we’ll get to next.