Monday, December 24, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 10!!

We've arrived at the 10th and final day of the 10 Days of Bourbon Christmas!  I hope you all have enjoyed my recommendations for your bourbon drinking friends and family members.  This last post is going to be short and sweet, with a peppery blast of rye spice and subtle hints of fruit.  Yes, this is one you can drink up and enjoy.

Four Roses Single Barrel - a fantastic bourbon
Just this year, for the 3rd straight year and 4th time out of the last six years, Four Roses was named Distillery of the Year by Whisky Magazine's judging panel.  That should tell you enough right there!  The story of Four Roses rise, fall, and rebirth is one of my favorite stories in bourbon history.  Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge, is a man who has my utmost respect.  This bourbon, Four Roses Single Barrel, is one of my favorite pours. 

Four Roses uses 2 mashbill recipes along with 5 proprietary yeast strains to produce 10 different whiskeys.  Four Roses Single Barrel uses just one of those recipes, OBSV, which is aged and then bottled from a single barrel (go figure).  What does OBSV mean to you?  Well, "O" designates that this bourbon was produced at Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY.  "B" tells us that this bourbon uses a mashbill consisting of 60% corn, 5% malted barley, and 35% rye.  "S" means that it's straight bourbon that's been aged for a minimum of 2 years.  "V" means that the "V" strain of yeast was used, a strain that imparts a creamy flavor with hints of fruit and a blast of spice.  The bottle typically sells for $39.99 but I once found a ridiculous sale for $29.99 at a local shop and bought nearly all of their stock.  It's just that good and I loves me a great deal on bourbon!

Bottoms up, my bourbon brethren!  Bourbon Christmas is here! 

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 9

Getting this one in just under the wire!  Had a crazy day today, my first day wearing prescription glasses.  I'm seeing in HD, baby!  I can't believe I waited this long to correct my distance vision.  Played golf this morning and could actually see my ball past 150 yards!  I also shot +2 on the front 9 and +6 on the back 9, good for an 80 which made me really love my new glasses even more.  Ok, enough chit chat, let's get down to business with my recommendation for a gift for your bourbon buddy on Day 9 of Bourbon Christmas.

The Cooper Double Old Fashioned Glass from
Today we're revisiting glassware again.  Why?  Because you can't just have an elegant glass to sip bourbon out of, you also need an everyday utility glass good for sipping neat, rocky, or cocktails.  That's where the Cooper Double Old Fashioned Glass comes into play.  This glass is awesome.  First off, it's a little wider than your average old fashioned glass and it begins to taper towards the top.  The walls of the glass are a nice thickness too so they don't feel like they'll break easy but they are thin enough that the glass feels comfortable as you sip.  My favorite feature on this glass is the base.  This glass has a great hand to it and that comes 100% from the base of the glass.  It's thick glass that has a heavier weight to it.  This is a man's glass, dammit.  It's perfect for a  spirit like bourbon whiskey. 

The official glass of The BTS
I know I've featured the picture above before but I wanted to show how perfect this glass is for a cocktail like a BTS Old Fashioned.  Look at the way the glass allows for the large format ice ball while leaving a little bit of room for easy drinking.  I currently stock 20 of these glasses at The BTS and have 12 more on order.  Last night I held a bourbon tasting that I donated as an auction prize for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Dinner that Cobaya helped put together and the guests loved them.  At $3.50 each, you'd be a fool not to at least pick up four for yourself.  Only downfall is you'll have to wait until they get back into stock mid-January. 

So, there you have it.  Another affordable gift for your favorite bourbon buddy during the Bourbon Christmas season.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 8

Well, it took 8 days but it finally happened...  I missed a day of updating this here site with my recommendation for Bourbon Christmas.  Took the day off yesterday and once I left the house at noon I never made it back.  Prepping The BTS for a bourbon tasting today.  Well, good thing we've got plenty of time to shop for last minute gifts for our bourbon buddies. 

The Bourbon Review is a great source of knowledge for all things bourbon
If you want to learn more about this American spirit, it's best to go right to the source - Kentucky.  That's where the good folks at The Bourbon Review come into play.  The Bourbon Review is published quarterly and covers all things bourbon including new releases, cocktail recipes, bourbon-laced food recipes, and distillery info.  It's a great source of information.  I'm always happy when I open up the mailbox and find an issue inside. 

Another great reason to subscribe to The Bourbon Review - these guys put together some great events.  This fall I flew out with Dad and a couple of buddies for Bourbon Under the Stars.  We met the guys from the Bourbon Review for a cocktail hour the night before then hit the event on a Saturday night on the grounds of the Fasig-Tipton Thoroughbred Auction Company.  It was an honor having the chance to meet a man I highly respect as a professional and Master Distiller and that man was Jim Rutledge of Four Roses.  What a great guy.  Both he and Bill Samuels Jr. of Maker's Mark can talk bourbon all day and never get tired of it.  It was awesome chatting up both of them while sipping cocktails, tasting bourbons, and chomping on some great grub from local restaurants.  This year the guys at The Bourbon Review are putting together the 1st ever Bourbon Classic right in Louisville.  Remember the Bourbon Christmas recommendation on Day 6 to plan a trip to Bourbon Country?  Well, this would be the time to do it.  This is gonna be an awesome event!

So, this Bourbon Christmas season, give the gift that keeps on giving quarterly and sign your bourbon buddy up for The Bourbon Review.  Heck, it's an easy $20 for 2 years so get yourself a subscription while you're at it!  I promise you won't regret it.

Until next time...Merry Bourbon Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 7

I hope you've been enjoying all of my recommendations for gifts you can give your bourbon drinkin' buddy for Bourbon Christmas.  We're gonna go with a slight bit of a repeat today but, trust me, it's worth it.

The Spherical Ice Mold by Tovolo
Yes, we're going back to spherical ice today, this time in a much more affordable and accessible fashion than Day 4's recommendation.  Judging by the feedback I received after posting about the Cirrus Ice Ball Press (as my buddy Chadzilla pointed out, that's an awful name), you guys are interested in ice spheres.  And why shouldn't you be?  They're pretty frickin sweet!  So, on Day 7 of Bourbon Christmas I give to you...the Spherical Ice Mold from Tovolo.

In the freezer I keep at The BTS, I've currently got 9 varieties of ice ready to go - 4 types of cubes, 4 types of spheres, and some of the regular chipped ice you get at the market in a big 10-pound bag.  I've already discussed the benefits of the ice sphere so no need to rehash.  What I can tell you is this - the Tovolo Ice Sphere Mold is the biggest and best ice sphere mold on the market.  I like that they are individual molds. Others that I have in my freezer are trays, and while they work just fine, they tend to leave a "saturn ring" around the middle of the ball because of the way the tray is constructed. With the Tovolo mold, you don't get that ring. These are also the largest ice sphere molds I've found. They fill a double old fashioned glass perfectly. I haven't timed how fast they melt but I'd say it's easily an hour. It's real easy to make ice balls using these molds.

Care for an ice ball with your bourbon, Sir?
So if you don't want to shell out boku bucks for the Cirrus press, this ice sphere mold is the way to go.  You can find them at a decent price here.  I've bought a ton to give as gifts to my bourbon drinking buddies.  I strongly recommend you do the same!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 6

Comin' right back atcha with Day 6 of the 10 Days of Bourbon Christmas!  Rather than take the time to recap all of the great bourbon suggestions I've made on days 1-5, I'm just gonna launch into this one.

Bourbon Visitor Guide
Bourbon Country!
Sometimes the best gift is not a physical entity.  A great gift can be as simple as an idea or a plan.  Day 6's recommendation is just that - a great idea.  Plan a trip for you and your bourbon buddy to visit Bourbon Country in Kentucky!!   There's a ton to do in the Louisville and Lexington areas.  You can check out the regions many distilleries, nearly all of which offer guided tours rich with the history of bourbon whiskey.  I recommend checking out Buffalo Trace and Four Roses though I've enjoyed every tour I've been on in Bourbon Country.  Maybe you try to complete the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?  There's also the Urban Bourbon Trail which consists of many bars with fantastic bourbon selections.  You could plan to be in Louisville for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival or maybe for the Kentucky Derby!  There's even a guide to Bourbon Country to help you plan.  The options are endless.

I've been to Kentucky about a dozen times for work and pleasure and I've always had a good time, especially when touring distilleries.  It's pretty hard not to have a good time when you're sipping bourbon whiskey all day!  Look into it as a vacation right here in the good ol' US of A.  Maybe your gift for Bourbon Christmas is picking up the flights or the hotel rooms?  Regardless of how you put it together, you're guaranteed a great time.  Ya heard me!?!?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 5

Ok, we're back with Day 5 of the 10 Days of Bourbon Christmas and today we're goin' back to the juice.  That's right, another bourbon whiskey for you to enjoy.  This one is gonna be a hard find though...

John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey
One question people often ask me is if all bourbon is made in Kentucky.  Today's recommendation is clear evidence that, no, bourbon is not only made in Kentucky.  The A. Smith Bowman Distillery is located in Fredericksburg, VA.  I had the pleasure of popping into the distillery on a business trip through Virginia.  I had sampled a few of the Bowman products prior to my visit and the John J. Bowman bourbon had quickly become a favorite.  Trouble was in finding it.  They don't distribute in South Florida so I had to enlist a friend to get me a bottle.  Driving through Virginia with spare time meant I had to check out the distillery and pick up a bottle or two.

I really enjoyed meeting with Master Distiller, Truman Cox, on my visit along with a few other employees at the friendly distillery.  Truman had a ton of passion for distilling and aging some great whiskey and that really shows in the Bowman Brothers, John J Bowman, and Abraham Bowman products.  The John J. is my current favorite and my frontrunner for new bourbon of the year at The BTS.  John J. Bowman is triple distilled.  The first 2 distillations take place at Buffalo Trace while the last distillation takes place at the A. Smith Bowman facility.  This bourbon is then aged 12-14 years (based on my experiences w/ the regular product and some private bottlings) standing straight up at the Bowman facility and bottled at 100 proof.  This is a phenomenal bourbon whiskey.  Fragrant nose, tasting hints of toffee, chocolate, fig, and hints of vanilla.  Delicious!

The A. Smith Bowman Distillery aging warehouse
This is a rare find here in South Florida but do some digging and you may be able to source some for yourself of your best bourbon buddy.  That or take a quick flight to DC and make the drive about an hour or so South to the A. Smith Bowman Distillery and pick up a bottle for yourself!!

Until tomorrow!

Monday, December 17, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 4

So now for Bourbon Christmas you've got a little piece of bourbon history to read, some great juice, and a nice glass to sip it in.  But what if you want to sip your bourbon on the rocks?  On Day 4 of the 10 Days of Bourbon Christmas, we'll address the topic of ice in a premium way.  Yup, we're blowing the bourbon budget with Day 4's recommendation.  This is the one you get for the bourbon lover who really appreciates his spirit and who takes care of you with bourbon recommendations, tastings, knowledge tidbits, bottle finds, bottle deals, etc.  (I hope you're picking up the hints I'm dropping...)

Picture of 2.00" Cirrus Press
MackDaddy of Ice - The Cirrus Ice Ball Press
When it comes to drinking bourbon, I always recommend trying it neat first, with no water or ice added in.  This allows you to get the full flavor of the whiskey as intended by the Master Distiller who gave it life.  But sometimes you'll want to add a little ice.  Adding ice will cool and dilute your bourbon, bringing it down in proof.  For many, this makes drinking bourbon a bit more palatable.  Be wary though - traditional ice cubes tend to melt rather quickly and too much can lead to drinking a glass of water with bourbon essence.  That's a buzzkill.  This is where having the Cirrus Ice Ball Press is a major advantage.

You see, ice as a sphere melts slower than ice as a cube.  Why?  Simple science.  A sphere made of ice has less surface area in contact with the liquid in the glass than a traditional cube while allowing for the most possible volume.  This allows for a slow, somewhat controlled dilution of your bourbon without watering it down.  A little bit of dilution will open up the bourbon you're drinking and expose more flavors that may have been hidden behind the higher concentration of alcohol.

Goodness, gracious, great balls

Not only does the Cirrus Ice Ball Press help you to cool your drink, it does so in a badass way.  Makes a great impression on guests of your bar wherever that may be.  Check it out in action!

Ok, so it's not the most budget-friendly gift but it sure as hell is pretty cool.  Don't worry if this is not in your price range for Bourbon Christmas.  I'll have a few more ice-related gift ideas for Bourbon Christmas that will produce great results and fit any budget.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 3

It's day 3 of the Ten Days of Bourbon Christmas and so far you've got some history to read up on and a nice and affordable bourbon to give to your best bourbon buddies.  But you know that presentation is everything.  When it comes to sipping a nice bourbon whiskey, you've gotta have the right hardware.

The Glencairn Glass
Today's gift idea is The Glencairn Glass.  This is a glass that's perfect for sipping a high quality spirit.  The Glencairn won the Queen's Award for Innovation in 2006 and has been recognized as the "official whisk(e)y glass" by the experts.  It's got a custom shape, starting as a bowl at the bottom of the glass and then tapering towards the top of the glass which enhances the color, body, nose, taste, and finish of the bourbon.  I really like the weighted base of the Glencairn.  It's got a good hand to it for a narrow glass. 

Check out a good deal on these glasses here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas - Day 2

When I originally set out to do this series of posts my plan was to list bourbon drinking accessories first and then a few bourbons towards the end.  Since there was reasonable outcry that Day 1's gift was not consumable, I thought I'd throw ya a bone on Day 2.

My favorite all-around bourbon - Old Weller Antique

Old Weller Antique Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  Yes, this is a one I talk about frequently as it's my favorite all-around bourbon.  Why?  Let's start with a wheated mashbill that imparts a slight sweetness to blend with the spices and woodiness of the barrel.  Let me remind you that this mashbill is the same exact mashbill used in Pappy Van Winkle bourbons, which makes perfect sense since they are both distilled and aged by Buffalo Trace.  I like these wheat recipe bourbons a lot because wheat doesn't have the flavor fireworks that rye has and the result is that you taste more of the part that the charred white oak barrel has played in the aging process.  Speaking of fireworks, this bourbon is 107 proof, or 53.5% alcohol!  Another reminder: Pappy Van Winkle 15yr is bottled at 107 proof...  My favorite whiskeys are of a higher proof.  I enjoy the fiery flavor when sipped neat and also the flavors that open up when the bourbon is taken down in proof through the addition of ice or branch water.  I'm also of the opinion that higher proof whiskeys tend to mix better classic cocktails, like The BTS Old Fashioned shown above, as they keep the alcohol on center stage.

Ok, so here you have a bourbon that has the same mashbill, proof, and producer as Pappy Van Winkle 15yr.  It's gotta be expensive, right?  HELL NO!  You can find OWA locally here in Miami for about $25! BOOM!

Instead of killing yourself trying to locate a bottle of Pappy this holiday season and then emptying your wallet when you finally do, take the smart approach and give Old Weller Antique a try.  It's a fantastic bourbon at a reasonable price.  Plus, you'll save some money to buy even more Bourbon Christmas items!

Stay tuned!

Friday, December 14, 2012

10 Days of Bourbon Christmas

Christmas is a-comin' and I thought I'd give you some great ideas on what gifts to get the bourbon drinker in your life.  I'll be posting a new idea each day right up until Christmas Eve so stay tuned! 


Today's gift idea is a book that gives a great insight to the history of one of the most sought after bourbons on the market today - Pappy Van Winkle.  But Always Fine Bourbon is the story of the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery which for a large part of the 20th century was known for making the finest bourbon in the world.  It's also the story of the Van Winkle family and Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle himself.  I really enjoyed learning this piece of bourbon history as told by Sally Van Winkle Campbell, granddaughter of Pappy Van Winkle.  For the bourbon drinker who enjoys his spirit and enjoys a piece of American History, this is a fine gift.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Experiment #28: Cobaya Hinckley @ The Hoxton

Sometimes Cobaya happens just by being at the right place at the right time.  Such was the case when I ran into Chef Matt Hinckley at the launch party for Miami's Queen of Desserts, Hedy Goldsmith's, Baking Out Loud cookbook.  I knew Matt from his days working as sous chef at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink.  He told me about a couple of new spots he would be in charge of culinary for.  The first to be opening was The Hoxton, a restaurant in the burgeoning Brickell area with a New England style menu.  That would be followed by BoxPark, a restaurant that would echo Chef Matt's approach to local, sustainable, cuisine with various Florida proteins like alligator, boar, and turtle showcased.  Now we're talkin' Cobaya!

We gathered last Monday in the elevated dining room area at The Hoxton for Cobaya #28.  Here's how it all went down...

The menu tasted as good as it reads

A welcome cocktail, the Bacon Old Fashioned, was a nice start.  The smoke from the bacon was there without being overly hammy and I was glad the maple syrup was tame and allowed the Bulliet rye to shine.  From there, passed apps made their way around the room.  The duck egg quiche was fantastic, fried alligator was crisp and tender, and the rabbit liver toast was a phenomenal bite.  It was go time!

If there's one thing I'm a sucker for, it's fresh baked bread and silky smooth butter.  It's a catch-22 at a coursed dinner because bread is filling but I threw caution to the wind and went at it.  I was glad I did.  The butter was absolutely insane!!  Here we had butter mixed with duck fat, brined green peppercorns, aleppo chili, and chives and I was applying a thick layer to every piece of bread I could get my hands on.  The cornbread was my favorite.  I need to have Chef Matt make me some of that butter for the homestead.  Jerk boiled peanuts hit the table next.  A great snack, spicy and delicious.  Gotta eat the shells people!

Housemade charcuterie was equally delicious.  Duck ham, tasso, and the lardo were my favorites but I really loved them all.  I could go for this plate any day all day.  The duck ham had a nice cured fattiness to it, the tasso was smokey and the lardo just melted on the tongue.  A deliciously spicy homebrew mustard complimented these meats well, as did the equally awesome spread of pickled veggies that included a new favorite of mine discovered on a previous visit to The Hoxton with Frodnesor to discuss Cobaya details - wing beans.  Hinckley pickles these with a fiery spice that I loved. 

A local bitter green salad was next and one of my favorite dishes of the night.  I love a nice, crisp, fresh salad and this one really did it for me.  The bitterness of the endive and dandelion greens played really well with the subtle spice of the pickled chilis.  Perfectly crisp and savory chunks of pork belly added a little sin to this dish but didn't overpower with gluttony.  It was a well-rounded composition.  After the salad, some cider-braised turnips hit the table.  I have to be honest, I don't remember much about this dish besides the crispy bits of pork jowl and that the cider braise gave the turnips a nice texture.  Could be that I was getting full which was troublesome because...

Three Little (?!?!) Pigs
The irony in this dish was that it was dubbed Three "Little" Pigs on the menu.  This was far from a little dish!  Jeezus!  The pork chop was a monster!  Knowing that was going to fill me past the point of full, I went for the crispy pig head first, a delicious pate of pork with unctuous fatty bits, breaded and fried to crispy perfection.  The andouille was another winner.  The pork chop was, as I had suspected, too much for me to take down.  It became the first thing to hit my plate and escape.

Dessert came in the form of ice cream and cookies.  In this case, ice cream made from Oskar Blues' Ten Fidy Imperial Stout and crumbled bits of cookies...made with pig fat.  Yes, pig fat cookies.  Throughout the dish were bitter tangerine segments, budda hand candy, and some citrus zest.  This is where my usual disclaimer of not being a big dessert person would come in but not today as the one exception is ice cream. I didn't get much of the stout flavor of the beer in the ice cream but that could be because I was enjoying the bitterness of the tangerine and all the citrus flavors going on.  It was a refreshing end to the meal.

Being in the right place at the right time to plan Cobaya magic like this had certainly paid positive dividends.  I thought this was a fantastic meal and really got the sense that Chef Hinckley showcased his passion with all of the various homemade meats and accompaniments served in the meal.  Be on the lookout for BoxPark coming soon where a lot of this type of food will definitely be served along with plenty of other surprises I'm sure.  Here's a Cobaya insider's tip for ya too - The Hoxton serves a badass portion of Chef Hinckley's delicious fried chicken along with a couple sides for a mere $10 during happy hour.  Strong buy!

A huge thank you to Chef Matt Hinckley, all the kitchen staff, management, and servers at The Hoxton, my dining tablemates who generously shared some tasty wines, and all of the guinea pigs who keep this Cobaya fire roaring here in Miami.