The long awaited (at least by me) Wild Turkey Bourbon Tasting is finally on the calendar- we’re all set for Saturday, May 4 at 6 pm (don’t worry, we won’t miss the Derby!). We’ve assembled the essential progression of Wild Turkey offerings that span the illustrious careers of Master Distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell, the only active father/son Master Distillers in the world. For over 60 years, no other name has appeared on a Wild Turkey label until 2018, when none other than Matthew McConaughey– the new “Creative Director” of Wild Turkey (allrightallrightallright!!)– was added on the label of a new release called “Longbranch”.
We’ll be sampling this new collaboration between the Russells and McConaughey, along with 5 other classic examples (pictured below) of this legendary brand: Wild Turkey (the original), Wild Turkey 101 (higher proof and rye content), Russell’s Reserve 10 Year (small batch and well aged), Rare Breed (barrel proof and uncut), Longbranch (the aforementioned) and Diamond Anniversary (a tribute to Jimmy from Eddie on his 60th year as Master Distiller). We’ll discover the unique elements that set Wild Turkey apart, including the use of the deep #4 “alligator” barrel char, which is the deepest char available and produces the signature amber color and bold taste. If we have enough time and interest (can’t imagine why not!), we’ll try the Makers Keep 17- the oldest expression of Wild Turkey. I’ll leave it you to decide if advanced age becomes Wild Turkey.
So, please mark your calendar and join us for a wild ride that should give you a new appreciation of this iconic brand.
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So let me begin by apologizing for the long sabbatical from the last post. Since then, we did a deep dive into six Four Roses store picks— a very nuanced exploration of the different combinations of mash bill and yeast strains employed in Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selections. I have to confess, not the revelation I had hoped for.
To atone, we’ve assembled a collection of rare and highly rated American Rye Whiskeys, including the two show stoppers below. Yes, we won another Pappy Van Winkle in the PA Special Release Lottery! This one is the Rye of the family and a pretty special one. And the Thomas Handy (another lottery win!) is not too shabby either. The rest of the lineup has a couple of impossible-to-find ryes, all from premier Kentucky bourbon distilleries. In fact, the requirements to be an American Rye Whiskey are pretty much the same as for bourbon, except the primary grain (51% or more) is rye, not corn. That’s why American Rye Whiskey is often called “bourbon’s spicier cousin.” But we’ll get into all that stuff over a glass of whiskey.
Mark your calendars for Saturday January 26 at 6:00 pm sharp and join a very lucky group of Whiskey Enthusiasts at the Main Street Wine Bar in downtown Stahlstown PA. Details can be found at http://www.mainstreetwinebar.com (and sign up for email updates), and reservations are required.
So a detour of sorts from our strict adherence to the “only bourbon, and only Kentucky bourbon” credo. I think this selection warrants the exception, and may rival last year’s epic Pappy tasting.
The next bourbon experience at http://www.mainstreetwinebar.com is set for Saturday, September 29 at 6:00. The theme is yet to be set, but several contenders are being discussed by our expert panel. The bar is high, but you won’t be disappointed! More to come, but spaces fill up quickly. Call the Main Street Wine Bar at 724-593-9463 and reserve your spot soon!
The date has been set for the next installment in the bourbon tasting series at the Main Street Wine Bar! On Saturday, June 30 at 6:00pm sharp, we’ll embark on a journey through 6 examples of Trey Zoeller’s homage to Thomas Jefferson’s innovative and experimental nature under the Jefferson’s Bourbon moniker.
Founded in 1997 by Trey and his father Chet, the brand is now owned by Castle Brands and produced in the Kentucky Artisan Distillery near Louisville. The emphasis and focus remains on innovation through “selection, agitation and environmental processes,” hence Jefferson’s motto: “Alchemy is Everthing.” This dedication to creativity is perfectly captured in the group of bourbons we’ll be sampling: with examples of the foundational Jefferson’s blending prowess (including a 16 year old Presidential Select), innovation (Ocean Aged), and cask finishing (Old Rum Cask Finished).
So call us and reserve your spot for what should be an unforgettable evening at the mainstreetwinebar.com!
Another fun evening of bonding around bourbon at the Main Street Wine Bar (http://www.mainstreetwinebar.com) is in the books— thanks to the 12 participants who brought impressive insight and humor to the room! New friendships and connections were made and a great time was had by all (especially by me!).
The final lineup below represented the Heaven Hill Distillery well, spanning categories of Single Barrel, Small Batch, Wheated, and advanced aging (of bourbon).
An informal poll was taken at the end, and there seemed to be wide support for the Wheated– Larceny– and mixed reaction to the Elijah Craig 18. It’s very difficult to pull off what the Van Winkle line does with a long aging process (too much exposure to the barrel can introduce some less than desirable elements), but this offering was well received, although not the clear winner I expected. The McKenna sparked a lot of conversation and rightfully so– a 10 year old Single Barrel that also carries the “Bottled in Bond” designation. So rest assured no tobacco spit, rattlesnake heads or turpentine were added to the process! Since the anniversary of the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 was celebrated earlier this month (at least by me), we thought this was an excellent way to highlight the topic. The link below takes you to an entertaining discussion of the Act and those who embrace it with tattoos. I’m a fan, but draw the line at body ink.
The next installment of the distillery vertical bourbon tastings is now set: mark your calendars and join us on Saturday, March 24 at 6:00 for a spectacular evening enjoying a lineup of offerings from the Heaven Hill Distillery— Kentucky’s only large independent family-owned distillery. Bourbon labels from this distillery are some of the oldest and best known bourbons in the world, including the likes of Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, Henry McKenna, Old Fitzgerald, Parker’s, and many more (full disclosure- the example below will NOT be in the tasting).
We briefly touched on this distillery in the last tasting event (remember the “Pappy”??): the Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery in Louisville— the successor to the original, which famously and spectacularly burned down in 1996. This distillery has historic connections to Pappy’s innovative wheated recipe. In fact, one of the bourbons we’ll be tasting/discussing is a great example of that connection… but we’ll leave the identity of that bourbon a surprise for those lucky folks that join us.
These events are limited to intimate groups of 15 or so— call the Wine Bar soon and reserve your spot (visit http://www.mainstreetwinebar.com for contact info). Or if you’re lucky enough to have qualified for the prestigious Bourbon Club, you’ll be getting a special invitation!
Bourbon tastings at the Main Street Wine Bar are generally themed around limited release bourbons that can be found though the State of PA’s online store (download the handy dandy “Fine Wine and Good Spirits” app and start searching). With this app, you can also search for and locate specific bourbons in PLCB stores across the state. This resource comes in handy when a particular bourbon mysteriously becomes scarce in your local store, like what happened recently with Blanton’s. This was a regional phenomenon, and there was a brief period when it appeared that there was nary a bottle to be had in the entire state. A recent search shows ample inventory in the state, but only in the Pittsburgh area. Sadly, Philly seems to be bereft of this exceptional Single Barrel bourbon.
Not to fear, the Main Street Wine Bar has plenty of Blanton’s on the regular bourbon list (see complete list at http://www.mainstreetwinebar.com) and even offers a nice flight that features Blanton’s, Angel’s Envy, and Woodford Reserve. This flight is called the Legendary Distillers Flight in honor of Elmer T Lee (creator of Blanton’s) and Lincoln Henderson (Angel’s and Woodford), both of whom passed away in 2013. The original monicker for this flight was the Dead Distillers Flight, but that seemed a bit too dark for such a lovely thing!
Other interesting flights that compare and contrast related bourbons are the Beam Small Batch Flight that features Basil Hayden’s, Booker’s and Knob Creek (the original Jim Beam Small Batch lineup created by Booker Noe) and the Four Roses Flight that features the classic Four Roses Yellow Label, Small Batch and Single Barrel. As an aside, the iconic yellow label is being dropped to better align the packaging of these three brands (we’ll have to change the menu!):
If you have other ideas for interesting pairings, we can always do ad hoc flights- just ask. What about a Maker’s Mark flight with classic Maker’s, Maker’s 46, and Maker’s Cask Strength? Or a Single Barrel Flight, or a Barrel Proof Flight… The possibilities are endless!
Mini bourbon tastings are available to small groups, just request with your dinner reservation.
The Pappy Van Winkle tasting last Saturday was, in the humble opinion of the Bourbon Boss, a perfect combination of bourbon, banter and bonding (and beef!). The 17 lucky souls that participated were inquisitive, knowledgeable, passionate, and by the end of the evening, best friends. We’ll keep trying to shoot for that lofty standard with the next installation of our Distillery Series in March (date to be set soon)— the Heaven Hill Bernheim Distillery Vertical. As we’ve done with other distillery vertical tastings (Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, Stitzel-Weller), we’ll pick 5-6 premium offerings produced by a single legendary distillery (Heaven Hill) and weave a story that connects the history and makeup of these storied brands. As always, great yarns and characters abound. Some of them true!
So to start with, my early uninitiated impression of the Heaven Hill brands was set by some very cheap (and rough) vodka I was exposed to in my youth— I therefore assumed way back then that Heaven Hill spirits were all “bottom shelf.” But this was an assumption born of youthful ignorance.
No better way to debunk that silly notion than to enjoy a glass of Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18. Maybe this shows up at the tasting…
So join us for another journey through a stellar bourbon lineup including quality brands such as the aforementioned Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, Henry McKenna, Old Fitzgerald, Larceny, etc., and learn about the shared heritage between Heaven Hill and Pappy’s Stitzel-Weller and the Jim Beam family. And as always, we’ll end with the best beef filet on the mountain by Chef Hope!
Watch for email announcements and Facebook posts, or go to http://www.mainstreetwinebar.com for information on this and other upcoming events. And come peruse the Wine Bar’s extensive bourbon list (including Pappy Van Winkle, while very limited supplies last!).
We’ll keep the posts coming and welcome comments and questions, and remember, Wine Bars can be great Bourbon Bars too!
The much anticipated Pappy Van Winkle tasting is set for Saturday January 20 at 6:00. 15 lucky participants have been selected by lottery and winners will be notified by phone (see the MSWB Facebook page for the live video). If your name was not drawn, don’t despair— you’re on the backup list and still in the mix if others can’t join us.
While still on the topic of Pappy and its origin at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, click on the link below to read about the history of E.H. Taylor and the newly excavated and restored elements of the O.F.C Distillery.
Gotta love those old time slogans. This one is the original marketing slogan for Rebel Yell, another wheated bourbon that is part of the W.L. Weller legacy at the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, KY. This bourbon, widely viewed as a low-end bourbon, was originally targeted at consumers in Southern states (not so subtly!). However, this line of bourbons shares a lineage with Pappy Van Winkle, and the Small Batch Reserve is an award winning whiskey. If you can find a bottle, give it a try and let me know what you think!