5 things I’ve learned about…Bourbon

I have a new job:   Spirits Reviewer for Wine Enthusiast magazine.  Yes, that’s right:  someone is actually paying me to drink booze and mouth off about my opinions!  And my first review column, on Bourbon, is running in the September issue of the magazine. You can pick up a copy at the newsstand, or view it in digital format on Zinio.

Like a lot of people, I’m an experiential learner. In other words, sure, I might learn by reading, but I tend to learn a helluva lot more from experiencing something first-hand.

So it’s safe to say that in the course of sampling 20+ bottles of Bourbon, I learned a thing or two. Or to be more precise, I learned five things about Bourbon, which I’m happy to share with you, below. I’ll try to keep updating this blog with bullets about new spirits as the other columns come out.

5 things I’ve learned about…Bourbon

1.  Aged = good.   18-year-old Bourbon is a beautiful thing.

2.  The Kentucky stuff is best, by a wide margin. After sampling these bold babies, anything else seems flaccid by comparison.

3.  It smells deliciously, delectably sweet. Caramel, toffee, butterscotch, vanilla. That’s from the barrel aging. Yum. The deep brown color is from the barrel too.

4.  …But it sure won’t taste sweet. Bourbon is STRONG booze. That’s why it’s best over ice (cools the burn and dilutes as it melts) or mixed in a cocktail (to offset the hooch).

5.  The aftertaste (“the finish”) is when you get to taste the caramel & vanilla you smelled in the aroma. This might seem obvious to some, but to be honest, I always thought the concept of a “finish” in a drink was a lot of pretentious hooey made up by snooty wine drinkers. But try a couple of Bourbons, and you’ll learn quickly that the “finish” is tremendously important with this spirit, and impossible to miss.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Bourbon too. There’s always something new to learn!

9 thoughts on “5 things I’ve learned about…Bourbon

  1. This is fabulous! Congratulations! I’m looking forward to reading it.

    I’ve just discovered a new favorite cocktail: The bourbon sour. mmmm

  2. Just found your blog after hearing your spot on Splendid Table. How wonderful to see your post about bourbon! I come from a long line of whiskey drinkers, and though my father is on to scotch now (he’s gotten all middle class on us), I’m still quite committed to Kentucky bourbon. And sentimental about it, particularly after one or two. One great way to use bourbon is in a Briar Patch, which you’ve probably had before, but please please please tell your readers about the deliciousness. http://life-should-be-beautiful.blogspot.com/2008/12/cocktail-of-week-briar-patch.html

  3. Pingback: 5 Things I’ve Learned About…Rye « Spice & Ice, and more…

  4. Bourbon is wonderful stuff! I prefer it straight with maybe a litte bit of water if it has a really high ABV. It’s amazing how potent it can get. Booker’s is the strongest stuff that I’ve owned (George T Stagg is even more potent and very very delicious!) . I had it straight a couple times and it was like a punch to the side of the head. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it though. For a whiskey that has an ABV > 60%, it is still incredibly smooth and flavorful. If I had to pick some favorites, I would go with Knob Creek, Eagle Rare 17, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, and Woodford Reserve. Great stuff!


    • LOL – “it was like a punch to the side of the head. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it though.”

      Those are all fine picks – lately I’ve been drinking lighter bourbon, with ginger ale and a squeeze of lime juice.

      • Bourbon and Ginger Ale with a wedge of lime… my classic wedding drink and my gateway to bourbon in general! And then there are the variations… Bourbon & Ginger Beer & Lime… Goslings Black Seal Rum & Ginger Beer & Lime aka The Dark & Stormy… Root Liquor & Ginger Beer & Lime aka The Root & Stormy! FUN STUFF! 🙂


  5. Four Roses Single Barrel is my go-to and constantly in my cabinet. Best juice ever (for the price). Once I graduate and start making real money, I’m investing in A.H. Hirsh 16 year. ($290 a pop, but I DARE you to find a sweeter, smoother bourbon).

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