Monday, June 16, 2008

Small Batch Bourbon: A Tale with a Moral for Impressionable Young Ladies

For this month's MxMo, hosted by Scofflaw's Den, I've decided to share a word of warning drawn from personal experience rather than post a recipe. Let it be known that I like bourbon, and have developed a healthy respect for it!

My first extended exposure to bourbon was at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival 2007. It was quite exciting to tour the distillery with Fred Noe, the 7th generation Master Distiller in the Jim Beam family and quintessential Good Ole Boy.

I also had the honor of touring the Maker’s Mark Master Distiller with David Pickerell (whom I believe has since left MM). I felt like a kid in a candy store cuz I even got to dip my very own signature bottle in red wax! I have to admit that meandering around the barrels with these guys was kind of like landing backstage passes at a rock concert - and having the lead singers show you their dressing room. Yeah, I was a groupie. And here are a few basics I learned:

In order for bourbon to be authentic, it must:
  • Be made from at least 51% corn
  • Be aged a minimum of 2 years
  • Be aged only in new, charred, American white oak barrels
So, all cocky from my newfound knowledge, dipping skills and "buddies" in the bourbon biz, later that night I found myself in the “media room” at the hotel. There were tables set up, junk food in bowls and bottles of bourbon lined up for our enjoyment. One group was sitting around a table playing poker, and others were in little clusters talking shop. I’m more of a craps girl, myself, and limit my gambling to Vegas.

I poured myself a Bookers on the rocks (named for the late Frederick Booker Noe, another relative of Jim Beam)
and sat down at a table where 3 guys were chatting amongst themselves. They said they were in radio and lived in Los Angeles. No wonder I was drawn to them - we are probably some of the only people in LA who actually still drink – diet be damned and rehab-free!

I asked what kind of radio show they did and one guy replied, “The kind that pisses of a lot of people.” Without missing a beat I joked, “Oh, lik
e that Tom Leykis guy?” to which they busted up laughing and looked at me sideways.

“I am Tom Leykis,” said the larger of the three. “Yeah, right,” I laughed. “No, really, I am,” he said. And then I
recognized his voice. Luckily they found my ignorance a mark of “I’m think I’m so important that I don’t know who you are” rather than pure cluelessness. (In LA, the former invokes more respect.)

Now, many a woman would like to harpoon ole Tom because on one of his talk shows, he encourages men to figure out ways to get laid without spending money on an expensive date first. Personally, I believe
that a sister has to set her standards so guys like that can’t take advantage! Personal responsibility and all... His other show - and the reason he was at the Bourbon Festival - is called The Tasting Room with Tom Leykis and focuses on wine and spirits. We continued to share a few laughs, and I continued sipping on Booker’s.

Now, here’s the thing about drinking 125+ proof bourbon when you don't realize it… the stuff is so strong, you just kinda stop tasting it after the first one. I think it makes your tastebuds drunk before the rest of you.

Suddenly and all-at-once, I realized I was shooting my mouth off a little too much and – although I had them laughing (at my own expense, of course) – I’d probably live to regret it. So, I excused myself and made my way down the hall and into my room. That’s about all I remember of that.

The next thing I know is that my phone was ringing. My fellow travelers were on the bus and waiting for me. I had slept through the wake up call!! Feeling like death warmed over, I ran the toothbrush across my teeth, stuck my hair in a ponytail, threw on some jeans and ran out to the bus.

I managed to sit by a window so I could inhale extra oxygen and prayed that we wouldn’t have to taste, smell or be near any bourbon for at least 2 1/2 hours. Which was a futile wish, of course. We were at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival!

Luckily, my liver bounced back relatively quickly and by lunch I was ready to try my hand at a myriad of BBQ and bourbon pairings. And, at the Bourbon Ball the next night, I sampled sips from a myriad of bourbons in the sampling room. I even indulged in Bookers once again, only this time it was mixed with juice and I proceeded with caution.

The moral of the story: When trying a new bourbon which one is not familiar, tread lightly. Drink a little water. And, read the bottle. Or you may just end up feeling like a Boozy Floosie rather the mildly elegant and occasionally sophisticated Muse you’d like to portray yourself to be…

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