The fruit last week at my fall CSA was quince, which I was stared at rather dubiously. For those not familiar with this autumn fruit, it’s sort of like a really hard apple that has pear characteristics. But instead of just being able to munch on it, you have to do something with it to make it more edible – like roast it or poach it. Last time we got it, I poached it in honey, vanilla, sugar, whiskey, and water to use in a crumble, mixing the leftover syrup in sparkling wine for a nice cocktail. But that’s a little high-maintenance.
Then the CSA person mentioned something about, “or you can just stick it in whiskey in a jar and let it seep.” With the magic word whiskey, that quince started to look a little friendlier. I took all 3 pounds, picked up some jars, and grabbed a bottle of bourbon.
I don’t usually like flavored whiskey, but I put bourbon cream in a different category. It’s available at the Buffalo Trace Distillery and they peg it as Irish cream, but with bourbon. Umm, yes.
I like my bourbon cream like I like my bourbon – neat, generous pour.
At 30 proof and full of what I can only assume are delicious clouds and the essence of puppy smiles, this is truly easy drinking.
The bottle tells you all these “great” uses for it – like put it in your coffee or pour it over your ice cream.
But don’t. Just take the bottle and tip it into a glass. Or your mouth – no judgment here. A bunch of rainbows just jumped in some cream and brought along some bourbon and sugar.
But do I like it? Wait, let me pour another glass while I taste the answer to that question.
There is a quiet space on Sunday evening between the weekend and work when I like to sit and reflect. Preferably with a glass of whiskey.
For my companion this evening, I chose the last bit of Maker’s 46 Cask Strength, a small bottle of goods that we picked up at the Maker’s Mark Distillery and have been drawing out ever since. Maker’s 46 is finished Maker’s Mark aged for 10 weeks longer in barrels fitted with French oak staves. It's high proof, but for cask strength, not crazy – 108.9 proof.
The smell is syrupy sweetness and the color deep molasses. It goes down hot but flavorful, with a sweetness that breaks the heat of the proof. A nice butterscotch coating takes over the tongue. By the third sip, the whiskey takes on a softness unexpected for so high a proof.
Just a few drops of water opens up some layers, and I got more citrus and wood with a hint of vanilla. The wood now lingered longer on the tongue than butterscotch.
The longer I sit with the drink, the more it takes on a richness, and I think of vanilla frosting. Dessert for my weekend.
It’s not every day that you get to hang out with a master distiller at a cocktail party, but my first night in Louisville, I found myself talking with Willie Pratt, master distiller at Michter’s. Willie has a Southern charm and a gentle presence. I was struck by how appreciative and happy he seems about the work he does. It’s nice when people love to make bourbon as much as I love to drink it.
The event was a dinner at Proof on Main with time before to chat with Willie and other whiskey-loving guests.
The first thing he told me was that his mother was a schoolteacher and his father worked in the coal mines, so he’s not from a whiskey family, but it didn’t take him long to find his way into the industry. He worked for Brown-Forman for decades and came out of retirement to work for Michter’s because he would be able to make whiskey the way he wanted – helping to set up production from the stills on up.
By 9 a.m., we were at Maker’s Mark’s door. Day 2 on our distillery tours of Kentucky, and we were ready.
The Maker’s Mark distillery has a lot of Southern style – a charming house is the waiting area and you stand on a large front porch to the distillery to get the introduction. They were still polishing the huge copper stills when we arrived.
Enormous mash tubs that will make 400 barrels of whiskey each bubbled and frothed. We got to dip our fingers through the spongy top layer to taste the fermenting beer, which has a sweet, tangy flavor.
Maker’s Mark has over 400,000 barrels aging and they are building more warehouses to step up production with rising demand.
“No bourbon distiller has enough bourbon,” said our guide.