Last time, we chatted all about what makes bourbon yummy. Due to popular demand, we’re talking about drinking the good stuff. That is the goal, right? To drink and savor it!
If you are a newbie to drinking this amber gem, don’t sweat it. First thing first, when picking a bourbon to try, it is all about “the mash bill” - which is just our fancy way of saying “the recipe”. Bourbon is basically three grains—corn (at least 51%), rye (or wheat) and malted barley. There are some bourbon purists out there grinding their teeth, but this is the truth. Sure, there are some variations such as an un-malted barley or other funky renditions. However, to make bourbon truly bourbon, you need corn, rye, and malted barley - the holy trinity of bourbon. Each variety of bourbon and bourbon distillers are very loyal and secretive about their mash bill. Good luck ever trying to ask a distiller their ratios of grain on a distillery tour. Let us know if you get lucky (or get thrown out). Those recipes are more closely guarded than the Kentucky Fried Chicken Secret Spice recipe.
The ratio of these fine grains is what creates some truly spectacular bourbon. There are some special variations you will want to know as you define your bourbon style. Right now, high rye bourbons are very popular. High ryes are defined by bourbon mash bills that carry over 10% rye. And these are some spicy suckers! They hit the tongue with a punch and carry some bite. Bulleit is a delicious high rye and carries around 25% rye. (We hypothesized the percentage, but it is definitely above 10%). Now, some distillers are making a total rye whiskey with no corn. Rye whiskey was reaaaaaallly popular in the 20’s and makes a pretty mean cocktail. It has some serious bite that can handle the addition of sweeter syrups and fruits.
Wheated bourbons are popular too. Wheat replaces the rye in the mash bill and produces a smooth whiskey when it hits your mouth. Maker’s Mark is a splendid example of a wheated bourbon. It is soft and smooth when you take a drink.
Another style you may find is high corn bourbon. Remember, bourbon must be at least 51% corn, so these distillers tip their corn ration higher. Most mash bills probably hover around the 60-70% corn. Therefore, adding more corn produces a sweeter bourbon. Some may not prefer sipping something so sweet but enjoy cooking with it.
Now, find the style of bourbon that works best for you! Here’s a great recipe to try:
Get a nice wide mouth bourbon glass
Pour in 1.5 ounces of bourbon
Decide that the 1.5 ounces of bourbon looks lonely
Add in 3 more ounces of bourbon
Straight bourbon will hit your taste buds hard. You will enjoy all kinds of caramel and vanilla flavors. Sometimes you may have a chocolate finish on the heavy rye bourbons. Maybe you like your bourbon with ice, water, ginger ale, whatever! It is all about enjoying this fine liquor however you see fit. You do you! Try bourbon flights and keep a journal about what you like about one bourbon or don’t like about another. Plus, any great bourbon bartender throughout the great Commonwealth will love to walk through what is special about their favorite and probably pour you a taste!
We advise stopping by to see us in NKY sometime and maybe enjoying a finely crafted bourbon cocktail at Prohibition Bourbon Bar in Newport. These guys (and gals) have made the cocktail an art form and super delicious. Some of them must have a Ph.D. in Bourbonism! With over 1,300 bourbons and counting - they have a lot of material to work with!
Next time we will spend a little more time talking cocktails and we would love to hear about some of your favorites.
Cheers and wherever the bourbon takes ya, make sure it is safe and responsible!
As you sip your bourbon, share your photos to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and be sure to tag us!