By Murray Schulman
Change is a force that all of us face throughout our lives. Sometimes, we
struggle with the entire idea of change.
Other times we embrace the changes to produce interesting and positive results.
I hear you. What has all of this got to do with a wine column? My answer is “Plenty.” Until now, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing my column named “Here’s to Sharing Wine.”
Yes, there is plenty to discuss in that area. Yet, I have so much more to share with you. I have been thinking for a while about the increasing trends in craft beer, microbrews, single malt Scotch, tequila and bourbon to name a few. With those thoughts percolating in my mind, I put the idea of expanding the wine column out there to our editorial team. The response did not take long. I am excited to thank my awesome editors for their willingness to embrace change. I am equally thrilled to present to all of you this new column, “Let’s Lift A Glass.” Together, we will continue to explore the amazing world of wine. In addition, we will broaden or horizons and share glimpses of growing trends in a broad spectrum of libations. Together we will embrace this change to discover, sample, taste and voice opinions about beverages that so many of us are exploring and enjoying. So, without further ado, join me as we begin this journey of discovery.
Our journey begins in Kentucky. Recognized for horse racing, mint juleps and bourbon. A distilled spirit named for Kentucky’s Bourbon County, bourbon has the distinction of being recognized as “America’s Native Spirit.” This distinction is not simply by popularity or some marketing team. In 1964 Congress declared that bourbon will hold this distinction. Why Kentucky? Everyone knows that 95 percent of all bourbon produced in the United States comes from Kentucky. Yes, you will find a few obscure bottles with the “bourbon” moniker attached sitting on the shelves in some liquor stores. But, in my opinion, if it doesn’t come from Kentucky, it simply is not bourbon.
What makes Kentucky so special when it comes to bourbon? According to Lux Row Distillers, there are five key elements that come together in the Blue Grass State to form the perfect storm in bourbon production. The limestone rock bed is perfect for adding minerals while filtering out the bitter elements, enhancing the distinctive flavor of Kentucky bourbon. Kentucky’s hard water has a high pH as well as a high concentration of calcium and magnesium that helps in the fermentation process. Rich and fertile soil helps to produce some of the best corn in the country. We all know that bourbon is 51 percent corn. It just stands to reason that great corn will yield great bourbon. Kentucky’s climate ranges in the extreme. It is very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. These extremes impact the expansion and contraction of the bourbon barrels. When the barrels expand, the bourbon seeps into the charred staves absorbing their flavors and aromas. As the barrels contract, the bourbon flows back into the barrels with the nuances pulled from the staves incorporated into the bourbon. The fifth element is people. Just like Napa draws wine people, Kentucky draws aficionados of bourbon. This perfect environment for producing great bourbon contributes to the fact that there are more bourbon barrels in the Kentucky distilleries than there are people in Kentucky.
Much like wine, there is a ritual to tasting bourbon. In addition, and again much like wine, we find that there are five basic flavor profiles that break down into complex variations in bourbon. We will explore
these topics as we go deeper into the
world of bourbon.
For now, let’s take a peek at one particular bourbon that I have discovered as part of my research. Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This bourbon is the result of a 150-year-old family recipe originating in Kentucky. The distillery is actually located in Louisville. I examined and tasted this bourbon prior to reading the flavor profile from the distillery. Their description was very accurate in terms of my personal experience. Initially, the price points for many of the better-rated bourbons is off-putting. Bulleit, however, at $39 for a bottle seemed an excellent value. The company does a great job in packaging as well. The distinctive bottle comes in a canvas bag with a leather label. This catches the
eye as it stands out on the shelf.
I decided to follow the basic bourbon tasting rules when I tried this bourbon. I tasted this bourbon “straight up.” I took a healthy mouthful and moved it around my palate. The motion is commonly called the “Kentucky chew” because it appears that
you are chewing the bourbon.
Bulleit Bourbon is golden amber in color. When you first pop the cork on this bottle, the aroma is sweet and spicy with a strong yet balanced charred oak presence. The flavor is heavy with rye and is very bold with lots of spice. With all of that complexity going on, the finish is long, clean and remarkable smooth. I truly enjoyed this Bourbon to the point that I went back to that bottle for a repeat performance. The experience made me think of great cigars, clean fresh air and warm comfortable leather. Join me and “Let’s Lift a Glass.” IAH