Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Don't Knock It 'til You Try It, Ms. Bourbon

Sometimes I can be a snob. It's not something I'm particularly proud of, but it's true.

One reason I like bourbon so much is because it doesn't "hurt me." It doesn't give me headaches the next day like some alcohols can. One way I make sure to avoid those headaches is to not drink "below" a certain cutoff. I'm not gonna lie - I *like* top shelf. Additionally, I'm not moved to waste my allotted calories on crap. I want the good stuff if I'm only having a little. Right?

Perhaps that last paragraph was a pretty lame excuse for my snobbery. Oh well. I'm not perfect.

Getting on with it - I originally considered Jim Beam to be below my cutoff. It's not expensive, it's readily available, it's very well known, and so I figured it must be no good. Not complex enough, and probably something that would hurt me, come morning. Not even the company's recent hire of Mila Kunis as spokeswoman convinced me - and that's saying something. I'm all about a smart, beautiful woman telling me what to do. Ha. As happens all too often these days, I found out I was so very wrong.

I'm pretty choosy about who I listen to on different topics. I tend not to be convinced of something until I am first convinced that this person knows what they're talking about. (No offense, Mila, but you *are* being paid to sell it.)

Recently I met a bourbon friend. Well, actually I had met him years ago, but recently we discovered our mutual love of bourbon and became friends. What better thing to bond over? ;) As it turns out, although this guy, Carlos, is younger than me, he figured out that bourbon was awesome well before I did. He has family in Kentucky and they know what's up, so he's been a bourbon guy for years. So. Carlos and I had the chance to try a few bourbons together on a couple occasions and he kept telling me that Jim Beam was good. I resisted this. I thought it couldn't possibly be true. Yet Carlos insisted. He knew how to appreciate different bourbons and was able to detect flavors and nuances in them that I was not. I started to listen to him.

I tried Jim Beam. Now - I didn't go in all the way and buy a bottle. I was out at a local pub and they didn't have many bourbons to choose from. I saw Jim Beam and ordered it, thinking I'd tell Carlos I'd tried it and to quit with telling me to. Turns out he was right. It's very easy to drink, sweet without being too sweet, and just enough heat to prove it's whiskey. Very nice. For the price, you really can't beat it.

So it's official. I'm a fan. Just goes to show I shouldn't knock it 'til I try it. I've had it several times since that first night. No hurting. Just a nice, basic bourbon. I suppose they know what they're doing over there at Jim Beam. ::shrug::

If you'd like to watch Mila learn the Kentucky Chew, click here. It's cute.

Cheers, people! Go try something new today. :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Eddie asked why bourbon is gaining popularity among women. Here's what I said:

I am part of a few bourbon groups on Facebook, and Eddie is the guy who admins some of them. He asked. I answered...

Clearly, not all women are the same, so I cannot speak for them all, nor would they want me to. The easy answer to why more women are trying bourbon is that as something gains popularity, more people try it - men and women. I'm sure there are many more men drinking it now, too.

Certainly, it is being marketed to women, but I’m not convinced that it makes much of a difference that the aim is women. I think what’s making the difference is that it’s got a higher profile in general. There are magazine covers with whiskey, articles all over the place, and it’s showing up more and more as a drink in mainstream TV and movies and such. Which means it’s also showing up in fun cocktails at cool bars across the land.

I began drinking whiskey for three main reasons. First, I noticed classic cocktails on the menus of my favorite bars. Deciding to be fashionable, I started ordering sidecars and old fashioneds and manhattans. I tended to enjoy the latter two because they weren’t so sweet. More on that in a bit. I had been a wine and then a vodka drinker: martinis, then cosmos, then flavored vodka/soda on the rocks. I drank those things because they were popular, I admit. I thought grown ups drank wine, but I realized it gave me headaches. I really didn’t know much about alcohol and just ordered what I’d heard of to be honest. But, to continue with my thought above - I know men were drinking a lot of vodka and martinis at the time, too.

Second, my cousin introduced me to sazeracs. Oh my goodness. This is still my favorite drink, no question. I fell in love because it tasted a-MA-zing, and because my cousin is a badass and everything he does is cool. Plus, no headache the next day. Sold. 

Then, lastly, back to the sugar thing. One of the reasons I had moved from martinis and cosmos to vodka/soda was because I was counting calories. I wouldn’t even use tonic because there were 10 calories in it, versus 0 in soda. I fell in love with the whiskey cocktails, but still - there was sugar in them. So…I did what any self respecting calorie counter would do - cut the sugar and go neat. I found that bourbon was freaking delicious all by itself. So are other whiskeys. Score!!! 

I was so impressed with the complex flavors I could taste in a bourbon that I started trying them ALL…then becoming a bourbon geek with a bourbon sensei and new best friend, my local liquor store buyer, Dominic…and now I talk about it every day and blog as well - and renamed myself Ms. Bourbon!

Sure, I think of it as a more masculine drink and call myself a badass all the time for drinking it neat - bring on the barrel proof! But the more I talk about it, the more I find women who love it as much - well close to as much - as I do. Really. Enough in this small midwestern town I live in to be planning to put together a bourbon posse made up entirely of women. :D 

Maybe women don’t feel the need to talk about it as much, so it seems like less women enjoy it? I’m not sure. I bet, though, if you dudes asked around a little, you’d find that many women you know love it. There are badass women all around you - they just may be keeping it their little secret. ;)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

oof! I'm such a newbie.

Dearest Bourbon,

Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville

Oh man. It seems every time I write, I want to retract or edit within days. So bear this in mind whenever reading my stuff - this is totally a work in progress. If you don't like what you read, I've probably already changed my mind to agree with you. I mean, I'll still argue with you about it, but that's how I am. ::shrug::

There is one thing I have not and will not change my mind about, though, I promise - I LOVE bourbon. I started blogging about it for a few reasons. One was that my friends started coming to me for suggestions, texting me to ask which brand would go best in which cocktail (they were at a bar and getting ready to order something "custom"), sending me photos of of a stash and asking which to try in what order, telling me any bit of news they'd heard about whiskey, that kind of thing. I'd get to chatting about bourbon with someone and they'd say "wow, you really know a lot." So, instead of worrying about whether I had an unhealthy obsession, I decided to share my big knowledge with you all (this is the nice thing about the interwebs - I assume "you all" exist).

For me, whiskey is an everyday topic of conversation. I've talked about it with my kids' school principal, people on my hospital committees (I volunteer as a patient/family advisor), soccer and dance moms and dads, you name it, it just seems to come up. Weird. Recently, one of my bestest girlfriends told me I could be "intimidating" with my bourbon knowledge. Huh?

You see, I don't know much. I just know what I like. And I'm learning about how it's made and aged and how the types of whiskey differ, what makes each barrel different, how producing it is a craft. Last week, I got to join an online group of whiskey bloggers, and let me tell you - these people KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. They aren't amateurs like me, dinking around and tasting new things and getting excited about it. These people are for REAL. They know how to drink, their palates are trained, they know the brands, the laws, other whiskey people...and they know how to write. Funny, snarky, thoughtful, instructive. All at once. These people are WOW.

Talk about intimidating. Sheesh.

Honestly, I'm not sure how they even have time to know all they know. This mama needs to sleep sometimes.

So this is what I've decided. Instead of being intimidated and gun-shy about writing of bourbon, when so many others are doing it so very well, I'm just going to keep plugging along, sharing my successes, failures, and funny stories. Hopefully, you'll enjoy them.

Here's one: Last I wrote, I basically said that women (in particular, but anyone) would LOVE bourbon if they tasted it. Because it's dee-licious!! That night, I had wine club (yes, yes, I need to start a bourbon posse, I know this) and brought Eagle Rare 10, hoping to tempt someone with it and "create" a brand new bourbon girl!! I was pretty confident. Well, I got three takers. None of them were converted. Sigh. I was soooo disappointed. Proven wrong within 12 hours, people. HOURS. Oh so sad. Well, I suppose much like I don't enjoy manhattans, these ladies do not need to enjoy bourbon. So be it. More for me, right? (Husband was happy because I brought home plenty for him.)

Until next time, my friends. Cheers!

Oh - and you're so welcome for the ear worm. Should you now need to hear the song, click here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

I'm inspired

This morning I am inspired to write. I'm on my second cup of coffee, have had my breakfast, and treated myself to another chapter of Whiskey Women by Fred Minnick (which you absolutely MUST check out). In the past several days, I've met some incredibly interesting whiskey folks and am going to be moving this blog to my very own website soon. !! I'm almost peeing my pants I'm so geeked about it! And I'm itching to write. I have to get all of this excitement out or I'll never get anything done today. Mama needs to get $hit done today.

I saw this image yesterday and it made me giggle. I need to keep it in mind right now:

Ok. Breathe. So. I'm excited to write, but don't have much in mind to say. I mean, I want to say everything, but that's too much. Let's go with this....

Remember a while back I wrote a little post called Bourbon Girl Jane? I was super excited to have met another bourbon woman. She's smart and funny and KNOWS that bourbon is delicious. She and I talked about how women are quite aware of it. Until that point, I hadn't really talked with another woman about ladies who love the water of life. Before I started drinking bourbon myself, I can't say I had any girlfriends who I knew drank it neat. In a cocktail sometimes, but not neat. Now, after paying attention, I'm finding these women are everywhere. There are several women who blog about it, master distillers who are female, and just lots of women who know it tastes good!

There seem to be plenty of theories out there about why bourbon and other whiskeys are "becoming" more popular with women. I've read about flavored whiskey, new pretty labels, the effect of Mad Men, and other things. I think all of that is ridiculous. It's like saying oh, guess what boys, girls like food! Of course we do. It isn't because it's been flavored with something like honey or in a pink bottle or because some hot guy drinks it on TV. (I do like it when a hot guy drinks it on TV, though. Or a hot girl. ::shrug::) It's because we are also human. (I know, I know, it may be hard to believe, but it's true.) Introduce something that tastes good to someone, man or woman, and they'll like it. It's as easy as that. And . . . women have always liked it. In fact, women were historically the people who brewed and distilled it. Whaat? Yup. Have a read of Whiskey Women. I'm not making this up.

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy getting attention because I'm this little soccer mom from the 'burbs who likes to drink bourbon. Men always seem intrigued by this. I'm asked how I "started" and told how unique I am. Bah. I have a giggle and school them a bit, er - have a nice chat with them about it - and enjoy my pour.

One of my twitter peeps forwarded me this video of his aunties drinking whiskey and I fell in love with them. They're awesome! Please watch it - seriously, it'll make you smile:

Real women drinking real whiskey VIDEO.

Phew. I feel a bit more settled now that I've blurted that out. Now to get ready for wine club tonight. My wine club is a bunch of awesome women who each brings a bottle to the hostess' home and we brown bag them and taste them blind, scoring as we go. Well, scoring if we want. One of my friends just has two categories: "Yummy" and "Nasty". Haha. Normally, I bring bourbon to these gatherings instead of wine. Shocking, I know. So far, most of my ladies score it yummy, not nasty.

So, cheers to the women of the world who love bourbon, whiskey, scotch, whatever. And cheers to the men, too. I guess. (Teasing!!)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Redeemed! A Blind Tasting of three Buffalo Trace White Dogs

Credit for image to bourbonr.com

A while back, the Captain gave me samples of three Buffalo Trace white dogs to try: Mash #1Wheated Mash, and Rye Mash.  White dog is basically un-aged whiskey, right off the still. It's clear and raw and hot. Yes - I was kind of scared to taste them. I assumed they would burn like heck. They didn't. Actually, they were surprisingly delicious.

Sooo...after my blind tasting disaster in December, I was a bit hesitant to blind taste these, but that was the deal. Captain Dominic gave them to me labelled 1, 2, and 3. I had to taste, make my guesses, and then get the answers from him. Eek.

I recruited the husband to taste along with me. These things are always more fun with a buddy. This time, I was going to pay close attention. I had zero confidence I'd get any of them right, but wanted to give it my best shot. So I made a chart. (I'm a nerd. Conceded.) First, we would smell the samples and guess, then we would taste them neat and guess, then we would add a bit of water and guess.

Here's how it went. After smell only, I nailed the rye mash immediately. It was much spicier than the other two, which were quite similar. Turns out I mixed those two up after smelling only, but for reference, the husband got all three wrong.

After tasting neat, we both agreed which was which. We could taste the rye in the rye mash, and the sweeter of the other two we decided must be mash #1, while the more basic flavor had to be the wheat mash.

Then we tasted with a bit of water, and it was even more obvious that our neat guesses were correct. I was surprised we agreed, but decided this was a good thing. My husband is a far better cook than I - he can create things and marry flavors together well. Me - I need a recipe. I'm no good at that at all: at identifying smells or at knowing what will go well with something else.

I had some baby Saz and Stagg Jr at home. We smelled them, too, wondering if a hint of the finished products would help us in our decision. Eh. Didn't help and only confused things, so we ignored them.

So, we texted the captain and found out that we GOT THEM ALL RIGHT!! 100%! A+. Yippee skippy!! This nerd was elated.

Next time I blind taste, I'll probably mess it all up again, but it was a fun little project for that night. If you are looking for a fun tasting, I'd encourage you to pick a few favorites and taste them blind with your whiskey folk. Have fun! That's what whiskey is for, right?

Cheers until next time, peeps!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Belligerent Me

I love this. Write drunk, edit sober. At first when I read it, I laughed and decided it was good advice. Then I thought about it a bit more and realized drunk and sober need not be literal, but that it's smart to keep in mind that changing your mind, taking another look at things, can be good for you.

And so that's what I've been doing lately with whiskey.

Yesterday a friend said that I amused her, even when I'm belligerent. Perfect, I thought! Belligerent!! Nobody had ever said that to me before, though I'm sure people have thought it. I do like a good bit of verbal sparring. Yet, I sometimes think I'm not taken seriously because I tend to be nice and thoughtful and stuff. So, because I was in a mood, "BELLIGERENT" was a badge of honor.

One thing I have learned while pursuing my love of the verbal fight is that you can always learn something from it. Sometimes a fresh idea is presented by your adversary. Sometimes you just learn that you'll need to dumb it down next time. ;)  And so, in this spirit of doing things someone else's way, just to try it, I mixed up the way I drink my favorite evening pours.

First off, as you know, I prefer drinking whiskey neat. Period. No ice, no mixers, no pop (for crying out loud, people!). You do it that way if you like, but not me. However, there a certain times when I think a cocktail sounds nice. I've got three go-to cocktails for bourbon and rye: sazerac, old fashioned, manhattan. And tonight, I'm trying a hot toddy.

I make the best sazerac I've ever had, save the ones my cousin makes. He's the one who taught me. Ohmygosh delicious. I could drink them all day if only I could hold that much alcohol. So I wasn't going to mess with that.

Lesson learned: Nothing. 

But a manhattan. Dominic the amazing loves them and thinks liking them is as easy as liking rainbows and unicorns. (Seriously. That's what he said.) I wasn't convinced, so I tried doing it differently. I tried it with different ryes, with different bourbons, classic, perfect, orange bitters, chocolate bitters, plain old angostura bitters. I don't like them. I don't like them so much I didn't finish them. I'm blaming the sweet vermouth. I like everything else in them. I made sure I shook my bitters and bought nice vermouths. My husband enjoyed those experiments, because he ended up drinking most of it. I have yet to try one with all dry vermouth. Maybe that will be good. I do like a dry martini. We'll see.

Lesson learned: I don't have to like them just because everyone else does. Also, I don't like sweet vermouth.

On to old fashioneds. I had been making them with simple syrup because, well, it's easy. Dominic kept telling me to use a sugar cube! (Yes, it felt like he said it with an exclamation point.) Ok, ok, I tried it. He is right! I muddled the sugar cube with the bitters, added in the orange slice and muddled a bit, then the bourbon or rye and poured over ice. Topped with a cherry. Delicious! As the ice melts and the sugar dissolves, it changes a bit and I liked it a lot. It's been very, very cold here where I live the past several days, but I've had a chance to enjoy my old fashioneds.

Lesson learned: I like it when the flavors change in a drink as I sip it. Trying a new way to make a cocktail can produce a better result. 

Tonight's hot toddy is inspired by the cold. Honestly, I feel like I'm drinking cough syrup. We've got whiskey, honey, lemon juice and hot water. ::schrunched up nose:: I've had one made at Zingerman's Roadhouse before and it was so delicious. They must have fancied it up more than this one. I'm not sure I'll finish it. (I did.)

Lesson learned: If it sounds like a cough remedy, it will taste like one.

So I took another look, tried things a new way. I learned that I still prefer neat, but that I can enjoy a fantabulous self made old fashioned for a twist sometimes. Yay! Very fun.

Write drunk, edit sober. I always write, read over a couple times and then immediately post. ::shrug:: I'm too impatient to wait. ;) Do I listen to my own advice, apply it everywhere? No. I'm BELLIGERENT. Haha!

Cheers everyone!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bourbon Date Night

A couple of weeks ago, I took my husband on a date to a bourbon tasting and dinner. I'm converting him from a beer lover to a bourbon guy. After years of his being a dedicated brewer and beer drinker, I'm swaying him. I can be convincing. Then again, the bourbons themselves are pretty convincing.

Dinners with special wine pairings have always been a treat, but I hadn't ever paired bourbons with food. This event was held at Cafe Felix, and we learned that it was the third in a whiskey dinner series that the organizer, Jude, hopes to make a regular event. We will absolutely be at his next whiskey dinner.

The lineup:

Course 1: Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1 (pictured)
Paired with: Warm camembert

Course 2: Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Paired with: Roasted chicken thigh

Course 3: Old Fitzgerald Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Paired with: Braised Short Rib

Course 4: Grass Widow Madeira Barrique Reserve
Paired with: Pear Napoleon

The list was exciting to me for a few reasons. Our host put some thought into the selections, clearly. As you know, a bourbon mash bill (recipe) must consist of at least 51% corn, which tends to give it a pleasing sweetness. Before this night, I hadn't ever tasted the distillate before aging. The course 1 Buffalo Trace White Dog solved that. Immediately after, we had the aged, finished product, Buffalo Trace, heavy in corn. Next came a bourbon heavy on wheat, which is pretty neutral as far as flavor goes: Old Fitzgerald. Think of tasting a corn tortilla and a wheat flour one. They're pretty different and the corn one has a lot more flavor, right? Same with these bourbons. We ended the evening with a bourbon heavy in rye: Grass Widow. As you might guess if you have tasted rye bread, this one was spicier than the others. It went perfectly with the sweet dessert course.

So we began. The white dog scared me, even as I eagerly anticipated tasting it. I assumed it would be like white fire in my mouth. It's how the early whiskey makers drank it, right off the still. Surprisingly, it was quite sweet! I enjoyed it very much; it was smooth and, while it lacked the complex flavors of an aged product, was easily drinkable. Paired with the cheese, it was delicious.

Next came the Buffalo Trace as an aged bourbon - as you would normally find it on the shelf. Tasting the first two back to back really highlighted what aging in barrels does to the distillate. It makes a difference, people. The complex wood and fruity flavors that I adore in bourbon were present.

The Old Fitzgerald was a new pour for me. Because of the heavy wheat content, it was extremely smooth. This would be very easy to drink neat, even for an inexperienced bourbon drinker. I thought it would be quite nice in a cocktail.

Last was the Grass Widow. Ok, folks, I was suspicious of this one. It's manufactured by Two James Distillery. In DETROIT! Right?? I'm pretty partial to Kentucky bourbons, and have often said it's not real bourbon unless it comes from Kentucky (yes, I am aware that is not the legal definition, but it's mine). Guess what? It's was pretty darn good. Sweet, rich, and spicy. I even tasted licorice, though my palate isn't the greatest. I enjoyed it so much that the next time I went out to a bar, I ordered an Old Fashioned made with it, thinking the sweet and spicy would marry well together - it rocked. One thing I'm learning about bourbon? The more you taste, the more you change your mind about what you like.

And there you have it - a successful date night out! We met a lovely couple at the event as well, which is always a plus. Like I said, we will be sure to make it to the next whiskey dinner at Cafe Felix.

Cheers, peeps!!

**One little sidebar about the glassware; I've not seen these sort of glasses pictured before. Captain Dominic at Tippins has trained me to want to drink bourbon from a bowled glass - ideally a Glencairn glass. (Yes, I'm giggling thinking about the Pavlov dog experiment, too, though he trained me by sending articles about "nosing" drinks and about various glassware.) He really, really believes that smell is a huge part of the enjoyment of a drink. In order to properly nose the liquor, he says, you need a proper glass. More on that in a future post, so stay tuned!