BBFB American Odyssey Review

The Bacardi Training Team were back in Manchester recently for the next round of their training sessions, this time held in the Champagne and cocktail bar Epernay. Leanne and Tom were our hosts in this popular Manchester bar and perfect setting to learn about Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve!

The range of whiskey to be tasted

Starting off with a cocktail named Stonefence, a mix that I’ve surprisingly never heard off yet so simple – whiskey and cider! Apparantly made around the 1800’s in the time of Jerry Thomas, it was surprisingly nice and balanced quite well!

Leanne then spoke about the 400 year history of whiskey in America whilst we sampled rye whiskey (not very strong on the nose, gave off a soft vanilla scent. The taste gave a slight fire burn which resulted in a long after-taste). To be classed as Rye Whiskey, it must be made from at least 51% rye, distilled at less than 80 percent and stored in new, charred oak barrels for at least two years and most Rye whiskies are made in Indiana and Kentucky. An example of rye whiskey is Rittenhouse, a brand that I used to sell in my last place of work.

We then learnt about the start of whiskey, where in the late 1800’s, the Scottish and Irish settlers brought over to America their knowledge of the production of whisky and settled in the surrounding regions of Virginia. Since corn is native to America, this resulted in the use of corn as a basis for whiskey production. We tried a small sample of corn whiskey, before the start of maturation, that gave off a very overpowering and a scent of fresh bread which came more alive upon tasting. To compare, we also tried a wheat whiskey that gave a smooth scent and taste but a rather bland and virtually no recognisable flavour on the palate.

The legend of Elijah Craig was also explored. He apparently is credited in being the pioneer of the first true bourbon whiskey and also the charred barrel method of ageing the whiskey. Many stories for the charred barrel legend include that he purchased a barrel that had previously been used to store fish and burnt the inside to remove the smell. He then put his whiskey in and transported it down the river.

Next, the laws of American Bourbon were mentioned. These include –

  • Bourbon can be made anywhere in the USA (but mainly found in Kentucky)
  • Only Bourbon from Kentucky can advertise the state in which it is made
  • Must contain at least 51% corn
  • However no more than 80% with the other 20-49% having a combination of rye, barley and wheat
  • All American whiskies must be aged in new American white oak casks that have been charred on the inside for at least 2 years.

As mentioned above, the charring of the barrels releases sweet and smoky flavours to the Bourbon which give it a stronger, more flavoursome whiskey than that of Scottish or Irish whisky. The barrels can’t be re-used, so they are sold to other spirit distillers of rum, tequila and Scotch.

The Epernay bar

The addition of ‘sour mash’ is also a signature of American whiskey. 25% of the mash from a previous batch is added to the fermentation process so to keep a consistent style.

The Lincoln County Process was also mentioned by Leanne, which is the main difference between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. In Tennessee, the whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal before ageing and must be made by at least 51% of single grain and can only be made in Tennessee. This brought us nicely onto Jack Daniels. Being from Lynchburg, Tennessee, it is therefore classed as a Tennessee whiskey. We sampled Tennessee whiskey both before and after charcoal ageing. The before whiskey had the same nose as corn however the taste wasn’t as strong and gave a smoother more delicate flavour. The post whiskey had a more subtle nose and a creamier taste than before charcoal ageing.

2 different Manhattans were then made to both see and taste the difference between the one made using Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels Single Barrel. Being a Manhattan drinker, both = excellent! And one sip was definitely not enough!

The Jack Daniels Single Barrel was next on the agenda to be tasted. On the nose it gave off a subtle vanilla aroma with a slight oak lingering behind. The smooth vanilla extracts were released upon tasting which made it just that little bit easier to drink than its Old No.7 version.

The Gentleman Jack on the nose gave off a very strong vanilla aroma yet on the tongue it was very smooth and not as harsh as you may think after the initial nosing. It gives a gentle vanilla/toffee colour compared to a more Old No.7 style colour for the Single Barrel.

We also tried Woodford Reserve to have a comparison. On the nose it gave off a strong caramel scent with a smooth lingering vanilla aroma which carried on to the taste. However the caramel becomes more subtle in flavour resulting in a smooth lingering after-taste.

This was an excellent insight to American whiskey and really helped my understanding of the American side of a subject that I’ve not always fully understood. With this and my recent Dalmore and Glenfiddich Masterclasses (https://drinksenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/dalmore-whisky-masterclass-review/ and https://drinksenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/glenfiddich-whisky-masterclass-review/ ) I have been able to fully appreciate both the history, techniques used, taste and understand the differences in the whisk(e)y that is produced.

If you are close to any of the BBFB Training Shows, make sure you go along and check them out. It’s a great chance to learn and sample the brands that Bacardi Brown-Forman have got underneath them. Check out there website at http://www.pourfection.com/trainingteam

Also, check out my review of their Rum Roadshow at https://drinksenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/bbfb-rum-roadshow/

Jack Daniels & Coke / Ginger Pre-mix

I found myself purchasing another pre-mixed drink in the form of Jack Daniels and they’ve released two versions – Coke and Ginger, both £2.12 from Sainsburys.

Jack Daniels & Coke

Jack Daniels & Coke

Now the nearest competitor around is Jim Beam & Coke and having already tried the latter I was expecting high hopes, however, I was disappointed at not smelling a stronger smell of the Jack Daniels (at 6% you expect to sense something). It was there don’t get me wrong, but compared to the Jim Beam, you had to hunt for it. Now that aside, the drink itself isn’t too bad. A low-carbonated cola is used so you can drink it quickly, but it won’t make you too bloated, and you do get that refreshing taste afterwards. The down side? You feel like your not drinking a JD & Coke. It’s not got that freshness about it like the Jim Beam did, and it sometimes put me off finishing the can. But finish it i did, which can I only be a plus as im sure, like most of you, you wouldn’t finish something if you didn’t like it.

 

 

Jack Daniels & Ginger

Jack Daniels & Ginger

I followed the Jack Daniels & Coke with its other variety – ginger. After looking over the can, it doesn’t mention if it’s ginger beer or ginger ale (not being a lover of ginger ale, I was hoping for the former) but then I thought that Jack Daniels could have used ‘actual’ ginger, and I was right. I’ve personally rarely come across a drink as simple as Jack Daniels and mixer to have the sole ingredient as ginger, yet could see it working rather well.

Upon opening, there’s an immediate aroma of ginger, and hardly a scent of Jack Daniels. Give it a few seconds though and you do slowly get that unmistakable JD wafting through your nostrils. The taste is rather the same as the smell, with the whiskey taking a back-seat to the raw ginger, yet creating a pleasant slow mix of the two flavours in your mouth. It leaves a slight sweet taste in the back of your mouth as it makes its way through which resulted in me drinking this can quicker than the JD & Coke (the sweet tooth in me took over!). Again at 6%, you do expect to see more of the Jack Daniels coming through as you drink but it just doesn’t seem to happen.

Out of the two I would recommend the Jack Daniels & Ginger for 2 reasons –

1. It’s unique. When was the last time you had a whiskey with just ginger? And I can guarantee it would taste even better fresh.

2. On a summer’s day, a Jack Daniels & Ginger sounds like a hell of a drink to have, a chilled one at that.

A Jack Daniels & Coke? You can have that any day of the week at any place that sells alcohol. JD & Ginger? Your high-end expensive bars would charge you 4x as much as the £2.12 you could get it for.

The Circle 360 Review

Theres a new champagne and cocktail bar located in the Italian area of the Trafford Centre’s Orient food hall. I’ve watched this bar grow from day one as it’s location is opposite to where i work and i’ve been itching to try it out ever since its grand opening less than a week ago.

I took along a friend and arrived at about 3pm. As you can see the back bar automatically grabs your attention, the large circle with a magnum of champagne in the middle! A good layout of spirits surrounded underneath it including Jack Daniel Single Barrel, Belvedere, Patron and Martin Millers as well as display ice buckets with several bottles of Moet & Chandon poking out the top. Cake stands were also visible for there Afternoon Tea promotion (more about that later).

Speciality 360

Sitting ourselves on white leather bar stools which despite looking like salon chairs, went surprisingly well with the white decor, we were greeted by the bartender on duty with a smile and a drinks menu. I had already previously asked The Circle Club (the company behind the bar) on there Twitter feed which cocktails they recommend with the replies of ‘Pornstar Martini and the speciality 360’, so with curiosity getting the better of me i plumped for the 360 while a French Martini was ordered as well. Now i don’t know if this is me but if you make a cocktail, you make it in front of the customer, not halfway down the bar. It would have been nice to see what ingredients he was putting in to this speciality cocktail (i glimpsed Hendricks gin being used) but i gave the man his dues once he presented me with the finished item.A dark blackcurrant colour with a fresh blackcurrant and cucumber fold as a garnish made a good first impression. It had a smooth velvety taste to it with the constant aroma of cucumber coming from both the garnish as well as the Hendricks gin. Slightly overpowering it sometimes but the blackberry taste counteracted it nicely and made it a very nice mouth-watering signature cocktail.We were a bit confused with what our other drink was as we originally ordered a French Martini however a champagne flute was handed to us which eventually turned out to be a French 75. Obviously thinking the French Martini would be served in the Martini glass and the signature cocktail served in a champagne flute, it turned out we were drinking the drink the other one had ordered. A mistake on the bartenders part but non-the-less the French 75 was a beautiful lemon zest cocktail with the Moet & Chandon champagne top not overpowering the overall complexity at all. After a few sips i also noticed it started to go down very smoothly, as if the drink had settled and it allowed you to enjoy it that little bit more. The glass itself helped, an elegant yet simple thinly stemmed champagne flute that curved at the top to reduce the amount of gasses being released.

A Parisian Re-fashioned followed next for me with an absinthe take on the Old Fashioned classic.

Parisian Re-fashioned

Made with coating the inside of a tumbler glass with Le Fee Parisian Absinthe and igniting for a few seconds, blowing out and starting the 7 minute process of an Old Fashioned. The use of Woodford Reserve bourbon was a particularly good choice and vanilla sugar made my day as the sweet tooth guy I am. To be fair it wasn’t 7 minutes in the making but the drink itself was a well-balanced affair. The vanilla sugar took the edge off a drink which can sometimes come on a bit strong if not enough Demerara is used and it worked well. The burnt orange zest gave some interesting aromas as it mixed with the coating of absinthe and the Woodford Reserve but it didn’t over come you which made it a very drinkable drink.

My friend is a lover of Tanqueray 10 and asked the barman for a recommendation that involved fruit juices. The result was Tanq 10 with both fresh and puree strawberries with a top of champagne served in a Martini Glass. This had a zest tingly sensation to it, possibly due to the champagne top but also to the fresh strawberries used. The gin was hard to tell it was there sometimes but you got the odd taste of the Tanq once you made your way through the layer of fruit.

The Circle 360 bar menu is a simple yet well set out design with a ‘champagne story’ on the inside cover to highlight the bars purpose.

Now i will say this, the prices that the drinks are being sold for are worth it.

Champagne cocktails (Bellini’s, French 75’s) for £6.95

Signature cocktails (Pornstar Martini, Jack Daniels Single Barrel over ice) for £5.95

Classic cocktails (Mojito, Margarita, Long Island) £4.95

Contemporary cocktails (8yr Itch, Grey Goose Le Fizz) £5.45

Martinis (Cosmopolitan, French Martini) £5.45

French 75

Compared to the rest of the Trafford Centre’s bar/cocktails offerings as well as the reputation of The Circle Club i did expect to be paying a lot more for these drinks, especially when they use premium spirits and champagne! This could be a winning formula for them and i hope they stick at these prices for a while to come.

Now as you’d expect there are offerings for wine with what looks like a very good and varied selection in each category (a bottle of Sangiovese, Ceravalo Estate caught my eye for £29.50). The usual suspects of champagne are there with glasses of Castell Lord Cava at £3.50 to £7.95 for a Moet & Chandon Imperial Rose and topping to a bottle of Krug Clos D’Ambonnay Vintage 1996 at £3295. Theres Bollinger, Dom Perignon, Laurent Perrier, Veuve Clicquot and Louis Roederer thrown in there for good measure too.

Soft drinks are available too with the offering of juices, milkshakes, smoothies and tea and coffee as well as fresh cake slices including victoria sponge, cupcakes, scones and lollicakes (cakes on a stick, – popular with celebrities apparently!). They also do a Afternoon Tea priced at £15.50 where you receive a pot of Darjeeling tea, choice of 2 sandwiches, scone, elderflower cake, chocolate choux pastry and fresh fruit tart!

Nearing the end of our visit we were both genuinly impressed with the offerings that The Circle 360 give you in the case of drinks as well as surroundings. The stunning bar set-up is a thing to see and you don’t always feel like your in the middle of a food court when your sat there, something which i thought would put me off.

You’ll be seeing me here again that’s for sure, theres plenty more drinks for me to try!