Jim Beam

Jim Beam

Jim Beam has been a staple of many a bar for many a year now, so much so that they themselves have the tag ‘The World’s No. 1 Bourbon’ stamped on every bottle. But how does a brand come to call itself that? A brand that, from my knowledge, not many people know much about? Well lets dive into the history of this supposed number one and see what comes out the other end.

Our journey starts in 1740 and the migration of the Boehm family from Germany. Translate the surname and you get the worlds ‘hell’, so a change to ‘Beam’ started the etching into bourbon history books. In 1788, Jacob Beam settled in Kentucky and set about experimenting with the corn and grains that grew on his farm. This blend of ingredients were run through a still, aged in barrels and eventually became bourbon, possibly named after Bourbon County, Kentucky. 1795 saw the year of the first ‘Jim Beam’. David Beam took over his father’s responsibilities in 1820 at the age of 18 and during his reign, America was undergoing an industrial revolution. With the country expanding itself and finding new and innovative ways to not only communicate and travel, but transporting of goods, technology such as the telegraph, steam-powered ships and the opening of waterways and railroads aided the expansion and distribution of the Beam’s family bourbon.

David M. Beam was handed the reins to the family business in 1850 and four years later, in order to be near Kentucky’s first railroad, David M. Beam moved the distillery to Nelson County. Three years after civil war broke out, David’s son James B. Beam came into the world and the family, with a real dislike for his name. Apparently a man who liked to keep things simple, he introduced himself as Jim Beam. After taking over the business from his father, the business thrived.  Once the end of Prohibition in the US in 1933, Jim Beam wanted to carry on the tradition of the original recipe from the days of Jacob Beam, so he built and moved to a new distillery in Clermont, Kentucky taking 120 days. From this point forward, the bourbon was called ‘Jim Beam Bourbon’. Son Jeremiah Beam joined the company at the same time as the opening of the new distillery and earned the title of master distiller. With his passion, he travelled the world to share his knowledge of bourbon and the Beam family legacy. After the death of his father, Jeremiah continued to grow the business, opening a second distillery in 1954 near Boston, Kentucky, which is still in use today.

Jim Beam’s grandson Booker Noe maintained the Beam family’s commitment to quality. As the Master Distiller Emeritus at the Jim Beam Distillery for more than 40 years, Booker introduced his own namesake bourbon in 1988 – Booker’s. Booker’s was the world’s first uncut, straight-from-the-barrel bourbon, and the first of the legendary Small Batch Collection. Upon the death of Booker Noe, his son Frederick Noe took over the reigns of the Master Distiller and is still in the position today.

Since the birth of Jacob Beam, the Beam family legacy has influenced 60 different bourbon brands in three countries.

Not bad. And it’s great to see after all these years, the brand is still within the family. But with longevity comes consistency, and consistency means a rigorous check of the production method. The following is taken directly from the Jim Beam website as I found that the process would be better understood as they have written it.

Start With Sweet, Sweet Water

Much has been said about Central Kentucky’s water. It’s famous for making fast horses, pretty women and good bourbon. (We’ve also heard it as:, pretty horses… but the good bourbon never changes.) Because we’re sitting on top of a limestone shelf, our water has a natural filter. This creates an iron-free, calcium-rich water that’s perfect for making bourbon. Perhaps that’s why 98% of all bourbon distilleries are located here.

Jim Beam MapleThe Secret Is Yeast

Our jug yeast is a closely guarded family secret. It’s the same strain of yeast we’ve used in our bourbon-making process since prohibition ended. It’s more than 75 years old—and it ensures the same Jim Beam® bourbon consistency in every bottle. So the bottle of Beam® in your granddad’s hand in that picture from his fishing trip in 1953? Same DNA as the bottle you can buy right now just about anywhere in the world. Our yeast is so important to us that Jim Beam used to take some of it home with him on the weekends, a tradition that continues today with Jim Beam’s great-grandson and seventh generation Beam family distiller, Fred Noe. We put the jug yeast in a tank and feed it a hearty diet of ground up grains to create “dona yeast.” We use this yeast in the fermentation process once we’ve cooked our mash.

Mix, Mash & Cook

Hammer mills grind our “mash spill”—our top-secret mix of corn, rye and barley malt. Milling breaks it down for easier cooking. The mash spill feeds into a 10,000-gallon mash cooker. Here we add some of that pure limestone-filtered Kentucky water, along with some “set back”—25% of the old mash from the last distillation. This is the “sour mash” part of our bourbon-making process—ensuring the same Jim Beam® Bourbon from batch to batch.

Fermenting Cooked Mash

From the cooker, the mash heads to the fermenter. We cool the mash down to 60-70°F and add our 75-year-old yeast strain to the mix. And the yeast eats. And eats and eats and eats, feeding on sugars in the mash, heating the fermenter as it eats and multiplying as it goes. The upshot of all this activity? Carbon dioxide and more importantly for us, alcohol. This transforms the mash into “distiller’s beer.” Because it looks, smells and tastes like a rich, light beer.

Distilled Twice. So Nice.

The beer travels into our 35-foot-tall column still. We heat it to about 205°F, which is hot enough that the alcohol turns into a vapor that rises up the still, but not so hot that the beer boils. As the vapor cools and falls, it turns back into a liquid. This “low wine” is 125 proof (62.5% alcohol) of strong-willed goodness. From the column still, the low wine flows into the doubler for a second distillation in our pot still. It gets heated and condenses into “high wine”—at a paint-peeling 135 proof (67.5% alcohol).

Barreling And Aging

After distilling the bourbon, we tap the high wine into brand new charred American oak barrels. We like our barrels to have what we call “alligator char”—that is, they’re fired enough that the insides take on the scaly, bumpy look of a gator’s skin. Each barrel holds about 53 gallons (more than 500 pounds) of what will be the the world’s finest bourbon. The loaded barrels are rolled to rest in one of our airy hilltop rackhouses. As the seasons change, Kentucky’s climate expands and contracts the barrel wood, allowing bourbon to seep into the barrel. And the caramelized sugars from the gator-charred oak flavor and color the bourbon. Throughout the bourbon making process, a fair portion of the 53 gallons of bourbon escapes the barrel through evaporation or stays trapped in the wood of the barrel. We call this the “angel’s share” or “Booker’s share.”

Jim Beam bourbon ages for at least four years—twice as long as the U.S. government requires. 

So there we have it. A fascinating history, one that I myself have only realised has influenced so many bourbon distilleries and brands to this day, and a production method that creates such a varied range. I’ve been lucky enough to try a couple of the range lately, therefore below I give to you my tasting notes –

Jim Beam Original – 40%

Aged for 4 years. Light vanilla notes on the nose with a sweetness slowly appearing. Vanilla carries onto the palate, mixed with a little spice that leads to a lengthy finish. Slight touch of oak lingers.

Red Stag Black Cherry – 40%

Through a slow infusion process, four-year-old Jim Beam Bourbon infused with natural flavours. Sweet, ripe dark cherries on the nose with a sugar ladened palate of cherry on the palate with a cinnamon spice to finish. Amazingly long, and a little dry at the very end.

Jim Beam Maple – 35%

Created using 4yr Jim Beam, slowly infused with maple and aged in oak barrels.
Subtle nose of maple syrup, following onto the palate nicely with plenty of bourbon, oak and a rich, sweet maple finish that lingers.

Jim Beam Black Label – 43%

Aged for 6 years. Soft vanilla on the nose with hints of orange lingering. Smooth on the palate with a hint of spice, honey and toffee creating a long finish.

Jim Beam Signature Craft – 43%

Aged for 12 years. Plenty of red fruit, smooth on the nose with hints of cherry near the finish. Rich on the palate though, with a slight spice but a long, bold finish with a little dryness. A couple of sips makes this a cracking dram.

Jim Beam Double Oak – 43%

Launched in April 2016, this expression is first matured in new charred American white oak barrels before being transferred into a second freshly charred oak barrel for a further period of ageing.
A nose of vanilla and caramel blended with freshly cut wood. Rich notes of oak, followed by scorched wood, vanilla and intense red fruits that leads to a long, slightly dry finish.

Jim Beam isn’t just for a great sip, it can also be housed within a cocktail –

Jim Beam - Double Oaked Fashioned
Jim Beam Double Oak Fashioned

Jim Beam Double Oak Fashioned

Glass –

Old Fashioned

Ingredients – 

50 ml Jim Beam Double Oak
4 dashes bitters
2 sugar cubes
1 orange
1 lemon

Method –

In an Old Fashioned glass, add the sugar cubes and bitters along with a little bourbon and ice. With a bar spoon, muddle and stir the liquid so the sugar starts to dissolve – repeat until complete. Then, cut a thin slice of peel from the orange. Pinch the orange peel and rub around the rim of the glass to coat with citrus oils. Repeat with the lemon. Garnish with the orange and lemon twists

or maybe this,

Man O' War
Man O’ War

Man O’ War

Glass –


Ingredients – 

20 ml Jim Beam Bourbon
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
12.5 ml water
10-15 large fresh mint leaves

Method – 

Combine all ingredients with cracked ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

But sometimes the best way to involve Jim Beam is within food –

Jim Beam Bourbon Whisky Cake

Ingredients – 

1 pound candied cherries
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound golden raisins, halved
6 eggs, separate yolks
2 cups Jim Beam Bourbon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 ounces butter
1 pound pecans
2 cups sugar

Preparation – 

Soak cherries and raisins in Jim Beam Bourbon overnight. Grease a 10-inch tube pan and line with brown paper or parchment. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Sift flour and reserve 1/2 cup. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add egg yolks and beat well. Add soaked fruit and the remaining liquid, 4 1/2 cups flour, nutmeg, and baking power to butter mixture. Stir to combine. Beat egg whites by hand or with an electric mixer until they just barely hold stiff peaks. Fold into batter. Toss nuts with 1/2 cup reserved flour and fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 3 to 4 hours or until cake tests done. Remove from oven, cool slightly and turn onto rack to cool completely. To store when thoroughly cool, place in tightly covered container. Stuff centre hole with cheesecloth soaked in Jim Beam Bourbon. Drink any extra Jim Beam®. Wrap in heavy wax paper. It isn’t necessary to soak the cake in Jim Beam® Bourbon as it will be moist and flavourful. Keep very cool, in refrigerator if necessary. Makes 15 servings.

So not only is Jim Beam rich in history, it also shows off with its range as well as its versatility within both cocktails and food. What more can you ask for? It really does prove some valuable points for Jim Beam’s statement of being ‘The World’s No1. Bourbon’. See for yourself.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Four Roses needs you!

Spirit Cartel, the relentless hunter of the handcrafted and offbeat, is on a quest to find a UK Brand Ambassador for the iconic bourbon brand, Four Roses. The brand is seeking a whiskey whiz kid to be the heart and soul of Four Roses in the UK.

“This is a highly desirable career-defining opportunity that no bourbon enthusiast will want to miss”, says Spirit Cartel Consiglieri, Charles Marshall. “We want a grain guru who eats, sleeps and breathes Four Roses, one of the most exciting Bourbons in the UK today. Oh and they must be able to mix a mean drink and spin a yarn”.

The charismatic candidate will epitomise Four Roses’ style and elegance; prepared to challenge the preconceived norm – a leader not a follower. A sour mash sage with flair and a thorough understanding of the bar industry, excellent trade relationships and the ability to engage the drinks fraternity with Four Roses.

Only Four Roses handcrafts 10 distinct and extraordinary bourbon recipes, mingling them by hand to create a family of award-winning brands. Artistry such as this is how the brand survived Prohibition, The Great Depression, Two World Wars, and 40 years of exile from the US, to be named American Whisky Distiller of the Year in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 by Whisky Magazine.

“The Brand Ambassador will be an integral part of our Four Roses campaign in 2016 and beyond, building momentum for a brand that is rich in heritage and provenance. It’s a fantastic chance to put in to play your spirits knowledge, marketing flair and business acumen on one of the spirit world’s truly great names.,” says Charles Marshall.

Eat, Drink, Sleep bourbon – What’s not to like?!
A contract to work with the winning combination of Spirit Cartel and Four Roses with a competitive salary.
An unforgettable trip to the Four Roses Distillery in Kentucky as a guest then to host all future UK trips.

Submit your CV and up to 300 words explaining why you would be suitable for the role, by the 14th March, to entries@fourroses.co.uk.
Five finalists will then be selected by Spirit Cartel and invited to final auditions in London on the 4th April. Candidates will present their case, take part in a Four Roses quiz and demonstrate their cocktail skills.
The appointment of the Four Roses UK Brand Ambassador will be announced on the 5th April and the successful candidate will be the face of the brand in the UK, effective immediately.

For terms and conditions visit http://www.spiritcartel.com

Buffalo Trace Northern Final 2015

Buffalo Trace

One of the world’s best known bourbon brands, Buffalo Trace, came to Manchester this past week to secure a northern bartender a trip of a lifetime to America, courtesy of creating a unique British twist on an American classic cocktail. Hosted by Ross Thompson of UK distributor Hi-Spirits, and judged by the Buffalo palates of UK Brand Ambassador Tim Giles, Liverpool’s own Jim Brailsford and last years winner Amir Javaid, currently head honcho at Harvey Nichols Second Floor Bar in Manchester, 11 competitors from across Chester, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool converged at Gorilla to impress.

Mike Holmes with his creation BBLT
Mike Holmes with his creation BBLT

First to step up to the challenge was to be Mike Holmes of Bourbon and Black in West Didsbury. Using the classic Mint Julep as his inspiration, his creation of BBLT (or bourbon, bacon, leaves and tomato) saw him combine mint, Buffalo Trace and poppy shrub syrup within a mixing glass and stirred over smoked ice. After straining into a bean can, a sprig of mint, a vine of tomatoes and candied bacon adorned the crushed ice top.
Rebecca of The Wash House in Manchester showed her idea on a dessert based cocktail named the Aristocity Flip. Using Buffalo Trace, a spoon of Dewars marmalade, King’s Ginger liqueur, Earl Grey syrup, a pinch of cinnamon, fresh lemon and apple juice, Becca shook the ingredients over ice and strained into a coupette. Offering a garnish of apple crisps with buttered Buffalo Trace to dip, a small cone of ice cream (Cheshire Farm and Buffalo Trace syrup) attached to the glass and a cinnamon dusting over the cocktail itself, she offered the judges an idea that could entice women to enjoy whiskey cocktails!

Lewis Cooke of Epernay, Manchester was up third, twisting a Boilermaker and Bourbon Sling by using Buffalo Trace, Antica Formula, a lemon and oat shrub plus a couple of dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters. Shaken over ice and strained into a crystal cut highball glass, he topped the recipe up with BrewDog’s Dead Pony Club expression and placed a dehydrated lemon wheel and a sprinkling of citrus hops on top. Alongside came an offering to the judges of salted caramel and pecan ice cream, complete with Buffalo Trace salted caramel sauce. Say hello to the Stirling Shandy!
Almost Famous of Manchester stepped up after Lewis in the form of Jonathan Leathley, seeing his twist on a Root Beer float that he called the Brown Buffalo. Showing a de-constructed recipe of Mr Fitzpatrick’s Sarsaparilla cordial, Sacred spiced English vermouth, lime juice, Eager apple juice, homemade vanilla syrup, Fentimans Curiosity Cola and Buffalo Trace, shaken over ice and strained into a glass tankard over ice, he floated on top salted caramel and maraschino cherry ice cream.

The first Leeds representative in Tom Finnon of The Hedonist Project joined the competition, creating his Buffalo8.
Using inspiration from the brands heritage, he came up with using a homemade vermouth that had beetroot as a dominant flavour, chargrilled pineapple syrup, Owney’s NYC rum, a couple of dashes of bitters and of course Buffalo Trace. Shaking over ice and served over a large cube of ice within a goblet, this twist on the Manhattan saw Tom garnish with dry ice and a model of the HMS Mayflower.
Jon Lee of Jake’s Bar and Still in Leeds was to be next to impress, bringing to the bar a twist on the flip named A Breakfast Flip For A King. This saw Buffalo Trace, egg, Kent English porter, golden syrup, Angostura Bitter and King’s Ginger liqueur combined, shaken and strained into a tea cup, complete with a crème brûlée sugar dusting and a stag biscuit to accompany.

Joe Ballinger with Old Fire On The Meadow
Joe Ballinger with Old Fire On The Meadow

Niall McGloin, also of Leeds but this time representing Smokestack, showed his Julep Twist by bringing together a rock candy syrup that had been marinated within rhubarb, homemade custard bitters, fresh rhubarb and Buffalo Trace. Using the aged-old method of crushing ice that he called the ‘wack-a-mole’ way (beating a wrap of ice with a mallet), he filled a sweet tin with the ice and swizzled the ingredients within. His recipe, named Buffalo Rock, came adorned with rock candy and dehydrated rhubarb for a garnish.
Ben Halpin of Blind Tiger became the first to enter the stage from Liverpool, with his recipe named Buffalo From Across The Pond. A twist on a Sazerac, he used his grandmothers own marmalade, Buffalo Trace, lemon juice, almond milk, homemade sarsaparilla bitters that were infused with Buffalo Trace and fresh anise. Mixing the ingredients within a mixing glass over ice, he served his drink on a piece of turf, alleged to have been dug from the Kentucky plains themselves, via a leather drinking pouch.

Calum Adams of Bar Lounge in Chester offered the judges an inspired recipe by Mark Twain (the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) that saw his twist on the classic Whiskey Sour named Quite Frankly Dear, I Don’t Give A Dram!. Using a Bergamot and Assan tea reduction, a handful of cascade and nelson hops, Taylor’s port, fresh pink grapefruit juice, egg and Buffalo Trace, he shook the ingredients over ice and strained into an ice filled wine glass.
Joe Ballinger of Berry and Rye in Liverpool was to be the tenth to show off, with his version of the Mint Julep that he called Old Fire On The Meadow. This saw mint leaves, Peychaud’s Bitters, oaked smoked nettle infused cider syrup, homemade redcurrant wine and Buffalo Trace come together within a crushed ice filled copper tin. An extravagant garnish of wild flowers for the vessel to be served upon and red currants adoring the drink itself, a lid was put over whilst Joe added oak wood chipped smoke into the chamber.

Mani Dosanjh of Tariff and Dale in Manchester was the last to be up, with his Afternoon Tea With The Buffalo’s seeing Buffalo Trace combined with Earl Grey infused neutral spirit, Earl Grey syrup, rose liqueur Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas bitters, all shaken over ice. This twist on the Whiskey Sour came served within a tea pot and ladened with fresh homemade corn bread and a lemon zest sprinkle.

From L-R: UK Brand Ambassador Tim Giles, Amir Javaid, Jim Brailsford, Joe Ballinger, Ross Thompson
From L-R: UK Brand Ambassador Tim Giles, Amir Javaid, Jim Brailsford, Joe Ballinger, Ross Thompson

11 fantastic recipes, but who came out on top? Third place saw Rebecca of The Wash House in Manchester and her Aristocity Flip, whilst Tom Finnon of The Hedonist Project in Leeds came second with his creation Buffalo8. But it was to be Joe Ballinger of Berry and Rye in Liverpool who would impress the judges with his Old Fire On The Meadow, a twist on the classic Mint Julep.

Joe won himself a trip to Kentucky and the chance to represent the northern bartenders of the UK alongside the rest of the Buffalo Trace competition winners, including London and Scotland.
If you fancy trying the winning recipe for yourself, head down to Berry and Rye in Liverpool and seek out Joe, I’ll see you at the bar!

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




There’s a new whiskey making waves here in the UK, and if you follow me on any of my social media channels, you would have seen me become one of the first to experience when they were released only 12 weeks ago. A look into these new expressions from the Michter’s brand reveals some classic history lessons, so pour a dram and let’s go exploring!

The Michter’s brand starts way back in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania in 1753. Swiss man John Shenk founded a distillery and named it after himself, producing whiskey from rye grain, favoured by many local farmers in the Pennsylvania Blue Mountain Valley. In the mid-1800’s, Dutchman Abraham Bomberger purchased the distillery from the Shenk family, changing the name of the distillery to Bomberger. Once 1919 hit, Prohibition came into force across America, temporarily shutting the distillery until the repeal. Once it reopened though, the distillery changed hand many times, coming close to financial ruin until the 1950’s when Lou Forman, the current owner at the time, created the Michter’s brand we see today. He combined portions of his son’s names – Michael and Peter. in 1989 though, the American whiskey industry was in the midst of a downturn of fortunes, and the owners declared bankruptcy, leaving the distillery in disrepair.

It wasn’t until the 1990’s did we see the foundations laid for the brand we see today. Joseph J. Magliocco (a previous lover of Michter’s and bartender in New York) and his consultant and mentor Richard “Dick” Newman (previous runner of Old Grand-Dad, Old Crow, and Old Taylor for National Distillers before becoming President and CEO of Austin Nichols, the distiller of Wild Turkey) came together with a focus to honour the Michter’s legacy. After gaining the Michter’s trademark, they made the bold decision to resurrect Michter’s in Kentucky to ensure better access to the resources needed.  Here they built a a 65,000 square foot distillery in the Shively section of Louisville and, currently under renovation, the architecturally significant Fort Nelson Building in downtown Louisville.

So what are Michter’s Master Distiller Willie Pratt and Michter’s Distiller Pam Heillmer doing to create the range of expressions available?

After using two small pot stills and a custom-built 32 inch diameter, 46 foot high copper column still with a distinctive copper pot still doubler, they are utilising a different method than usual to mature the casks. Using charred oak barrels that have been dried, sometimes for as long as 18-36 months, this causes the whisky to interact with an enhanced state from the natural properties of the wood, resulting in a supposed better flavour. The whisky itself is 103 proof instead of the normal industry level of 125 proof, and it’s said to be lower so the concentrated sugars in the toasted and charred wood can dissolve more readily.

A relatively unheard of process being used is heat cycling the barrels. Essentially, the more often whiskey expands and contracts (‘cycles’) soaking in and then out of the wood of the barrel, the more flavour it absorbs from the sugars in the caramelized toasted wood. Heat cycling is caused by the raising of the temperatures in the barrel warehouses to induce extra cycles within a given year. Although the process is not without its flaws. It is extremely costly due to the cycles increase of the ‘Angel Share’ evaporation during ageing.

The US*1 expressions, so named to honour Michter’s heritage harkening back to America’s first whiskey company, are the current released names in the UK market, so below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Michter’s US*1 Straight Rye – 42.4%

Made from select American rye grain and comes from a new American single white oak barrel. Light with dry rye notes on the nose. Plenty of oak on the palate, with dry raisin and fruits to create a very long, soft spice finish.

Michter’s US*1 Sour – 43%

A hark back to the 1970’s and 1980’s when the original Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey was the distillery’s single most popular product.
Light on the nose with soft butter notes. Soft with a punch of dry fruit upon the palate. Cinnamon flavours are present leading to a very dry finish with hints of oak.

Michter’s US*1 Bourbon – 45.7%

Made from a selected mashbill that features the highest quality American corn. Matured often in excess of eight years. in a batch size composed of no more than two dozen barrels.
A great nose of whiskey soaked Christmas pudding, with sharp intakes of caramel. Slight bitterness from the fruits on the palate, but mellows into rich caramel to create a long and very dry spiced finish.

Michter’s US*1 Unblended American Whiskey – 41.7%

Taken from the Michter’s website – “Unlike Bourbon or Rye, which, by definition, must be aged in new oak barrels, our US 1 Unblended American Whiskey is aged in a way that utilizes bourbon-soaked barrels to achieve a rich and unique flavor profile. In late 2013, Master Distiller Willie Pratt agreed to re-release our US 1 Unblended American Whiskey after a nearly three-year absence from the market, deeming it “just right” and “the best it’s ever been.” Crucially, our US 1 Unblended American Whiskey never contains grain neutral spirits – hence its “unblended” distinction”
Very light upon the nose, with soft oak aromas mixing with vanilla essences. Soft and light on the palate too. Butterscotch and caramel blend before a slight hit of fruit before the short finish.

A great range, with four different profiles to entice a wide range of whiskey lovers. Although not once to shout about any signature serves per say, a good dram on its own or over ice would do the trick.

One or two for your collection at home, and lets just hope that this latest chapter of Michter’s is a lot more steady than its previous years!

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace

I don’t know about you, but when I experience something, it sticks into my mind. I still remember the first time I sampled the Buffalo Trace range, held at The Anthologist Bar near St Paul’s Cathedral, London during London Cocktail Week 2011. It was hear that I met Drew Mayville, Sazerac Buffalo Trace Master Blender, who explained the history and heritage of the brand, as well as how each expression differed. Ever since then, I’ve always had a love for them all, and utilise when I can within my work. You can imagine my delight then when Buffalo Trace announced their new cocktail competition for 2014, and would be holding a master class in Manchester to kick-start the proceedings.

My original article I’ll be quite honest, was poor. Nothing to the standard that I write today. So if you may, ignore my 2011 posting, and read on the new and updated version, complete with diving into the history of Buffalo Trace –

Back in the day, buffalo herds would migrate across the plains of America, unintentionally carving paths that were later used by the first American pioneers and explorers to travel west. One of the now more famous trails led to the banks of the Kentucky river, the now home of the Buffalo Trace Distillery for the past 200 years. The history of the site though can go back to 1792 when Commodore Richard Taylor built the stone ‘Riverside’ house, a building that still stands to this day. From their, in 1811 another building was built, this time three-stories high, on the banks of the Kentucky river close to the Riverside house. Here, whisky barrels and other goods were kept to await shipping. It’s also here that Harrison Blanton is said to have started distilling in the upcoming years. 1858 saw a small distillery built by Daniel Swigert on the warehouse and Riverside house site, but by 1870, Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor Jnr purchased the distillery and re-named it Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery. Two years later, he invested $70,000, building a new distillery.

The original 2011 tasting
The original 2011 tasting

In 1878, Taylor sold the distillery to George T. Stagg, with Edmund Taylor still running the operations. Despite ‘The Great Fire’ of 1882 as a result of a lightning strike, the re-built distillery opened a year later and still houses the mashing and fermentation wing in the Dickel Building. With a new warehouse opening in 1885, and the introduction of steam heating a year later, the distillery was at the fore-front of modern distillation. Albert B. Blanton joins at the age of 16 in 1897, rising to still house, warehouse and bottling superintendent in 1900 before re-christening the distillery the George T. Stagg Distillery in 1904.

When Prohibition came into force in 1920, the distillery was one of the few to keep itself in business, seeking permission to distill their whisky for medicinal purposes and the rare act of creating new whisky between 1930 and 1933. Before this though, Albert B. Blanton became president of the distillery in 1921, then purchased by Schenley Distillers Corporation in 1929, resulting in the expansion of the distillery between 1935 and 1937. 1949 saw Elmer T. Lee join the company, the future Master Distiller.

The world’s first ever single-barrel bourbon, Blanton’s, was released in 1984, before returning to a family owned company; Sazerac Company. After distillery renovations, its flagship brand Buffalo Trace was released in 1999, alongside the renaming of the distillery to its now familiar title. With this, it won ‘Distillery of the Year’ in 2000 by Whisky Advocate, the American distillery to win the award. Current Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley joined the post in 2005,

Many a legendary figure involved with the continuous production of the Buffalo Trace range. But how is it all really made?

For Buffalo Trace, corn and rye are milled and then cooked. The corn is cooked under pressure for 45 minutes using Kentucky limestone water, unlike the rye, resulting in the two being brought together to create the mash that will start off the fermentation process. The mash is pumped into the fermentation tanks, alongside small amounts of set back from previous distillations. Here, the sour mash will rest for 3-5 days before being pumped to the stills.

The first distillation is through a column still, then through a copper pot still, where the resulting liquid has been coined with the nickname ‘White Dog’. The high abv liquid is transferred into brand new white oak barrels from the Ozark mountains. The barrels are actually aged for 6 months in the production yard (the only distillery to do this) and then charred heavy on the inside before being used. Buffalo Trace will stay in the barrel for at least 8 years, housed in the middle of the warehouse so it gains the different temperatures from each season, resulting in the maximum flavour extract. Once aged, 40 barrels are chosen at a time and each tasted individually to make sure they match the profile of Buffalo Trace. Once chosen, those barrels will then be put into the batch, hence the name ‘small batch bourbon’, and bottled and corked by hand.

So with such an extensive range from the Buffalo Trace family, how does each fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on each that I have been lucky enough to experience –

Buffalo Trace – 40%

Red berry and vanilla on the nose with hints of toffee making its way through near the end. A slight spice from the rye is also present. On the palate, a slight spice to begin with develops into a long, wild after-taste with fruit flavours coating. Smooth offering, a little dry, resulting in a lingering finish with some citrus cuts.

Thomas H HandyWhite Dog – 62.5%

An unaged bourbon, on the nose it gave a distinct corn and grain aroma on the nose, with green grass mixing with a slight sweetness. Spice on the palate, with a developing warmth, slight green fruit flavours resulting in a long finish.

Benchmark Bourbon Old Number 8 – 40%

Plenty of caramel on the nose, with dashes of fruit and wood coming through sporadically. Light on the palate, with a good combination of oak, cherries and a growing warmth of leather.

Eagle Rare Single Barrel – 45%

Aged for no less than 10 years. Fresh fruit with intense caramel, wood flavourings to create quite a mature whisky nose with hints of chocolate, toffee and fudge. A sharp, robust yet more complex flavours of raisins and dry fruits fill the palate, alongside burn toffee and a velvet texture to create a long, slightly fiery finish.


Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch
Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch

Eagle Rare 17yr – 45%

Released once a year in the Autumn from 10 selected barrels. Plenty of wood aromas with hints of smoke wrap around fresh fruit to give a silky effect on the nose. The palate encounters rather intense fruit flavours with a slight spice to overtake the wood. It’s slightly drier, especially in the long after-taste. A very heavy bourbon offering.

George T. Stagg – 71.3%

Sampled in 2011 at 71.3% abv and at an age released at between 15-16 years.  A very strong nose of cinnamon spice, dried fruit and toffee sweetness, mellowing onto the palate. Slight tobacco and vanilla round off the flavours on the short finish.

George T. Stagg – 64.1%

Sampled in 2014 at 64.1% and at an age released at 16.5 years. Rich vanilla on the nose with a slight medicinal aroma with hints of wood to finish. A smooth start on the palate, developing a warmth that bring with it dry spice to a surprisingly lively finish. Mouth-watering.

Stagg Jr – 67.2%

Uncut and unfiltered, aged for nearly a decade. Soft and subtle aromatic fruit on the nose. A very sharp, very hard-hitting flavour of rye and spice on the palate, but soon mellows to a spicy, lingering finish with slight citrus bursts.

Elmer T. Lee – 45%

Sampled in 2011 at an age released at between 9-10 years. On the nose, a very light offering of vanilla and butterscotch creating a smooth, soft and slightly sweet aroma. A sweeter taste of honey and vanilla with some intense fruits on the palate creates a rather creamier bourbon to almost class it as a dessert wine.

George T. StaggHancock’s President Reserve – 44.45%

Instant sweetness on the nose with aromas of exotic fruits that carries onto the palate. A round offering of fruit, spice and honey combine well to create a long finish.

Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel  50%

Lots of oak, walnut and dry spices on the nose with a good balance of toffee, chocolate, vanilla and rich toffee on the palate. Incredibly long, smooth and silky.

Thomas H. Handy – 64.2%

Sampled in 2014 at 64.2% abv (batch barrel strength) and at an age released at between 8 and 10 years from 15 selected barrels.
A vibrant and strong aroma of fruit and spice mix well on the nose whilst a nutty, rye flavour develops on the palate. A long lingering taste of fresh spice to finish.

Sazerac Rye – 45%

Aged between 6 to 8yrs. On the nose, a spicy aroma mixes with pear to produce a soft fruit offering with a slight sweetness. The spice makes a slightly intense presence on the tongue but develops into a sweeter ending.

Sazerac Rye 18yr – 45%

Released once a year with just 28 barrels per bottling. A spicy aroma on the nose dominates but the palate embraces a smooth, delicate balance of chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla to create a long, warm finish.

W.L. Weller – 45%

Aged for a minimum of 12 years and is the original wheated bourbon. Light and soft with subtle wheat aromas coming through Very light with thin honey flavours, smooth caramel and finishing with a slight spice blended with butter and vanilla.

Stagg JrWilliam Larue Weller – 65%

Aged between 10 and 14 years and is an uncut and unfiltered Kentucky bourbon, fresh oak with light toffee are present on the nose, with a slight pepper aroma. Dry fruits are evidently present and becomes strong and intense. Plenty of caramel and corn too, resulting in a sweet finish.

Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch – 50%

Named after Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor and aged inside century old warehouses constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr.
Slightly dry on the nose, with aromas of cooked banana bread and rich oak. Smooth on the palate, with flavours of butterscotch, caramel and hints of spice offering a tingling finish.

Such an incredible range, and one that is hard to pinpoint a singular favourite. There are a couple that I am yet to experience, including the other E.H. Taylor Jr expressions, their experimental collection, the Single Oak Project, the A. Smith Bowman Distillery collection, and the 1972 Ridgemont Reserve, as well as the Van Winkle range that is also produced at the distillery.

Some of the range are versatile too, and you can enjoy such classics as –

The Official Sazerac Ccktail
The Official Sazerac Ccktail

The Official Sazerac Cocktail

Glass –

Old Fashioned


35 ml Sazerac Rye
1 cube sugar
7 ml Herbasaint (or absinthe as a substitute)
3 Dashes Peychauds Bitters

Method – 

Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice. In a second Old-Fashioned glass place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube. Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar. Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint. Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.

or perhaps 

Mint Julep
Mint Julep

Mint Julep

Glass – 

Julep Tin

Ingredients – 

90 ml Buffalo Trace
4 Sprigs of Mint
2 teaspoons of sugar or to taste

Method  –

In a julep tin, add the mint, sugar and Buffalo Trace. Muddle well and ensure the sugar has dissolved. Fill with shaved ice and stir until the outside of the tin frosts up. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Perfect for any time of the day. But it’s not just drinks that you could enjoy with the Buffalo Trace family. How about this menu of food matching, created by the chef’s at Rosylee Tearoom’s, Manchester –

To start:

Pan fried seabass, celeriac, vanilla puree, salad of courgette, samphire and baby onions

Followed by:

W. L. Weller Whisky Sour

Main Course
Main Course

For Mains:

Pan roast pork fillet, smoked spice pork belly, pomme puree, vanilla cider sauce, honey roast carrots

Followed by:

1/2 Sazeray rye and 1/2 Buffalo Trace within a Manhattan

And for Dessert:

Vanilla bean pannacotta, rhubarb crumble with poached rhubarb, white chocolate shards, raspberry sorbet

Superb! I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of cocktails will be thought up by bartenders in the upcoming competition, and I’ll be their to follow the action so come back in June for some more inspirational ideas. In the meantime, stock up on your drinks cabinet, you’ve got some bourbon to enjoy.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Benchmark Tasting Notes


McAfee’s Benchmark is a premium bourbon, but one that you probably won’t see on your bar travels as much as it probably should. As I’m one for highlighting some of the more ‘forgotten’ brands within my work, I took the time to dig a little deeper for you all.

The McAfee’s Benchmark brand was created by Seagram’s back in the late 1960’s. Named after the McAfee brothers who, being one of the first European settlers, surveyed a site just north of Frankfort, USA in 1775. It’s this sight that the brand is distilled and produced from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, part of the Sazerac Company. When the bourbon was born, it was branded simply as Benchmark Bourbon and sold within a decanter-style bottle adorned with a black label and produced at the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The nod towards the McAfee brothers came much later, probably after the sale from Seagram’s to the Sazerac Company in 1989.

Aged in oak barrels, there is no age statement on their Benchmark Bourbon Old Number 8, although it is popular towards both the traditional sippers and the cocktail maestro. So how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Benchmark Bourbon Old Number 8 – 40%

Plenty of caramel on the nose, with dashes of fruit and wood coming through sporadically. Light on the palate, with a good combination of oak, cherries and a growing warmth of leather.

A great dram, one that is seriously under the radar yet should never be. Possibly due to the other outstanding expressions available from the Sazerac Company is the reason why it is lesser known, especially here in the UK, but to really impress your friends, I’d grab yourself a bottle. Dare to try something that wins (gold at the 2013 Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition and silver at the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition too!)

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wild Turkey Tasting Notes

Wild Turkey

It’s not often you get to have lunch with a Master Distiller, especially one who has never even visited the UK before. But that’s exactly what happened today when Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey came to Manchester’s Room Restaurant and Cocktail Bar to talk about his and his fathers, Jimmy Russell, creations.

With bartenders coming from some of Manchester’s finest including Australasia, Simple, The Living Room and The Liquorists, ex Manchester based Martin Taylor (of Black Dog Ballroom, Corridor and Fluid Bars fame) who is the UK Wild Turkey Brand Ambassador, introduced Eddie and his fascinating insight into a brand that many of us know of in some way or form. I myself didn’t know too much about the name, although I’ve had many a dram of it’s two main expressions,  so with my new-found knowledge and initial research, let’s take a look into the Bird –

Eddie Russell
Eddie Russell

The brand can start its history way back in 1869 when the Ripy brothers opened their family distillery on Wild Turkey Hill in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Initial interest of the distillery came from the Ripy brothers representing Kentucky at the 1893 World’s Fair, but with the beginning of Prohibition in the US in 1919, the distillery closed until 1933. In 1940 though, Thomas McCarthy, a distillery executive, brought some of his whiskey with him on a wild turkey hunt and shared it amongst friends. It’s said that they enjoyed it so much that they requested he bring some more ‘Wild Turkey’ bourbon on the next hunt. 1954 saw Master Distiller Jimmy Russell (Eddie’s father) join the company, and in 1980, Eddie himself started to work in all parts of the distillery process and bottling, eventually rising to his current role as the associate master distiller. Before Eddie joined though, 1971 saw the Ripy brothers bought out by Austin Nichols Distilling Company, who were subsequently acquired by Pernod Ricard in 1980. Now though, its name is under the Campari Group who purchased the brand back in 2009.

It’s hard to believe that Jimmy and Eddie Russell have a combined 93 years of loyal service in producing Wild Turkey, even more so when Eddie reveals that his father still works at the distillery every day, producing their 15 strong portfolio. It would also be common to see him chatting to other industry distillers like Booker Noe of Jim Beam and Elmer T. Lee of Buffalo Trace (who has very unfortunately passed away this past week) over a dram of his favourite – Wild Turkey 101. But how does Jimmy and Eddie create their biggest seller?

It begins with the selection of sweet corn, rye, and barley malt for distilling, and then using water that comes straight from the Kentucky River to cook the grains during the mashing and malting stage. Once the malted barley gets tossed in, sour mash is added to start the fermentation process. During this process, the yeast turns the starch into sugar. The yeast strain used is the same from the very beginning, and kept in various places (including Eddie’s fridge and even another state in case the power goes and warms the strain, rendering it useless) and is added to the corn, rye, and malt to create the yeast mash. Once the fermentation has finished, the liquid mash is pumped into a continuous still where it is heated so the alcohol can disperse from the mash, rise up the still and into a condenser where it forms back into a liquid.
After distillation, the spirit is poured into new #4 alligator char, white oak barrels and then stored for aging. The whiskey is tasted annually after two years until ready to be drawn from the cask (Wild Turkey age there whiskey longer than most distilleries). Once Jimmy and Eddie believe that the Wild Turkey is ready, the bourbon is poured through a filtration system and into a bottling machine.

Wild TurkeyThe UK only have three of their fifteen strong portfolio available, but two of them have been created by Eddie Russell himself, and their 101 has been a mainstay since the beginning. But how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Wild Turkey 81 – 40.5%

Introduced in 2011 and has aged bourbon of 6-8 years. A nose that begins rather light, but develops aromas of vanilla and caramel to have a rich finish. Smooth on the palate with a velvet texture despite lots of wood flavours. A slow spice and vanilla finish that’s long and mouth-watering.

Wild Turkey 101 – 50.5%

A marriage of primarily 6, 7 and 8-year-old bourbon. Aromas of light wood with lingering notes of caramel and vanilla on the nose. A sharp slice of spice and the vanilla at the beginning of the palate, with the spice developing a warmth that freshens and lingers for a long finish.

Wild Turkey American Honey – 35.5%

Introduced in 2006 and is a blend of pure honey and 4-year-old Wild Turkey. Soft and light on the nose with a lingering scent of honey and sweetness. Almost aromatic. Soft again on the palate, with the sweetness carrying on to oak and vanilla flavours. A great blend of flavours that leaves a fresh aromatic experience.

A fantastic range, with the 101 your traditional sipping bourbon, the 81 introduced by Eddie for the cocktail mixer crowd, and the American Honey to introduce non-bourbon drinkers to the American spirit. As mentioned, the 81 would go great with one of these –

Prohibition Era Manhattan
Prohibition Era Manhattan

Prohibition Era Manhattan

Glass – 


Ingredients – 

60 ml Wild Turkey 81
30 ml Cinzano Rosso Vermouth
1 dash of Angostura Bitters


Stir all of your ingredients with ice in a mixing glass until well chilled. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with an olive and a lemon twist.

Wild Turkey is a growing brand, with Australia and Japan huge fans of the brand (Eddie and Jimmy once spent 45 minutes signing items on their first visit to Japan, and they had only just left their car!), but the UK is seeing more awareness in the name, especially within the bars as they compete in Wild Turkey’s first ever cocktail competition. If you’re in cities including London, Bristol, Edinburgh and of course Manchester, expect many a bartender to try out their creations on you all as they try to win themselves a prize to the Wild Turkey Distillery!

A brand that is worth gracing your drinks cabinet, and a name that covers all aspects of bourbon drinkers too. What more could you ask?!

* A special thanks to Martin Taylor for allowing me the time to come along and meet Eddie Russell in person.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wild Turkey Scores Big Wins at 2013 International Spirits Challenge

Wild Turkey 81 Win Portrait

Gruppo Campari’s Wild Turkey has won two prestigious awards at the 2013 International Spirits Challenge. The new kid on the block, Wild Turkey 81 Kentucky Straight Bourbon won the accolade of Gold – Best in Class, while the original Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon was presented with Silver. These wins for Wild Turkey 81 and 101 follow the announcement of Wild Turkey American Honey’s Silver award at the ISC earlier this year.

Wild Turkey 81 is a blend of 6-8 year old bourbons, making it older than most of its competitors in the category. Deep amber in colour, with a rich nose of vanilla, oak and hint of orange and toffee, and a palate exploding with honey, brown sugar and tobacco, Wild Turkey 81 delivers a long and smooth finish making this bourbon perfect enjoyed with ice and coke. The flagship bourbon from the brand, Wild Turkey 101 is a unique marriage of 6, 8 and 12 year old bourbons. This long, rich and full bodied bourbon is best served neat or over ice or in a classic cocktail such as a Manhattan. Strong flavours, true of American bourbon, shine through with caramel and vanilla, and notes of honey and orange. Both variants feature the famed Wild Turkey high-rye mash, delivering a spicy kick synonymous with the brand.

Masterfully crafted in original Bourbon country, Kentucky, USA, Wild Turkey 81 and 101 are products of the passion of Master Distiller Jimmy Russell and his son, Associate Master Distiller Eddie Russell.

The ISC, widely regarded as one of the most authoritative, respected and influential competitions in the world, conducts a series of scrupulous blind tastings over a period of 7 days. The panel of judges consists of 50 of the industry’s most respected and experienced professionals, who award scores based on aroma, appearance, taste and finish.

With over 1,000 entries from almost 70 countries worldwide, these wins are a celebration of Wild Turkey’s authentic Kentucky heritage and are testament to the commitment and extraordinary knowledge, passion and skill of the team behind Wild Turkey. Christophe Schaillee, Regional Director Europe for Gruppo Campari said “It is an incredible honour to have both Wild Turkey 81 and Wild Turkey 101 receive awards at this most prestigious international celebration of sprits. We work hard to ensure our products are unique and created with the utmost attention to detail and craftsmanship. We are very proud of our product and of course these wins are the perfect way to toast the achievements of all involved in making the Wild Turkey brand a success.”

Wild Turkey 81 (40.5% ABV) and Wild Turkey 101 (50.5% ABV) are products of the Wild Turkey Distillery, which is owned by Gruppo Campari. Wild Turkey 81 is available at select Tesco stores across the UK, RRP £22.99. Wild Turkey 101 is available online from specialist drinks retailers including http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com and http://www.thedrinkshop.com.

Maker’s Mark Tasting Notes

Maker's Mark

A staple to any bar around the world is Maker’s Mark. The bottle alone creates a buzz with its presence, but it’s not, well compared to other major presences like Jack Daniels, Jim Beam or Woodford Reserve, really been around for that long. 1958 to be exact.

Well the production of Maker’s Mark started in 1954 to be fair. A gentleman named T. William Samuels Sr, or Bill as he was more commonly referred to as, purchased a distillery known as ‘Burks’ Distillery’ in Loretto, Kentucky for a sum of $35,000. 1958 came the first bottling of the now distinctive dipped red wax seal, which itself is a U.S. trademark.Production was overseen by Bill Samuels son Bill Samuels Jr until only as recently as 2011 when he announced his retirement. Son Rob Samuels succeeded him.

With its marketed trademark tagline of “It tastes expensive … and is”, the distillery became a historical landmark with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark. The Burks Distillery became the first distillery in America to be recognized where the landmark buildings were in active use for distilling.

In 1981, Maker’s Mark was sold to Hiram Walker & Sons, which six years later sold it to distillery giant Allied Domecq in 1987, which in turn sold it to Fortune Brands in 2005. In 2011 Fortune Brands split and its drinks business became Beam Inc. home of brands including Jim Beam, Courvoisier and Canadian Club.

So despite a rather topsy-turvy history, Maker’s Mark stand strong as one of the worlds most recognised brands. And it has a rather unusual recipe.

Maker’s Mark can actually be attributed to limestone-purified spring water that comes from a spring-fed lake right at the distillery. With a foundation of red winter wheat rather than traditional rye, this, along with naturally malted barley, and yellow corn, results in a double distillation within a copper pot still. Once distilled, charred white oak barrels are used to age. Although no specific age is ever given, the master distiller tastes each batch five times during the maturation process. When they think it is ready, it is then bottled.
A rather unique method that Maker’s Mark incorporate is barrel rotation. Rotated by hand, workers rotate the barrels from the upper to the lower levels of the aging warehouses during the aging process to even out the differences in temperature. The upper floors are exposed to the greatest temperature variations during the year, so rotating the barrels ensures that the bourbon in all the barrels have the same quality and taste.

So two rather unique processes – red winter wheat instead of the traditional rye, as well as barrel rotation. But how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Maker’s Mark – 45%

Rich fruit mixed in with a hint of spice aroma on the nose, followed by a well-rounded palate of spice, vanilla and oak. A long, lingering spice finish that warms nicely.

A fantastic sip, and one that can even win a competition –

Fashionable Manhattan
Fashionable Manhattan

Fashionable Manhattan

Glass –


Ingredients – 

30 ml Maker’s Mark
12.5 ml Sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Wedges of lime, lemon and orange

Method – 

Place two dashes of Angostura Bitters and wedges of lime, lemon and orange into a cocktail glass. Macerate the fruit until the bitters and fruit oils cover the entire inside of the glass. Remove fruit remnants. Pour Maker’s Mark and sweet vermouth into a shaker, add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into cocktail glass. Run a bar spoon around the inside of the glass to release the fruit oils and bitters into the drink. Garnish with a broken maraschino cherry.

This was the award-winning recipe at the 2006 Kentucky Bourbon Festival Cocktail Challenge, and a fantastic way to combine two classic drinks in one – the Old Fashioned and Manhattan. Of course, it’s not just cocktails that Maker’s Mark is famous for –

Maker’s Mark Morning After Sugar Crusted Marshmallow Pancake Stack with Bourbon Blueberry Compote and Naughty Syrup


Bourbon Blueberry Compote

(Makes 3 cups)

1/2 cup Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch salt

Combine 6 tablespoons of the bourbon with the sugar and heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely.
Add the berries and cook until they start breaking down and the mixture thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining bourbon and lemon juice.

Maker’s Mark Morning After Sugar Crusted Marshmallow Pancake Stack with Bourbon Blueberry Compote and Naughty Syrup
Maker’s Mark Morning After Sugar Crusted Marshmallow Pancake Stack with Bourbon Blueberry Compote and Naughty Syrup

Naughty Syrup

(Makes 1-1/4 cups)

2 tablespoons Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 cup Grade A or Grade B maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 piece fresh orange peel, 1″x 3″, minced
2 tablespoons butter

Combine the maple syrup, cinnamon, clove and orange peel in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium high heat to a simmer then remove from the heat and allow the syrup and aromatics to steep for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan.
Gently warm the syrup over low heat. Add the butter and Maker’s Mark Bourbon and stir until well blended. Serve warm.

Pancake Stack

(Makes 8–12 pancakes)

2 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 jar marshmallow cream (Fluff)
1 recipe bourbon blueberry compote
1 recipe Naughty Syrup
Butter for making pancakes
Granulated sugar

Beat the eggs until frothy in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture. Stir until well-incorporated, then stir in the butter. The batter should be fairly smooth with a few small lumps.
Heat a large griddle or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a teaspoon of butter to the hot griddle and then spoon a 1/2 cup of batter to form a pancake 5″-6″ in diameter. Cook the pancake until bubbles stop forming and the batter begins to set, then flip the pancake (the cooked side should be a deep golden brown). Cook until the other side is set and golden brown. Remove the pancake and set aside on a baking sheet or plate, tented with aluminum foil to keep the pancakes warm. Wipe the griddle/pan down in between with a damp towel or paper towel. Repeat with the melted butter and remaining batter until all of the batter has been used. The griddle may get hot over time, so adjust and lower the heat as necessary.
To make a pancake stack, place a pancake on a plate and top that pancake with a few tablespoons of marshmallow cream. Add another pancake and top again with a few tablespoons of marshmallow cream.
Add a third pancake to the stack. Brush generously with melted butter and then sprinkle the top pancake with a thin, even layer of granulated sugar. Melt the sugar using a hand torch, keeping the torch 6-8 inches away and in constant motion, to melt the sugar evenly without burning it. When the sugar hardens it will form a deep amber brown crust.
Top the pancake stack with the Bourbon Blueberry Compote and then drizzle generously with Naughty Syrup. Serve immediately!

Makes you hungry doesn’t it! It may have not been around for as long as the others, but it sure is making strides in the bourbon whisky market. Play around today and join in the fun. Or if you ever get the chance, try Maker’s Mark 46. The first new Makers Mark recipe for at least 50 years, Maker’s 46 is named for the number of different wood ‘recipes’ they tried before getting it right!

Check out the rest of the photos, taken at Dawnvale Leisure Interiors, via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve is a brand that is a staple to many a bar around the world. But what makes it so? I mean, have you ever tried it? Neat? A cocktail maybe but as a huge believe in trying a spirit before you mix, this is a brand that should always come under this rule.

But before we come onto the liquid itself, lets take a peek at how Woodford Reserve became a dominant brand.

Woodford Reserve has been around since 1780, with its distillery built in Woodford County in central Kentucky in 1838. Originally going by the name of Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, and later the Labrot & Graham Distillery (which its name graces each bottle and cork), the distillery is the oldest out of the nine bourbon houses that are still in operation. Originally established by Elijah Pepper, he passed the distillery onto his son Oscar (hence the name Old Oscar Pepper Distillery) and worked alongside Dr. James Crow in the mid 19th Century. Around this time, Dr. Crow established a set of activities that improved the understanding and quality of the bourbon making process including the sour-mash fermentation, pot still distillation and barrel maturation. 

In 1878, the Pepper family sold the distillery to Leopold Labrot and James Graham who owned and operated the site until 1941 when the Brown-Forman Corporation took over until 1968. By this time the property was mothballed and sold the site in 1971. In 1993 however, Brown-Forman re-purchased the property and refurbished it into production in time for 1996.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Woodford Reserve is rather unlike other Bourbons in that it contains some percentage of whiskey made in copper pot stills and triple-distilled – just like the Irish style of whiskeys. Woodford Reserve uses a mash of corn, rye, and malted barley, and also re-uses some of each run’s fermented mash in the next batch. The pot-still whiskey is combined with column-still whiskey and aged in new toasted oak barrels for between four and six years.

So a long yet interrupted history, and with a combination of two methods of distillation, how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on the original, and further expressions.

Woodford Reserve – 43.2%

On the nose it gives off a good caramel scent with a smooth lingering vanilla aroma which carried on to the palate. The caramel becomes more subtle in flavour, and mixing with a little fruit, results in a smooth, silky lingering after-taste.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked – 43.2%

The whiskey is first matured in new charred white oak barrels, but before bottling it is transferred to a special heavily toasted, lightly charred finishing barrel.
Light on the nose with short cherry, dry oak and a slight maple syrup aromas coming through. Soft and smooth too. Incredibly smooth however on the palate, with fudge flavours mixing with plenty of oak, marshmallow, butter and a thin coating of vanilla. Slight underlining of sweetness creating a dry, slightly herbal lingering finish.

Smashing on its own, especially the Double Oaked, but how about combining it with other ingredients?

Mint Julep
Mint Julep

Mint Julep

Glass – 

Highball / Julep Cup

Ingredients – 

75 ml Woodford Reserve
2 tablespoons mint syrup (recipe below)
1 sprig of mint

Method – 

Fill a glass or julep cup with broken or crushed ice. Add mint syrup and the bourbon and stir gently until the cup is frosted. Garnish with 1 sprig of mint.

Mint Syrup – 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 13 sprigs of mint – Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes; do not stir. Pour over the 13 sprigs of mint in a heatproof bowl, gently crushing the mint with the back of a spoon. Chill, covered, for 8 to 10 hours. Strain, discarding the mint.

Traditional, and one that you will surely have if you ever have the chance to experience the Kentucky Derby.

There are other various expressions of Woodford Reserve, usually limited editions and special bottlings, as well as the highly sought out ‘Masters Collection’, most of which are available here.

Check out the rest of the photos, taken at The Circle 360, via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.