Sippin’ Corn…One Bourbon at a time!
This is the second of what I hope to be a long list of postings for sharing information and news about Bourbon including cocktails made with Bourbon, food pairings, tasting events and bars and restaurants in Seoul that serve America’s Native Spirit. Read my first introductory article on 10 Magazine.
Produced from a grain mix containing 51 percent corn or higher and aged in charred, new American white oak barrels, Bourbon is a smooth and mild tasting whiskey with an irresistible nose and a savory palate that is gratifying to the consumer.
Bourbon’s aromatic and taste profile includes a hint of sweetness consistent with honey, vanilla, and maple syrup. These are often complimented with overtones of toasted nuts, oak, raisins, cherries, and sometimes citrus fruit. Hints of cinnamon, toffee, and nutmeg are also included in the vast profile of many Bourbons.
By law Bourbon is required to be produced with at least 51 percent corn… catching on yet? However; there are three basic recipe categories that Master Distillers use to make Bourbon; first the traditional recipe having approximately 70 percent corn with an equal mixture of rye and barley. Jim Beam, Knob Creek, and Evan Williams fall into this category. Second, a high rye recipe that basically calls for a higher content of rye over barley. Four Roses, Basil Hayden and Bulleit are a few Bourbons that follow this formula and the third, a high wheat recipe which as you can guess includes a higher mixture of wheat over the other grains; except for corn of course. Maker’s Mark, W.L. Weller, and the popular but hard to find Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Year Old all use high wheat recipes. Of the three categories, the high rye Bourbons have a slightly spicier taste profile with the mildest and sweetest Bourbons coming from the high wheat recipe.
The categories mentioned above are just a generalized starting point as each Master Distiller has his or her own secret formula for success. In the end it’s all about personal preference and taste, but I like them all.
Many drink Bourbon straight up (“neat”), with ice (“on the rocks“) or with just a drop or two of water, but Bourbon also makes a delicious cocktail such as an Old Fashion or Mint Julep. Mixologists today are increasingly using Bourbon over other whiskeys to create some of the best tasting adult cocktails.
Bourbon Spotlight… Maker’s Mark
I’m choosing Makers Mark as the first Bourbon to profile because it is one of my favorite “everyday” Bourbons and although rumor has it that Maker’s Mark may soon be hard to find in Korea, it’s currently available in bars and restaurants in Seoul.
In 1953, Bill Samuels Sr. first created Maker’s Mark at the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. His goal was to produce a smooth and sweeter tasting Bourbon that would appeal to a larger customer base. He accomplished this by abandoning his family’s traditional “high rye” recipe and substituting it with his own winter wheat version.
His formula comprised of corn, winter wheat, and barley proved to be a winner. Maker’s Mark is one of the most popular Bourbons sold today.
Handmade in batches of 19 barrels or less, Maker’s Mark is aged four to six years and is bottled at 90 proof or 45% alcohol by volume (ABV). The nose is sweet, introducing hints of vanilla, caramel, and oak. This is followed by a rich taste that is sweet and smooth on the palate with soft expressions of citrus and spice that resembles a nibble but not a bite. The finish although a bit shorter than I prefer; is pleasant and refreshing with accents of caramel, vanilla, and oak that leaves you wanting more.
Overall Maker’s Mark is a fine Bourbon, smooth enough for even non-whiskey drinkers to enjoy neat, but because it’s competitively priced many feel comfortable mixing it with Coke or enjoying it in a cocktail.
Look for Maker’s Mark at Vatos Urban Tacos in Itaewon, Sinsa-dong, or Apgujeong or at Vault 82 in Hannam-dong. The bottle stands out behind any bar and is recognizable by its signature hand dipped red wax top; the idea coming from Bill Samuels’ wife Marge.