Bourbon Review: Lexington Finest Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

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For horse racing enthusiasts like myself, spring when a man’s thoughts (fancy?) turns to horse racing and Bourbon. Kentucky has a lot of horses and even more barrels of bourbon. According to the article in the Men’s Journal about the “Pappy Heist” some 5.7 million barrels currently reside in the state, and, yes, they pay taxes every year for sleeping in those warehouses. But that is off the subject. Spring is when the 3-year-olds who are eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby begin their campaign for the Triple Crown. It is also the time of year that part of the country talks bourbon, Mint Juleps and thoroughbred racing.

Lexington Bourbon was inspired by one of horse racing’s most successful thoroughbred sires. It was first launched by Western Spirits (Wyoming) in 2012. So we have a Wyoming bourbon with a Kentucky Thoroughbred on the label. Makes you think it’s made in Kentucky. Thus, the issue with many of these new bourbons you see on the market. You don’t know where they are made or anything about their age or heritage. They have tried to give it heritage with the “Lexington” name and the bottle has a very Woodford Reserve look to its contour.

The bourbon runs about $25.99 at Total Wine. Being my first review of the Racing Season I want to be positive. But unlike some of my other reviews, it’s not a new favorite. It is a lighter, less complex bourbon. It’s a good bourbon for your Whiskey Sours, and other cocktails. It is rather short on finish but has a vanilla, spicy, sweet, and some say woody taste to it.

They have done a wonderful job of packaging this bourbon to have that old Kentucky look. It would look good on your bar on Derby Day. But I would stick to Woodford Reserve, Blanton’s, or some of the other Thoroughbred inspired Bourbon’s for those dressed-up mint Juleps you want to make to impress your friends this Spring.

Age: Unknown
Proof: 86
Color: Golden Brown
Aroma: Vanilla, Woody, Spicy
Taste: Woody, Vanilla, Sweet
Price: $25.99 at Total Wine

Bourbon Review: Jefferson’s Ocean: Aged at Sea

Remember when you were little and Mom or Dad would hand you a conch shell? They would say put it up to ear and you can hear the ocean. You would and you would be amazed at how you could hear the ocean. How could the shell could do that and take you back to the sea?

Trey Zoeller, Master Blender at Jefferson’s Bourbon, is good friends with Chris Fischer of OCEARCH, a nonprofit that researches great white sharks and other marine species. Chris has been featured on National Geographic Channel’s “Shark Men.” What happens when a Bourbon Man and a Shark Man get together? They came up with the idea of aging the bourbon, in its barrels, on board the 126 foot OCEARCH research vessel.

In 2012, Jefferson’s released the first Jefferson’s Ocean, aged 4 years at sea. There were only 200 bottles the first year. They are now on their 4th release of Ocean. They seem to be perfecting the process and its getting bigger and better every year.  You can even track the voyage of their ocean aged bourbon on their website.

Jeffersons Ocean Aged

Anyone who has toured the Bourbon Trail has heard all the stories about the warehouses and how aging the barrels hot in the summer and cold in the winter pulls the bourbon into and out of the oak.   The French have aged Cognac by the sea. Why not bourbon?

Well, open a bottle of Jefferson’s Ocean bourbon and they will take you back to the sea as well. I know what you are thinking. Just like me when I first read about Jefferson’s and I said, “No way.” Well, I am here to say “WAY.” You can taste the ocean, honest, you can taste the ocean. Aging at sea is allowing that breathing barrel to bring in the salty air, and the taste profile it brings with it.

The first whiff you get of the bourbon is soft, at first mellow, but with a full flavor profile of caramel and cinnamon, and a strong finish. It is like a very good wine or cognac as it gets to the middle of your palate.

I highly recommend you try a bottle and relax by the sea without even leaving the house. Turn on House Hunters International, or the Travel Channel and watch the sea as you sip it. Or better yet take a bottle on that next vacation to the bay, beach, coast, ocean, or shore depending upon which coast you inhabit.

Age: 4 years+
Proof: 90
Color: Dark Amber
Aroma: Caramel, Cinnamon, raisins
Taste: Salted Caramel, brown sugar, vanilla
Price: $84.99 Total Wine

Bourbon Drink: Bourbon and Ginger

Yesterday was a warm Monday evening in California and I was at the office late.  What did I make for my cocktail when I got home?  I went back to a house favorite: bourbon and ginger.

We usually make it with the traditional ginger ale — or sometimes mix it up with ginger beer — and a lime wedge.  I know it sounds pretty simple and that’s the point.  I use 2 ounces of bourbon and 3 ounces of ginger ale, and a squeeze of lime.  You can make it to suit your taste.

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I use Evan Williams Black as my house bourbon to mix our cocktail.  Once again, use what you like. I think Evan Williams is just a good bourbon at a good price point for mixed drinks.  As for the ginger ale, we love Fever Tree. Today there are tons of ginger ale and ginger beer options — you no longer are limited to Seagrams. Pick the one with a flavor profile you enjoy.

We had our first “Presbyterian Press” cocktail at Sissy’s Southern Kitchen in Dallas and I have been a fan of the bourbon and ginger cocktail since then.  I will review Sissy’s another day.  I will just say for now: bourbon, fried chicken, and deviled eggs make for a wonderful evening.

Next time you want a bourbon cocktail get a really good ginger ale and mix it with your favorite bourbon.  Don’t forget that lime!

Bourbon Review: Basil Hayden’s

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I have had a bottle of Basil Hayden sitting on our bar cart for over a year, unopened.  After opening it the other night I am not sure WHY I waited so long.

I didn’t know what to expect, as I had never tasted it or read a review. I’m actually not really sure why I originally bought it — maybe the packaging.  But I have heard a lot of good things recently, and it turns out they were all true. Taylor wrote about Basil Hayden’s in her guest post earlier this week – it’s a favorite at her house, and now mine too.

What an incredibly smooth bourbon!  I am putting it on the same pedestal with the best.  I starting sipping while working on another blog post and I had to stop and savor the moment.  It reminded me of the first time I tasted Pappy (which I’ll talk more about in a couple weeks).  It was one of those moments when you say to yourself, “This is a special moment, stop and enjoy it.”

The History (from their website):

In 1796, Master Distiller Basil Hayden Sr. broke ‘the rules’ by mixing small grains into the mash of a traditional corn base. A Maryland transplant unafraid to stand out amidst the residing establishment, Basil conjectured that the spicy flavor of rye would be a striking complement to the sweet smoothness of corn in his distillery’s standard bourbon. And much to the chagrin of the traditionalist set, Basil was right. His recipe was a masterpiece, resulting in a unique, singular small batch bourbon whiskey that was blessed with rich hints of peppermint, notes of pepper, slight citrus overtones, and a spicy, warming finish.

I have to agree with their notes of strong pepper and a spicy aroma.  As it sits on the granite counter by my keyboard, it has a wonderful smell and color to enjoy.  Each sip brings new tastes and a warmth with the finish.  I can’t say enough about how much I have enjoyed this bourbon.

In their notes they say, “Basil Hayden’s is the lightest bodied bourbon whiskey in the family of Jim Beam small batch bourbons produced by Beam Suntory.”  It is that light body that makes it soft and a great sipping whiskey.  I just wish it would cool off again here in California so I could build a fire to sit by and enjoy this wonderful bourbon.  Pick up a bottle and enjoy it this weekend!

Age: 8 years
Proof: 80
Color: Golden amber
Aroma: Spice, tea, hint of peppermint
Taste: Spicy, peppery, honey, light-bodied, gentle bite
Price: $38.99 BevMo

 

Guest Post: Decking out the bar

It’s Taylor – back again today with another guest post. Today I’m talking about decking out your home bar. We love to entertain, and so does Bourbon Bill and mom. Having a great bar set up is key to easy entertaining and also being the ultimate host.

If you’re lucky enough to have a built in bar, I am very jealous! That is on the top of my wish list. Storage space is a premium at our house and somehow we have managed to squeeze way too many bourbons on our kitchen counter, and a ton of different bar essentials in cabinets.

So what are the essentials for your home bar? Besides bourbon, that is…

Bar Glasses
I’m dividing these into two categories, fancy and casual. Fancy are those you bring out on a special occasion, and casual are those that are dishwasher safe and you’re ok with guests taking outside.

Casual Glasses: Just because they’re dishwasher safe doesn’t mean they can’t be fun! We have a set of monogrammed highballs and double old-fashioned glasses that come out on weeknights, for dinner parties, or when friends are just over hanging out.

  1. Ours are from Williams-Sonoma and have a nice heavy bottom. But there are so many fun options out there!
  2. I love these simple, trendy glasses from West Elm that are super affordable. They also have a ton of other really fun options. I personally prefer something simple that will go with any setting.
  3. Waiting on Martha always has some really unique bar essentials. How cool are these highballs?
  4. Juliska makes some really pretty bar glasses that are safe for everyday use. How fun would it be to use these on a regular basis?

Fancy Glasses: No joke, Carter’s favorite item on our wedding registry were his crystal bar glasses. And it’s not surprising to come home and find him drinking bourbon out of Waterford Crystal on a random Tuesday night. There is just something about dressing it up a little bit every once in a while. Having a nice set of bar glasses really steps up special occasions, holidays, and more.

  1. We love our Waterford Lismore bar glasses. They’re timeless, the pattern has been around forever. Waterford makes crystal glasses in a number of other patterns if you want something a little less popular.
  2. William Yeoward makes some beautiful crystal barware. The Elizabeth pattern is my favorite.
  3. Another tried and true crystal maker is Baccarat. How elegant are these bar glasses!

Wine Glasses

Since this is a blog about bourbon, I won’t go into too much detail about wine glasses. But these are definitely an essential part of any fully stocked bar. We have “fancy” and “casual” wine glasses. My suggestion is to get the same style for red and white wine. If you are going to do stemmed water glasses, I would get something that matches as well. That way when you set your table for a dinner party, everything matches. Here’s a quick rundown of good wine glass options.

  1. We have the Riedel Vinum wine glasses and LOVE them. They’re thin and big and great to drink out of. The only problem is they are technically crystal and break easily in the dishwasher so I find myself hand washing them if the dishwasher is getting full. We also have a set of Riedel O stemless wine glasses. I’m not the biggest stemless fan, but they’re good to have.
  2. Crystal wine glasses are key to a special occasion. We have the Waterford Lismore Essence wine glasses to match our bar glasses. We went with the Lismore Essence style because they’re more modern than the original Lismore. Again, these are a favorite of Carter’s.
  3. I love the shape of these Crate & Barrel wine glasses. They’re so unique. A friend has these and I love drinking wine out of them at her house!
  4. Pottery Barn makes a great set of wine glasses for dinner parties called Caterers. Their Caterers boxed sets are great basics for dinner parties, large gatherings, or to just have a great basic set of plates, glasses, etc on hand.

Decanters

Decanters are a really impressive way to display liquor. We have collected a bunch of different decanters and keep one brand of vodka, whiskey and gin in them. I personally love vintage decanters, but this is another area to really express your personality and style for your bar.

  1. Really sleek crystal decanter from Tiffany – would be great in a library or man cave!
  2. Pretty vintage etched decanter from Williams-Sonoma
  3. Love the unique shape of this decanter from Crate & Barrel

Cocktail Napkins

These are by no means an actual bar essential, but are such a fun addition to any bar! I have a slight obsession with napkins. We have a napkin holder that sits on our counter that I rotate season paper cocktail napkins in and out of. I love these from Caspari for spring. Lettermade and Biscuit Home have some really clever linen napkins. Lettermade also has some great options for monogrammed napkins. Coasters are another great addition. These letterpressed drink recipe coasters from Haute Papier are so fun (you can also get custom coasters through them)!

Bar Tools

Every bar needs some essential bar tools. This is still a work in progress at our house. I prefer to buy bar tools individually, rather than in a set, so that you can pick out the best for each type of tool. Bourbon Bill has just about every bar tool imaginable, including multiples of some. Below are what I consider the essentials.

  1. Ice cube molds – Square: big ice cubes are in. They don’t water down your drinks as quickly as normal ice cubes. And they’re just so trendy. Tevolo now makes them in two sizes. At least start with the big ones.
  2. Ice cube molds – Round: for when square just won’t do.
  3. Cocktail Spoon: This is a tool still missing from our bar tools, but so essential for making cocktails. Break this out for your next Old Fashioned. I like the simplicity (and price) of this spoon.
  4. Cocktail Shaker: This is where you can really express some personality. We have a monogrammed cocktail shaker. I LOVE this gold shaker from West Elm. Or you could be super farm to table and get a mason jar cocktail shaker.
  5. Strainer: To me, this is just a utility tool. I would go with simple and easy to clean like this OXO strainer.
  6. Muddler: You have to get a wood muddler. Similar to the cocktail spoon, it’s essential. And why not have something unique for making mojitos and other muddled drinks?
  7. Peeler(s): Bourbon Bill is left handed so using a straight peeler made making perfect orange slices difficult for him. This one did the trick. This zester from Sur La Table is great for making thin strips.
  8. Jigger: This is just another utility tool in my opinion, so practical is key. I like this one from OXO because it has multiple measurements.
  9. Beaker: If you really want to look like you know what you’re doing behind the bar, a beaker/mixing glass is a great addition.
  10. Ice Scoop: Bourbon Bill got us this great ice scoop a couple years ago. I like it because it has holes so that you don’t water down your drink with melted ice.
  11. Ice Bucket: Key if you’re setting up a bar away from the refrigerator.  There are so many options out there. Go with something that matches your style. We have a simple glass ice bucket, and my mom recently gave us a leather one (now, if only I had a library to keep the leather ice bucket with leather bound books). I love this copper ice bucket from Williams-Sonoma – copper is so popular right now!

Guest Post: Valentine’s Day Bourbon Ideas

Hey there! It’s Bill’s daughter, Taylor, here with my first guest post.  I’ve been helping my dad in the background with technical support. Today I’m sharing some Valentine’s Day ideas. And tomorrow I’ll be back with a post about decking out your home bar!

Valentine’s Day is right around corner (on Sunday!). I have yet to get my husband a gift, and fortunately he enjoys bourbon as much as Bourbon Bill.  Bourbon is a super easy, yet thoughtful and fun gift, to pick up for your Valentine, guy or girl. You can really tailor it to your someone special. You can easily find a bourbon with a cool bottle, a top rated bourbon, or just something new, for under $50 at your local liquor store.

Below are three bourbons great for any Valentine, and all for under $50 for a 750mL bottle.

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  1. Basil Hayden’s Bourbon – This is a favorite of ours right now. I’m not the biggest bourbon drinker and it is smooth enough for me to drink. I love the style of the bottle. The paper label ads a little something unique to it. This would definitely impress a Valentine. BevMo has Basil Hayden’s for $41.99 right now.
  2. Larceny Very Special Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – This is another favorite right now. Really easy to drink and really tasty.  Also, the bottle styling is really cool (are you seeing a trend in how I chose these bourbons??). This one is a great price point at $29.99 on Caskers.
  3. Angel’s Envy Bourbon Whiskey – It’s Valentine’s Day. The Bottle has wings. It was an obvious choice. But in all honesty, it’s another great bourbon, getting all sorts of praise in the bourbon world. Any Valentine would be excited to get this. BevMo has it for $45.99 right now. You can read Bourbon Bill’s review of Angel’s Envy here.