Some Bourbon Gift Ideas

With the holidays upon us, I will be spending the next 20 or so days sharing ideas for the whiskey lover in your life, or your personal bar cart. You will see a little bit of everything spirits related.   I hope to give you a lot of ideas for that last minute shopping, or those stumped for ideas. I made 2 stops over the weekend that were whiskey related and found some good deals that would make for good gift giving or just generally stocking up.

My first stop was Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s has always been known for their wine selection and wine bargains such as “Two Buck Chuck.” In California, and other states that allow it, have started carrying more spirits and I was intrigued by 2 in particular. They have their own Trader Joe’s branded Bourbon. It’s a fun bottle and label and has a beautiful deep mahogany color. There is no information on the bottle as to who distilled and bottled it. But I was told by one of their associates that she looked up the distillery code on the box and it is Buffalo Trace. When I got home I compared the color to the bottle of Buffalo Trace I have and it looks similar. At a price point of $14.99 it is certainly worth the risk. If not a great sipper at $14.99 it is still a good mixer. I will review in an upcoming blog, I haven’t opened it yet.

TJ Bourbon on Shelf

TJ Bourbon

The other is the Trader Joe’s Branded bottle of Glen Moray 14-year old Single Malt Scotch. Where do you find a 14-year old scotch for $29.99? My Aunt Pat loves Glen Moray and swears by its taste and finish against many other single Malt’s. I have to take her word for it, I am not a single malt guy.

The second stop I made was Total Wine. Total Wine has a totally amazing selection of wine. They also have a huge selection of spirits, and particularly whiskey of all kinds. During my visit i picked up one of my favorites to keep around for mixing – Evan Williams Black.Great to have handy for holidays parties! A 1.75L is on sale right now for $14.99. Stock up for the coming year at that price. Whiskey Advocate Magazine picked Evan Williams Black as their best bargain in bourbon a few years ago. The article suggested at the price point you can’t beat it for sipping or mixing. It’s a good bourbon, and for the holidays if you are making holiday cocktails it will go a long way at that price.

Evan Williams Black

They also have Elijah Craig Small Batch for $24.99. Whiskey Advocate just picked Elijah Craig Small Batch as their #1 Whiskey of the Top Whiskies in the world for 2017. Need I say more? Why are you still reading my blog and not in the car?

Elijah Craig

I strolled over to their wine section looking for whiskey barrel finished red wines. Are you seeing a theme here? I immediately saw a gift box from Cooper & Thief. It’s a bottle of their red wine blend in a box with 2 rocks glasses. On the box it says, “Red wine stashed in bourbon barrels. Enjoy in whiskey glasses.” I thought that was very creative. Why not enjoy a wine finished in bourbon barrels in whiskey glasses, makes sense to me? And they are good looking etched glasses to boot. This set sells for $30.99. I first saw this California wine in Richmond when we were visiting our daughter. Total Wine’s description of the wine is, “A daring red blend aged for 3 months in bourbon barrels which produces a complex and smooth, well-rounded wine. Dark and jammy with bourbon-inspired flavors that give way to soft tannins and a long, lingering finish.”

Cooper3

My last offering today is 1000 Stories. You may have seen it elsewhere it has a very broad distribution. I bought several bottles the first time I saw it and I love it. It’s a bourbon barrel aged Zinfandel. They have an American Bison on their label and 1000 Stories is involved in American Bison conservation. To bring the story home, bison used to roam Kentucky, and the Midwest. To me, aging the wine in bourbon barrels, and having a silver bison on their beautiful black label brings it all home for me.

1000 Label

Happy shopping! Let me know what great gift ideas you have, or see, while out on the trail.  I am heading back out later tonight. I will let you know what I find. Cheers, and stay tuned.

 

 

Thanksgiving Cocktails

While we traditionally serve wine during the Thanksgiving meal (I recommend a nice pinot noir – a light red pairs well with turkey), bourbon cocktails are a great way to start your Thanksgiving gathering. I was asked by my sister-in-law Cheryl to come up with a couple fun cocktails for Thanksgiving Day at their house. Challenge accepted!

I have been pouring over internet sites to find some fun drinks. A common theme among the cocktails I’ve found is What I have found is  cranberries, cinnamon, and apple cider. I asked the guys at Hi-Time Wine Cellars what bourbon they would use in a fall cocktail. They suggested Buffalo Trace and Elijah Craig. They said the spice in both bourbons will play well with the Thanksgiving flavors. The Elijah Craig at 94 proof is just a little higher proof than the Buffalo Trace at 90.

Obviously Bourbon Bill is planning on serving bourbon cocktails but there are also plenty of cocktail recipes out there using rum, vodka or another liquor. Your menu should definitely drive the cocktails.  As I mentioned above, also think also about what you will serve to drink with the big meal. We usually get some of the newly released Beaujolais Nouveau from France, or a California Pinot Noir to serve with our turkey (usually cook one on the Weber grill and deep fry one).

The three cocktails I recommend are below. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families!

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The first drink I would suggest is a Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail. This drink I found on the Food Network from Nancy Fuller. The recipe makes a lot so you may want to cut it in half unless you have a lot of Bourbon drinkers.

Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail
2 Cups Fresh Cranberries
1 Cup Orange Juice
1/3 Cup Sugar
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1L (about 4 Cups) Bourbon
Orange Peels for Garnish

Combine the cranberries, orange juice, sugar and cinnamon sticks in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and cranberries start to pop, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then combine with the bourbon in a pitcher. To serve, pour into glasses over ice and garnish with an orange peel.

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The next drink is for the going the fall apple route. We went apple picking with the kids in Virginia a little over a week ago. When I saw this drink I thought it was the perfect sophisticated fall bourbon drink. I got this one from the Woodford Reserve website. They have a lot of creative cocktails on there.

Woodford Reserve Apple Cider
4 ounces hot fresh apple cider
2 ounces Woodford Reserve
1 ounces brown sugar syrup (recipe below)

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well until chilled and pour into your favorite stemmed glass.

For the syrup: Combine equal parts water and brown sugar. Bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

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For my last Holiday cocktail, I would suggest a “Fall Fashion Issue.” It’s an Old Fashioned from Bourbon & Banter.  “In autumn, I like to add the seasonal flavor of apples. Cider is delicious, but there’s no place for juice in an old fashioned. No, you have to keep things boozy with applejack. Applejack was first made by William Laird in New Jersey in 1698. George Washington liked it so much he asked Robert Laird for the recipe in 1760. Laird & Company received distillery License No. 1 from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1780.” For this old fashioned we split the spirit duties between bourbon and applejack. The bitters will be aromatic, the sugar is honey, and the water is always ice.

Fall Fashion Issue
1 oz bourbon
1 oz applejack
1/4 oz honey syrup
3 dashes aromatic bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

To make honey syrup mix equal parts of honey and hot water. 

 

Bourbon Review: Elijah Craig Small Batch

EC1

Elijah Craig is named for a Baptist minister who was originally credited with inventing bourbon in the late 1700’s. Don’t know about you but there wasn’t a lot of drinking in the Baptist Church where I grew up.

On my last trip to Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa I asked Ryan what he had gotten in recently that I should try. He never steers me wrong and he pointed me toward a couple of bottles they had recently received. When he showed me the Elijah Craig Small Batch, that they had hand picked when in Kentucky, I was immediately intrigued.

This latest Elijah Craig Single Batch was just released by Heaven Hill, which established the brand in 1986. There is no age statement on the bottle but according to the information given to Hi-Times Wine Cellars this is a 9-year-old bourbon. In 2016 Heaven Hill announced they were no longer going to put age statements on their bottles. With supply and demand you are seeing more and more of that in the industry.

The bottom line, does it matter? The real proof is in the pudding (who said that?). Or in this case the real proof is on the bottle and the taste inside is what matters. It has a very strong nose the minute you open it. The spices, vanilla, and sugars jump out at you.

That was not my immediate first impression. I tasted this one on three the separate evenings to write this review. The first night I opened it I had been drinking a high proof bourbon first and this one seemed a little weak. I decided that it was not a fair assessment and wanted to give it a second chance. We learned from our friends Ray and Jeannine ,who own Highland Valley Vineyards, how important atmosphere, music, and mood are to taste. More on that in a later blog but explains why when you try a wine on a tour, buy a case, take it home, and then say, “What was I thinking when I bought this?”

Back to the Bourbon. Elijah Craig has been putting out some very nice bourbons the last few years and this one qualifies as another winner. It has very strong appeal when you open. More of the spices and not so much alcohol. As you taste it you will note it has a very soft appeal and then the spices and a bit of alcohol run into the palate. I have to say it has the body of a more expensive bourbon. Others have described it as weak but after tasting it for the third time last night I think it is perfect for my palate neat.

It is at a price point to be served neat or mixed in a cocktail – you can’t go wrong. With the bourbon inside this attractive bottle with its wood stopper is the perfect gift for a friend. This will be on their bar long after that that $20 bottle of wine.

Aged: No Statement but 9 years
Proof: 94 proof
Color: Dark Amber
Aroma: Spicy, vanilla’s, caramel, oak
Taste:  Caramel, fruits, nutmeg
Price: $22.99 at Hi-Time Wine Cellars