drink dogma » Bourbon http://drinkdogma.com Thu, 31 May 2012 01:01:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3 ANVIL’S BUFFALO TRACE PRIVATE BARREL SELECTION http://drinkdogma.com/anvil_buffalo_trace_bourbon/ http://drinkdogma.com/anvil_buffalo_trace_bourbon/#comments Tue, 25 May 2010 15:27:41 +0000 http://drinkdogma.com/anvil-bar-refuge-update/ Kevin and I recently visited Kentucky to select a barrel of Buffalo Trace to serve as Anvil’s own private barrel-selection. Yes, I am aware that this makes our jobs at Anvil seem like the cushiest dream jobs ever. Watch yourself there – you’re drooling with envy all over your screen. Well, truth be told, when we get to take trips like this, you have every right to be exceedingly jealous. There is arguably no other place in the country at this time of year that is as beautiful as Kentucky, and, of course, there’s the bourbon – lots of it. These types of opportunities definitely balance out those 18 hours days, and when you get to taste a barrel of bourbon as good as the one we selected for Anvil, you start to consider never leaving.

UPDATE: We’ve since received our wonderful selection of Buffalo Trace, and it is phenomenal. As of today, February 17, 2011, we still have some left in the bar, so get in there quick and give it a try!

Buffalo Trace Distillery

It’s no secret that Buffalo Trace is my favorite go to bourbon. In my opinion, you can’t find a regularly available bourbon under $40 that comes anywhere close to how wonderful this one is. However, the namesake bourbon isn’t the primary reason why I’m one of Buffalo Trace’s biggest fans; instead, it is the distillery’s ongoing efforts to push the dusty bourbon industry forward. Simply put, these folks are making the best and most exciting products available in the American whiskey category, and there’s no sign that anyone is going to challenge them any time soon.

Each year’s release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection release consisting of the William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare 17 Year, Thomas Handy Rye, and Sazerac 18 Year Rye yields arguably the best bourbons and ryes annually. In addition to these limited products, the distillery also makes the younger version of the Sazerac Rye, Weller Bourbons, Blanton’s, the Pappy Van Winkle line, and other important non-bourbon products, such as the recently release original formula Herbsaint, Regan’s Orange Bitters, and even Peychaud’s Bitters. The lineup, which includes others as well, is really quite incredible. There are distilleries everywhere that would love to claim just one of these products as their own. There is no other distillery in the country I would rather tour, and to be given unrestricted access on our own private tour was an unforgettable opportunity.

Buffalo Trace Fermentation Tank

One of the definite highlights of the trip was our visit to the lab, where Buffalo Trace samples and blends their bourbons. In a blessed coincidence of divine bourbon intervention, we happen to be there on the day that this year’s Antique Collection was being selected. Kevin and I were actually the second and third individuals to taste what will be  the upcoming lineup, Maybe it was jut the setting, but I think the upcoming release is going to be the best yet. The Thomas Handy and William Larue Weller were two of the best whiskies I’ve ever had, and I can’t wait to pour them at the bar.

While we were definitely there for bourbon, the cocktail fan in me just couldn’t resist the opportunity to find out more about one of Buffalo Trace’s lesser-known brands. I persistently prodded every Buffalo Trace employee available to tell me more about the composition and process used to make Peychaud’s, but I was shot down time and time again. The only information the staff gave me about the secretive Peychaud’s process was that it was becoming a real pain in the ass to keep up with the continually escalating demands caused by people like me who force feed everyone sazeracs. I bet they really won’t like it when our new menu launches soon and our bartender Matt Tanner’s Peychaud’s Spritz starts using an ounce and a half of Peychaud’s per drink – sorry guys.

Buffalo Trace Lab

Yet, despite the extensive private tour, tasting lab access, and bitters exploration, we were here for one reason – to select our own barrel of Buffalo Trace for Anvil. Buffalo Trace pulled five preferred barrels out of the warehouse and let Kevin and I dive right in. Buffalo Trace is regularly blended from 25-30 barrels to acquire the signature flavor of the bourbon, but when selecting an individual barrel, the flavors can vary greatly. Kevin and I narrowed the five barrels down to tour two favorites. One was lighter and full of a unique delicate vanilla flavor that was drastically different than any bourbon I had tasted before. The other was bold and full of aggressive charred flavors; it was outstanding and reminded me of a complex rye that asks you to explore all of the spice, char, and other qualities that endlessly sing on the palate. I would have loved to have taken both, but we could only choose one.

Anvil Buffalo Trace Barrel Selection

As is typical of Kevin and I, we argued back and forth about which barrel to select. I won’t tell you who won, but we eventually decided to select the bolder barrel for Anvil as our guests typically enjoy more aggressive whiskey such as rye and assertive bourbons. With our patrons in mind, we know we chose the ideal house selection for Anvil. Our barrel is slowly working its way through the distribution channels and will be at the bar very soon. We are even considering allowing a local retailer to make a few of these bottles available for sale. Personally, I can’t wait until the barrel gets here so that we can taste the bourbon side-by-side with the Buffalo Trace White Dog and standard bottles of Buffalo Trace. We just started offering cocktail classes at Anvil on the last Saturday of each month (our gin class is this weekend), and I am really looking forward to offering this comparison when we do bourbon in a few months. By the way, if you want to get a jump start on learning about bourbon you should check out the first article I wrote as one of my weekly cocktail columns for the Houston Press in a two part series on the Mint Julep – it’s Bourbon 101.

I’ll re-post when our private Buffalo Trace selection comes in. Next time, I will tell you about our the barrel-aged beer collaboration we are working on with the barrel we selected. That’s right house Buffalo Trace Bourbon, house barrel-aged beers – watch out; there’s that jealousy again! Fortunately, the best part of my job is getting to these experiences with everyone that comes into Anvil. Kevin and I will try and remember the sharing aspect of our job and not drink all the bourbon when it comes in. We’ve been craving it for months!

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THE EVOLUTION OF AMERICAN WHISKEY http://drinkdogma.com/the-evolution-of-american-whiskey/ http://drinkdogma.com/the-evolution-of-american-whiskey/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2009 05:05:57 +0000 http://drinkdogma.com/the-evolution-of-american-whiskey/ With construction work on Anvil moving ahead at a feverish pace, I have found it next to impossible to sit down and string together a post for months. The blog updating which Bobby and I hoped would continue with one or two posts a week has been traded for refining countless details at Anvil. Thankfully Bobby has been able to keep writing a little, while I on the other hand have stopped writing, shaving, and maintaining any professional appearance whatsoever.

Recently however, I found a moment to sit down and start going through the pile of beer and spirit tasting notes that I have in my note book. As the weather is trying to grow colder, (this is Houston, after all) I find myself opting for darker and heavier options. Whiskey has always been one of my favorite spirits to consume in any way I can get it, and it just happens to work out that the bar just down the street from Anvil, Poison Girl, has one of the best bourbon and American whiskey selections in town. On one recent trip, I was fortunate enough to drink my fill of one of the most limited and interesting whiskeys on the market; the Buffalo Trace Experimental 8 Year Cab Franc Finished Whiskey. Because I am a lazy blogger, I like to abbreviate this name with BTX for Buffalo Trace Experimental.

Whiskey is, by its simplest definition, a spirit distilled from fermented grain mash then aged in a wood cask. There are six major whiskey producing regions in the world; Scotland, Ireland, America, Canada, Japan and Wales. The Japanese and Welch whiskeys are fighting an uphill battle for international respect, and others, like India, are vying for positions as additional significant players. American and Scotch whiskeys are the most subdivided. Scotch is recognized by 5 or 7 regions (depends on who you ask).

American whiskeys are a little less strait forward being divided by region and styles. The 5 major types of American whiskeys are Bourbon Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Corn Whiskey, Tennessee Whiskey and Straight Whiskey (Which can make it confusing because you can have a Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Straight Rye Whiskey… or just Straight Whisky which are not the same thing). Buffalo Trace by tradition and reputation is a generally recognized as a bourbon distillery. In 1964 the U.S. Congress recognized Bourbon Whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States and established a list of legal guidelines for the production Bourbon Whiskey. Bourbon must be:

-Made of a grain mixture consisting of more than 51% corn

-Distilled to no more than 160 proof

-100% natural including no artificial flavors or colors

-Aged in new charred American White Oak barrels

-No higher than 125 proof when introduced to the barrel

The production process for Bourbon is fairly straight forward; a mash of selected grains (most commonly about 70% corn) is allowed to ferment, this low alcohol mixture is called the wash. The wash is then distilled yielding a clear spirit that is then put in the barrel to age anywhere from 2 to 25 years. There is almost an endless amount of modifications that can be made to the production process to create unique and distinctive whiskeys. The experimental collection is as the name suggests a series of very small batch experiments that buffalo trace has been working on for the past two decades. The notable modification in the aforementioned whiskey is the finish in Cab Franc Barrels. The word finish in reference to bourbon means the movement of the bourbon from the white oak barrel to another cask or barrel. By finishing the spirit in a second barrel the whiskey can take on a world of different flavors and nuances. The finishing process is what makes the BTX line so intriguing. While finishing in a second barrel adds a lot to the bourbon it comes at a cost; increased product loss (angel share) and increased time. The action of pouring the bourbon from one barrel to another increases the amount of product lost. The dry second barrel will eagerly drink up at least some of the whiskey over the first year or so. Second; in order to take full advantage of the second barrel, the bourbon must spend at least a few more years in the barrel house. Because the second barrel in this case is used it will take it longer to give up its flavors. The BTX whiskeys are the most notable in the recent trend in the industry toward new (or very old) variations of traditional whiskey.


This might be the most badass label I have ever seen on any bottle of booze ever. It’s badassness comes from the fact that is all business and no bull. You have to remember that these are very limited single barrel runs meant as an experiment in both production methods and consumer taste. The label has all the information an enthusiast would need to understand how the bourbon was made and what factors affected its taste. The label gives the following information; The type of spirit: Whiskey, The total amount of production: 1 barrel, The date it was distilled: 7/2/90, Date barreled: 8/19/98, Recipe: BT Rye Mash #1, Mash type: Sour, Still proof: 140, Entry proof: 126.5, Warehouse/Floor: I/1, Rack/Row/Slot: 0/0/2, Barrel Type: French Oak Cab Franc, Maker: Barrel Associates, Staves: 6 mouth air dry, Treatment: medium toast, Bottled: 2/26/07, Age at bottling: 16 years, Evaporation: 43.oo%, Filtration: chill filtration, bottle proof 43% ABV – 91 proof. At the bottom of the bottle the distiller gives a brief tasting note. The only issue I have with the label is the ambiguity with the barrel description. When the label talks about the maker, the treatment, and the staves is it describing the new white oak or the finish cab franc cask?

In this tasting I had a shot of the cab franc 8 and 6 next to each other. They are made with a rye mash that adds a very hot spiciness. Although it is called an 8 year, it was really 16 years old when it was bottled, the bourbon spent 8 years in new oak and 8 in the cab franc cask. The deepest difference between the two was the alcoholic heat and the rye flavor. You can really taste the 2 extra years on the 8; it is much smoother despite noticeably more rye flavor. In the 8 year, the color of the more than generous 2 once pour was a deep reddish brown amber. The nose is all about the rye and wine, you can really get the cab in the nose; however, if I didn’t know it was a cab franc finish, I would have just called it a dark fruit. It is more than drinkable and is really smooth; but there is less wine on the palate, the oak is lost to the wine cask flavor. The 6 while hotter is heavier on the wine, the 8 is smoother but more about the rye. The mouth feel is smooth round and buttery. Both the 6 and 8 years were made with the same rye mash. Personally, I think a wheat heavy mash would have allowed the wine to come more to the front, but then again this stuff is called experimental for a reason. We are going to do our best to try and carry as many future releases of the BTX collection at Anvil in the future, so you will be able to weigh in with your own opinions.

One of my favorite things about whiskey is the protracted length between conception and introduction of a new product. Because my favorite whiskeys generally spend at least 7 years or so in the barrel (this number can grow very quickly when you start talking about second barrel finishing), the time between a distillers initial conception of the experiment and the final bottling of a commercial ready product can be as long as 3 to 4 decades. That is why the BTX bottles are so exciting – it gives you a glimpse into the creative and evolving world of American whiskey. We might see a mass release of the BTX products, but it may not be for 15 or 20 more years, the experimental release is a glance in to the world of gut feeling and wild ideas that are the foundation of innovation in what is a classic American spirit.

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THE MAPLE LEAF COCKTAIL http://drinkdogma.com/the-maple-leaf-cocktail/ http://drinkdogma.com/the-maple-leaf-cocktail/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2008 04:28:38 +0000 http://drinkdogma.com/the-maple-leaf-cocktail/ Bourbon is a little angry at the cocktail world . For such a long time, it was a cherished standby of the refined palate, a refuge from the candy cocktail plague. Bourbon was a more respected American take on nobility, if such a thing exists. Yes, Elijah Craig would have been very proud. Unfortunately, the nostalgia of bourbon seems to be dwindling in some circles. Enter the throwback cocktails of purist cocktail bars and blogs. Sure, super-premium bourbons are selling better than ever, but the mixological potential of bourbon seems to be ignored at times. Rye, the new old favorite, is in, and while it makes a better cocktail in certain situations, this new puppy can’t do all of bourbon’s old tricks.

I have to admit I fall into this same problem at times. Whenever someone asks me for a bourbon cocktail, I always seem to find myself recommending a rye staple. I like showing someone rye cocktails because it inevitably leads to a conversation about the importance of rye in drinks like manhattans. These conversations are always good starting points for introducing someone to cocktails, but the loser in this situation is the unused bottle of Weller’s. This is unfortunate because some of the most important classics are made from bourbon, most notably, the mint julep. Sure, everybody knows this one because of the connection between the derby and the mint julep, but what about some others? The reno split? The jockey? The whiskey daisy?

It’s for this reason that I really like this week’s Mixology Monday topic. There really does need to be more use of bourbon in quality cocktail bars and on blogs. Bourbon certainly isn’t the lightest among our repertoire of spirits, but it is a more relaxed class of whiskey when compared to some of its scotch and rye relatives. I think this helps to create a cocktail that has a more summer, southern, sitting on a porch mellow feel than say a Sazerac. And, one of my favorite bourbon cocktails, the Maple Leaf is no exception.

The Maple Leaf

2 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Maple Syrup
3/4 oz Lemon Juice

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass filled with crush ice. Drink on a porch with an old dog.

I am sure that not everyone shares my outlook on bourbon, but my distillery tours in Kentucky last spring left this firm impression on me of bourbon. For me, it’s not just a spirit anymore; it’s a setting and I like the more casual, easy-going nature of bourbon, just like the people of Kentucky. I’ve visited There’s just something about that place.

This cocktail may not be as refreshing as say a mint julep, but when shaken hard and served over crushed ice, the bourbon, maple syrup, and lemon blend together slowly to create a unique twist on the whiskey sour. I would highly recommend this cocktail as well as playing with bourbon more in the future. A great place to get started would be to check up the collection of post on this week’s Mixology Monday over at the Scofflaw’s Den. I know that I am certainly going to be adding to my bourbon cocktail arsenal, so that next time someone asks me for a bourbon cocktail I can accomplish the same goal of showing them something classic they’ve likely never had without switching to rye.

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