June 17, 2011

Cask samples of Bourbon

I was fortunate enough to be invited last month to a meeting of the Macadam Bourbon Bunch, a group of local Bourbon fans who gather periodically to talk and drink American's leading whiskey.

This gathering was a special occasion, on two levels. One, the group tasted cask samples of producers Elijah Craig and the elusive Elmer T. Lee to pick specific casks that would be bottled for and sold by local outlet Macadam Liquor.

Two, it was a chance to meet at last my longtime online wine pal Hoke Harden, wine and spirits business veteran who I met in online wine discussion groups back in the 1990s. Hoke was hear as an expert on Bourbon, walking us through our tasting.

I've always known Hoke to be a friendly, knowledgeable guy. He moved to Oregon a few years ago from California. How did it take so long to finally connect IRL (sorry, yes, I just wrote that)? Hoke and I chatted like old friends, and then the group assembled to hear Hoke brief us on the tasting.

We started with three samples from Elijah Craig, all cask strength so around 140 proof. The style here is more classic Bourbon to my mind. Rich, sweet, oaky, with lots of caramel and size. The first sample seemed the most balanced and interesting, and later I found it to be the favorite of the group. I'm hoping that's the one picked for the EC single cask bottling. Of course, it will be watered back to 80 proof or so for bottling, and Hoke talked to us about how that will change the final product. Still, the differences were clear in these samples and watering them back won't change that.

Then we moved to five samples from Elmer T. Lee, all at bottling strength so a little easier to handle. Elmer is apparently one of the old guard, and someone who doesn't let cask samples out too readily. This is a treat. He uses more rye than typical, and goes for a more savory style with lighter color and less char, maybe more to the buttery smooth end of Bourbon. Again, the first sample was the best. In fact, I'd easily say it's the best Bourbon I've ever tasted. Not the blockbuster of Elijah Craig, it's more subtle if you can call Bourbon subtle. I'm hoping this cask is the one that gets bottled. I want more.

If you're interested in getting hold of the final products from this event, check with Macadam Liquor. I stopped in a week after the tasting and bought some tequilla, something I don't drink much but do enjoy, particularly palata (silver) bottlings. The manager said it's unclear exactly when the special bottlings will arrive, but it should be this summer. Bourbon lovers, check it out. And you might ask about the Bourbon Bunch. Good folks, they.


Michael Alberty said...

What a great event. It was enough to make the bourbon lover in me drool just a bit. I kinda miss not being able to sell bourbon and scotch.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

It's a shame that Oregon wine sellers are restricted from selling spirits. I'd love to see that changed, and already we see at least one shop in the Pearl able to see a bit of both. Perhaps change is afoot?