This Bourbon’s just not kosher.


Launched just in time for Australian Bacon Week, I present to you, drinkers of the world, Smoked Bacon Bourbon.

The first of a series of releases from the Experimental Spirits Company, Smoked Bacon Bourbon packs the rendered goodness of 35o grams of the finest Australian cured and smoked pig into each bottle.

The Experimental Spirits Company  brings a measure of something special to the local spirits market here in Australia. The concept hinges on the application of studied, refined and perfected technique to create something unique, rather than the distillation of the spirit itself. I think I know which bourbon they’ve made use of in this release, but I’ll let you have the pleasure of guessing as well.

This porcine release is a really excellent example of a technique called fat washing. Borrowed from the perfumers tradition, the technique takes advantage of the unique molecular structure that ethyl alcohol possesses, with allows it to connect with both water soluble flavours (the more standard infusion) and fat soluble flavours. I’ll write in more detail soon about the process, but suffice to say it is a tricky beast to get perfectly right.

The liquid in the bottle is a perfect balance between the flavours of bourbon and bacon. It is beautifully filtered and lovingly packaged. Hand labeled and wax sealed in Sven’s kitchen, this really is a bottle full of love.

It really shines in a manhattan, or simply in a glass of its own. Delicious.

The Pozible campaign launched today. You can support it here to get a bottle of your own for A$70 if you’re quick, or A$80 if you’re not. In true crowdfunding fashion there are a bunch of excellent rewards if you want a truly unique experience or the simple pleasure of buying Jacob Briars a magnum of bacon whiskey.

The next cab off the rank for the ESC will be the salted coconut spiced rum that forms the soul of the coco-banana old fashioned the team at Eau de Vie released last year.

Check out my man Sven in the video below too.

Pozible Campaign Video. Smoked Bacon Bourbon by Experimental Spirits Co. from Sven Almenning on Vimeo.



Wild Turkey Forgiven

wildturkey_forgiven750ml__14322.1378485158.1280.1280The latest expansion from Wild Turkey blends their two iconic styles, Bourbon and Rye American whiskies, into one quite near perfect drinking package.

An apparent accident, Forgiven came out of the accidental combination of 6 year old Bourbon (the youngest age in any of the Wild Turkey range) and 4 year old high proof Rye. The mash bill leans heavily (78% to 22%) toward the Bourbon, but the higher proof of the Rye, combined with its youthful vigour, delivers an extremely pleasant balance of creamy vanilla and oak at the opening and a spicy cloves and cinnamon at the close. Perfect on its own in a glass, or on a rock. Intoxicating in a Manhattan.

The liquid comes in a reappropriated Rare bottle, adding nice weight and a real premium feel.

It smells and tastes a lot like Christmas, and you could do worse than pick up one of the limited edition for around $90 to savour over the holidays.

Get amongst.



The Devil’s Cut

Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit a hallowed hall where whisk(e)y is subjected to that most wondrous process, the application of age, will have undoubtedly heard of the “angel’s share”.

The coined phrase refers to the amount of liquid that evaporates over the course of the years. This lost liquid, the distiller’s lament, has been an accepted cost for character, tannins, vanillins and the other tasty treats that vodka just simply doesn’t have.

Jim Beam have attempted to turn the tables with Devil’s Cut. Using a special process that they’ve been kind enough not to document, they’ve managed to extract some of the lost liquid that has hidden out in the barrel’s wood. They’ve then blended that with a 6 year old aged bourbon from the warehouse, putting it squarely between the white and green label expressions.

The result is a characterful, almost smoky expression. The colour is deep and dark and looks wonderful in a glass.

It carries a high proof for a non-bond bottled American whisky, at 90 proof (45%abv) it’s the highest standard bottling you’ll lay your hands on.

At $45 from Dan Murphy’s, it’s well worth adding to your shelf.


Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Woodford Reserve is one of the products that I get asked about the most, once I have outed my pastime as a cocktail and spirits blogger. While the name doesn’t often make it into the conversation, the tombstone shape of the bottle makes a firm imprint in the minds of anyone lucky enough to slip a measure or two of this fine bourbon past their lips.

The bourbon itself has history. Distilling began on the site of the Labrot & Graham Distillery in 1797. The current distillery building was erected on the site in 1838, making the brand of the ten oldest distilleries to be still operating in the great state of Kentucky.  Dr James Crow, a one time employee of the first owners, codified many of the processes that perfected the production of sour mash bourbon. This isn’t the right place to explain what sour mash means, but suffice to say bourbon as we know it today was  defined by the method and it’s kind of a big deal. The distillery changed hands again in 1878 to the two fine gentlemen who gave their names to the building and the bottle pictured above. In 1941, we get a little closer to the current day, with the purchase of the marque by Brown-Forman, the current owners and distributors. In 1968 the distillery was mothballed and three years later, sold.

The history of liquor has many stories of brands lost to bad decisions, and unable to be rescued when smarter heads prevailed. Luckily, Woodford Reserve is not one of them. Brown-Forman repurchased the distillery in1993, refurbished and fired up the stills. Three years later product hit shelves, a small anomally given the legal requirements for bourbon under 4 years old to carry an age statement on the bottle, and the lack of an age statement suggesting the early bottlings were made off site at a different location.

The liquid itself is fantastic. The mash bill (the make up of grains that go into the wash) carries a relatively high percentage of rye, coming in at 18%. Despite this the flavour profile is quite simply balanced. Not too sweet, not too spicy. Woodford is a great choice for use in cocktails, and by itself gives a pleasing mouthfeel and taste for any fan of the American version of oak aged grain spirits.

The only other thing that’s really left to say is that one of the most remarkable things about Woodford Reserve is not about the bourbon at all, its the barrel that it is aged in. Brown-Forman is the only spirits company in the world that makes its own barrels. This gives the brand amazing scope to play with, and it shows through in the unique character of spirits the company produces; Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester, Early Times and Herradura amongst them.

If you’re looking for a bottle, the cheapest place right now is the Master of Malt site online, but unless you’re looking to stock up, the delivery fees make the price, well, pricey. Dan’s prices it at $55 and it’s still good value at that.

Buy yourself a bottle. Today.


Evan Williams 23 Year Old Bourbon

Damn, this is tasty bourbon.

The last of my delicious troika of wonderful whisk(e)ys from Master of Malt.

Evan Williams was the first man to set up a commercial distillery in Kentucky, to this day, on the banks of the Ohio River you can visit a marker erected to that effect. Since 1783, much water has flowed down that river, and much bourbon has been shipped from the Pioneer State to the rest of the world. Like his contemporary, Jack Daniel, Evan Williams was of Welsh descent, a primacy unknown to many who favour a sip of the spirit that comes from the Sour Mash. Evan Williams Bourbon is now bottled in Bardstown, at the Heaven Hill facility there.

Anyway, on to what is in the bottle.

Bottled at a cask strength of 53.50% it has a lovely sharpness and heat on the tongue, that doesn’t falter right the way through drinking it. Huge doesn’t even seem to be a big enough word to describe the spicy deliciousness and mile long finish on this great example of what happens if you leave bourbon for a decent rest. Cherries, cocoa, vanilla and coffee mingle sweetly together through the nose and palate. It really does need no ice or water, but a supplementary glass of good cold water will thin and spread this taste until you’re grasping at threads. Highly recommended for anyone who loves American Whiskey or was looking to buy me a present.

Jim Murray scored it 95.5 and named it Bourbon of the year for the 2011 edition of the Whisky Bible, in case my own platitudes weren’t quite enough.

You can pick up a bottle here. As for me, I want some more.

You can also follow Master of Malt on Twittter, here. If you’d like to be tempted by a constant flow of releases and special offerings.

Cocktail, Legends of Bartending

So you’d like to make a Mint Julep?

I managed to get each step of David Wondrich’s Jim Beam Black Julep on Monday. I think it makes a good story, and shows each part of the compounding process in turning out a pretty epic drink.

Mint Julep

You’ll need: Some fresh mint, more is always better than less. Sugar, water, bourbon, rum, ice, mallet and a bag. You’ll also need a straw, and a silver julep cup wouldn’t go amiss either. I never said it was a simple process.

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At home, Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #20: Julep #1

Still working my way through The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks and stumbled into Julep country. Mr Embury has an obvious passion for the Bourbon Slushy so I thought I’d try my hand.

Juleps come from a time when spirits were commonplace in drinks at any time a clock could show, and the Minted Julep offered a cool, refreshing respite while sitting on the porch, watching your workforce toil in the cotton fields. With the current Bourbon revival in full swing, this is a drink that is sure to making more of an appearance in the coming year.

Julep #1

Place your metal vessel in the freezer ahead of time, getting a good frost is key to the look and feel of a Julep and a frozen cup makes this much easier to achieve.

In a bar glass place three dashes of Angostura bitters*, 15mls of simple syrup and 12 fresh mint leaves. Give these a gentle muddle, to much vigor will taint the drink with a bitter aftertaste, so take your time and tease the oils out. And a generous measure (at least 60mls) of bourbon to this mixture and set it to one side.

Take your frozen vessel from the freezer and fill it with crushed ice. If you have a machine, use that, but beating cubes in a clean tea towel works too.

Pour in the minty bourbon, giving the ice a stir with up and down movements to ensure the correct slushy consistency and to accelerate the frosty exterior. Top the cup with more crushed ice so it’s full to the brim, or heaped like a Taiwanese snow cone. Add two short straws and a garnish of mint, the tips of the plant make the best looking garnishes. Exhale deeply and enjoy this truly superior drink.

*I’ve never come across another recipe that calls for angostura and I did think it a little odd from the outset, however, it delivers a Julep of unusual character, just as Embury promises.

P.S. I do believe this might just be the prettiest looking drink I’ve ever made.

Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Mea Culpa

Tucked beside Snatch on Ponsonby Rd, Mea Culpa is the sort of bar I wish I had downstairs from my house. Tucked away just a few doors down from the very beery but popular Chapel and Crib metropubs on Ponsonby Rd, Mea Culpa is a world class gem of a cocktail bar.

Five coffe coloured pages hold the cocktail and wine list, chock full of boozey goodness. Any venue that lists the Corpse Reviver #2 gets a high score in my book, and the addition of La Floridita #4, a selection of tribute drinks from around the world and across the centuries, plus a number of tasty well crafted originals put this place over the top. This is a place where drinks are truly crafted, served in a handpicked glass and presented with nothing but love.

A good bar experience rests on the crew your hanging out with and all signs were pointing to yes on Saturday night. A Professor of Vodka, the father of Power Dub, a seasoned water and wine exporter, my gorgeous girlfriend, a bloke in a super cool F<3NK t-shirt and a currently unemployed ex-TGIF bartender.

Outside seating is at a premium, but the carpet on the pavement makes it feel like it should be. I ordered the Consilieri, an absolutely delightful mix of Makers Mark, Almandine (that’s Amaretto to you and me) a spritz of Angostura (sorry UK) shaken well with the white of an egg to achieve velvety heaven. Happily the drink was originally made (and the one i drank) by none other than my tablemate and companion, Jacob Briars, during his previous incarnation as the bartender at Motel in Wellington. I also snuck a sip of the Miyagi Mule my girlfriend had ordered, a refreshing mix of vodka, cucumber and a pleasing hint of wasabi.

If you’re in Auckland, this has to be one of the stops you make while you’re in town.

3/175 Ponsonby Road
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At home, Cocktail

Friday Fix: Grandmother’s Minted Pear Cooler

The latest fruit to become seasonally inexpensive in Sydney has been the Packham Pear. Incorporating pears into a drink with resorting to a nasty schnapps has been a bit tough for me in the past, muddling is a lot of work and only seems to impart flavor without that great velvety texture that I associate and love about pears.

With this idea, and a kilo of Packham pears for only 2.99 from Harris Farm markets, I hit the kitchen and got to work making poached pear syrup. First, I peeled the pears, leaving the stalk, as it makes it easy to grab the pear out of the hot syrup later in the process. I used two pears to make my syrup, but if you wanted to have them for dessert you could add one for each guest. Of those two pears, one will be for eating after and one will be for the syrup itself. So on one of them, cut a deep X into the base, halfway up the pear, so it gets really soft. Leave the other one peeled but otherwise whole.

In a saucepan, add 250grams of sugar and 350mls of hot water, stirring it until the sugar crystals dissolve. Add the pears to the pot, put the lid on and set the element to a low heat. (My stove, mark 4 is perfect, it only just simmers but not boils.) Leave it on the stove for a good couple of hours.

The pear with the X might slump a little, so grab some tongs and put it in a blender, put the other pear on a plate, pouring over a couple of tablespoons of the syrup. Add the remainder of the syrup to the blender and pulse until smooth. Strain this over a bowl, you might want to push the pulp through with the back of a spoon and strain it again as well, depending on how much process you can handle.

You should be left with about 350-400mls of cloudy but fine poached pear syrup. While it cools, go and eat the other pear.

The poached pear syrup is great in a Champagne cocktail and makes a fine addition to most sour cocktails.

Grandma’s Minted Pear Cooler.

Combine 60mls Basil Hayden’s Bourbon, 15mls poached pear syrup, 20mls fresh lemon juice, 6 mint leaves and a couple of dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters over ice. Give it a crisp shake and strain it up. It shouldn’t require a double strain due to your efforts earlier on. Garnish with a mint sprig.

I’m also partial to the same drink made with Gin, minus the bitters and I’d love to try it with Fee Brothers Peppermint Bitters too.

You can also serve it in an old fashioned glass with some ice and a splash of soda if you want to summer things up a little, or it’s daytime and drinking from a martini glass makes you feel a touch of a lush.


Wanting what you can’t have.


Angus Winchester posted this picture on his facebook and it got me thinking.

First, I thought, I wish I was a troubadour, traveling the world, spinning lyrical on the wonders of Chartreuse, sampling and mixing fine drinks. Most importantly stumbling across delightful little gems like the three experimental bottles pictured above. They come from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, two are whiskeys, aged in Zinfandel barrels, for 6 and 10 years respectively; the one on the right is a 17 year old rum, something of a peculiarity for a boutique Bourbon distiller. There was obviously something unusual in the water running through Franklin County in the early 90’s.

For a good ten minutes I hated Angus, the envy of this discovery lingering in my throat like the finish on their whiskey. Then as I thought about it more, I decided there was something worth writing about here.

For a long time, alcohol brands were products. A consistent, reliable spirit that could be tried again and again, shipped in quantity around the globe. The experience was as much about the local you were in, glass in hand as was where the product had come from.

The google culture we live in now has changed that, search, and the value we place on finding out the story has led to a proliferation of special, crafted brands that succeed through word of mouth and the advantage of their scarcity.

These experimental editions of Buffalo Trace amount, to me at least, to great branding. Brand is no longer about the product, but about the connection and showing the passion and creativity of the team at the distillery builds another channel of communication to the core audience. It’s not trying to be better than their core offering and in my view it only increases the value of the standard product.

I only hope more producers take note of this and start to share little gems of thinking and love.

I’ll certainly write about anything like this.


Basil Hayden’s Small Batch Bourbon

Basil HaydensI was lucky enough to get my hands a bottle of Basil Hayden’s small batch Bourbon over the weekend. The tasting notes explain that this little gem crosses the boundary between Rye and straight Bourbon, and that at 40% ABV it is perfect pretty much anyway you want to take it. The Intoxicologist has a cocktail that uses this fine spirit mixed with only Champagne. I’ll try it out this week and let you know what I think.

The product itself is incredibly smooth and has hints of honey and mint. I tried it out on its own, over ice, as an old fashioned and in a version of a Sazerac. It takes on the oils of orange beautifully and mellows everything it comes in contact with. I’ll bet it makes a tasty Julep.

The history of the brand lies with Basil Hayden, a Maryland Catholic who settled in Nelson County, Kentucky in 1785. By 1792 he had developed a special mash of corn and rye grains that bridged the mellow Bourbons and peppery straight rye styles. It is this mash that the Beam Global small batch spirit means to replicate. 

The bottle itself is gorgeous, with the over the fold label, copper band and bH logotype. 

If you’re a lover of good Bourbon, this one is a beauty. Pricing around $70 a bottle and available at Elizabeth Bay Cellars, and online here. I’ve see in around a few other places as well, and any outlet of Jim Beam should be able to order it, even if they don’t have any in stock.

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Maker’s Mark Bourbon

large_6320_Makers Mark Burbon WhiskyMade in tiny batches of around 19 barrels at a time in Loretto Kentucky, Maker’s Mark is some pretty great Bourbon.

Although the website recipe for an Old Fashioned cocktail calls for the use of soda, which would be such a waste, this is a premium spirit designed from its inception to be special. The labels on the bottle are turned out on a couple of hundred year old rotary press. The bottle is expensively and uniquely sealed with the trademark red wax that drips iconically from the neck of the bottle. It is remarkably smooth, but so are most in this category.

I like the full taste, I feel like I can pick out pieces of the ingredients and the love that went into making it. Legend has it that when the original distiller, Bill Samuels, was coming up with the recipe he baked loaves of bread with different ratios of barley and red winter wheat and chose the best tasting loaf as the basis of the original recipe.

The good folks at Annandale Cellars flog it here in Sydney and online. If you’re quick, the Liquorland at Bondi Junction was selling bottles for $49.95 over the weekend, and in case you didn’t realise, that’s not a bad deal.

I’d suggest having some of this spirit mixed into an Old Fashioned. without soda as it wasn’t invented when this drink was.

Maker’s Mark are smart about the way they use people with passion for their product. They’re leading the industry with their ambassador program. Most brands use ambassadors, talented bartenders to get out on the road and into the bars, training staff and consumers and telling the story of the brand. The Mark has taken this one step further asking anyone who tells the Maker’s story to register online, offering a bottle from their very own named barrel as an incentive and opening a great channel for news and special product offers to those that care a little more than most.

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The Old Fashioned

Picture 4

On May 13, 1806, The Balance and Colombia Repository printed the first known definition of the word “cocktail”

`Cocktail, then, is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters it is vulgarly called a bittered sling`

This somewhat unsavoury sounding mix is what we today call the Old Fashioned. 

Like almost all things alcohol related, there are disputes as to who coined the name instead of it just remaining ‘Cocktail,’ the members of the Pendennis Club claimed for some time in their blustery Colonel Sanders way that the name belonged to a Bourbon Cocktail made in the club. David Wondrich, who looks not dissimilar to a member of the Pendennis Club, discounted this theory by uncovering a wealth of examples of the use of the word prior to the Club’s foundation in 1880.

But I digress.

The Old Fashioned Cocktail

Take a sugar cube* and douse it in three or four belts from a bottle of Angostura Bitters, slide this into the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass. I use at least 60 of good quality Bourbon in my version, Maker’s Mark would be a fine choice. Add a little of the Bourbon, with a couple of pieces of ice and start stirring. Keep adding a little more Bourbon, a little more ice and perhaps around 15 mls water. 

The result is an amazingly balanced, rich and seductive elixir. 

*I prefer to use a cube of sugar as the time it takes to get it to dissolve is around the same time it take to mellow this drink to a superior level.


This cocktail is amazingly adaptable, you can change out the spirit for a Rye Whiskey, Brandy, Cognac or Rum.

At Toko on Crown St they do a Old Fashioned with Junipero Gin and there is a fashionable trend for Tequila Old Fashioneds around the world right now.

Once you’ve tried a variety of spirits, perhaps making a move on to changing out the bitters. Peychaud’s, Fee Brothers Peach or Orange Bitters, even Aperol or Campari. I’ll post an article later in the week about the process of homemaking bitters as well, to really change things up.

This really is a drink for the ages, we’ll be putting this up against the Trans-Galactic GargleBlaster when we make it to the restaurant at the end of time.

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Woodford Reserve

Picture 15

Bourbon is all about the good old days; plantation punches, juleps for breakfast and Colonel Sanders as the pinnacle of sartorial excellence and refinement.

A lot has changed in the South, but the Labrot & Graham’s Old Oscar Pepper Distillery is still producing small batch bourbon under the Woodford Reserve banner. Each bottle is labelled with both a bottle and batch number.

Others will unpack the nuances of taste, I will say only this, the very best Manhattan and Sazerac I have ever tasted were made with Woodford reserve.

Just in case that wasn’t enough to make you buy a bottle or call your order, it’s also the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and makes a mean Julep.

You can buy it online in Australia here.


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At home, Cocktail

Manhattan (Perfect)


60 mls Blanton’s Gold Bourbon, 15 mls dry vermouth, 15 mls sweet vermouth.

Add all ingredients to a shaking tin over ice, stir between 12-15 rotations, trying to make all the ice move as one. strain it all into a martini glass and luxuriate over this delightful cocktail. A twist of lemon will finish this one beautifully.

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