Monday night, a friend and I had the delightful treat of a bourbon tasting at The Bourbon Bar/Southern Art Restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead. It was a reunion of sorts for me, because the tasting -- put on by the Metro Atlanta Scotch Club -- was done by Hunter Chavenne of Willett Distilleries.
Southern Art is known for taking traditional foods and kicking the up a bit, and the Bourbon Bar is known for both selection and the ability to create almost any traditional drink you can name. In short, they know their stuff and the hors d'oeuvre chosen reflected that. A passion there is American cured meats, as in the American answers to Jamon Serrano and Prosciutto hams. The fact that these go most excellently with good bourbon meant that we were in for a real treat.
The evening started with the Willett Pot Still Reserve in its distinctive bottle. One expects carmel in any good bourbon, and this excellent value also brings in honey, herbs, and some floral notes. A clean finish allows one to savor and look forward to the next sip.
Our next tasting was of Johnny Drum, which brought back memories of my childhood (Dad was a bourbon drinker) as it is what I regard as a "classic" bourbon. To me, it was good by itself, but when I literally added two drops of water the nose and flavor both popped. The shift in the body lightened it a bit, and spice notes really exploded. If you like bourbon and branch, or are doing classic mixed drinks, this is one you should look at.
Our next course was the Rowan's Creek label and it became my friend's choice of the evening. The nose is heavy with carmel and I can only call the body nice. The flavor has lots of spice in the highlights, and the finish brings out pepper for a smooth finish.
Next up was my favorite of the boutique bourbons, Noah's Mill. The nose was rich with carmel, a hint of smoke, pepper, and spice. The body is solid, with sweet on the sides with hints of cooked fruits and pepper. The finish is very smooth and clean.
From the boutique bourbons, we went to the Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye, which I regard as one of the best, if not the best, rye out there -- particularly for the value. Think fresh rye bread crossed with some mint, and you have the nose. The solid body is filled with rye, but also contains a great deal of green herbs for a deliciously complex and delightful flavor.
Our final selection of the evening was a Willett Estate Reserve 9 year. The nose was dark carmel, with a body that was dark carmel with treacle, balanced out by hints of cinnamon and other spices and pepper on the sides of the tongue. The finish was smooth and solid, and the tasting reminded me why the Willett Estate Reserves are now my top go-to bourbons for special occasions. The fact that they are also a great value makes my inner Scot happy too.
My thanks to everyone who made this delightful evening possible!