When asked if I’d enjoy an informative sampling of eight iconic bourbons, I was practically out the door before even bothering to ask where and when. The ‘where’ was the shiny new Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina in Ann Arbor, #3 in Chef Luciano DelSignore’s stable of top shelf pizza joints. The ‘when’ was this past Sunday.
Mixing Bourbon 101 facts with interesting anecdotes, Mixologist David Porcaro led our group through all things bourbon as we sampled from eight benchmark distilleries.Chef Luciano thoughtfully prepared some munchies to go along for the journey.
How did Bourbon become, well, Bourbon? Bourbon is a whiskey that requires at least 51% corn mash in order to carry the name. It must be aged a minimum of four years—reflecting the youngest liquid in the blend. And it can only be made in the USA. While some whiskeys will use added colors or flavors, with Bourbon, what comes out of the barrel is what pours into your glass, along with a little extra water to bring down the proof. Bourbon is made in charred oak barrels—the charring is what gives Bourbon its distinctive color.
Here’s a rundown of our afternoon--
First Sip --Parker's Heritage Collection: Promise of Hope, 10 year single barrel. This bourbon offered up an inviting sweetness. One participant said it tasted like candy—in a good way!
Second Sip --Elijah Craig 12 year with Bigalora's Wood and Rosemary Roasted Peanuts. Fantastic combo as the saltiness cut right through any astringency. This bourbon offered a definitive char on the nose.
Third Sip --W.L. Weller Wheated Bourbon – substituting wheat for rye, this blend offers up a slightly fruity nose, a little oak, and smooth finish.
Fourth Sip --Old Forrester served with Wood Fired Focaccia. This 100 proof sipper represents the first bourbon available exclusively in bottles, and sealed for your protection with a tax stamp.
Fifth Sip --Corner Creek Reserve. This 88 proof blend of corn, wheat and rye shows up silky smooth. This could be the result of following a 100 proofer, above. Nice complex flavor profile, and super enjoyable.
Sixth Sip --Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon served with Michigan made Mindo Chocolate. This single barrel bourbon offers up front caramel and citrus, and paired quite nicely with the chocolates.
Seventh Sip --very special and rare Orphan Bottle Barterhouse 20 year Bourbon, 90 proof. Slightly sweet with vanilla notes and smooth finish. And when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Eighth Sip --Booker's 128 proof Bourbon went down surprisingly easy, especially when paired Bigalora’s homemade vanilla gelato—topped with pistachio liqueur.
Our casual tasting lasted close to three hours. Somehow, the time passed very quickly. Keep an eye out for more food and liquor events at Bigalora.