With it's great, smooth taste, typically reasonable price tag and roots in the US south, Kentucky Bourbon is one of the most appealing spirits one could imagine. But, this kind of appeal carries with it the possibility of underappreciation. With The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book (University Press of Kentucky) co-authors Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler make the case that Bourbon is a more versatile and subtle spirit than might have been previously thought. Mark and Lynn caught up co-author Susan Reigler about her work and her impressions of this historic and popular spirit.
M & L: Do you think that the image or habits of bourbon drinkers are changing?
SR: " I think whiskey drinkers in general have discovered the snifter-worthy bourbons and the high-end bourbons have become the choice of sophisticated sippers in the way single malt Scotch can be. With the current cocktail boom, I have observed the comeback of the Manhattan, too. So the perception is changing, but I think the stereotype of bourbon-as-good-old-boy beverage lingers."
M & L: James Bond is a kind of poster boy for vodka. Is there an individual whose image connects or is synonomous with Bourbon?
SR: " I thought it was interesting that several years ago, in the first Pierce Brosnan Bond movie, "GoldenEye" that M, played by Judi Dench, offered Bond a bourbon (Mark's note; Nice call Susan! check this out at about 6:08 of the YouTube clip here). But no 'poster boy' seems to have emerged for bourbon. That seems like a marketing hook the industry should examine."
M & L: In some circles (Mark and Lynn's for instance) bourbon is often thought to be a fall or winter drink. You make the case that it can be fully enjoyed all year round.
SR: " Bourbon is absolutely delicious year-round! Look in Joy's and my book for a more than a dozen pages of summer cocktails. I think the Bourbon Shake Up on page 61 is especially refreshing. Adding citrus fruits, especially orange and lemon, compliment bourbon's flavors. A classic cocktails, the Old-Fashioned (Joy's recipe is on page 28), is a refreshing sip absolutely anytime."
M & L: Are there any hip brands on the market now?
SR: "I think with its distinctive red wax bottle neck, that Maker's Mark is rather hip. Being a wheated bourbon (uses wheat rather than rye in the mash bill) it is a bit lighter on the palate and therefore popular with beginning, as well as more experienced, bourbon drinkers. I think Buffalo Trace may have a pretty hip image, too."
M & L: Are there any brands that you believe are particularly good values?
SR: "There are several brands in the $25 and under price range (though depending on local taxes, these prices vary widely) that are very fine. Well-known names such as Wild Turkey 101, Buffalo Trace, and Evan Williams come to mind. Bourbon bargains that are harder to find outside of Kentucky include Ancient Ancient Age 10 year old, Old Forester Signature (100 proof), Jim Beam Black Label (not to be confused with the white label), Old Grand Dad 114 proof and, for just a few dollars more, Four Roses Single Barrel. But the fun of trying new bourbons is finding one that suits both your palate and your budget. There are scores of choice out there, with more being made all the time."