Sunday, August 23, 2009

Grain, yeast, water & wood….oh and pigs

Comedian Jim Gaffigan once said "The pig is an amazing animal, you feed a pig an apple, it makes bacon." It's kind of the same thing with Bourbon; you throw together this mix of grain, yeast and water, cook it up and throw it in a wood barrel and out comes this bounty called bourbon. I was at this party last night with a mix of bourbon enthusiasts and cigar enthusiasts and the discussions were centered on bacon…………just kidding, bourbon and cigars of course. I was chatting with this one guy from Canada and he was talking about the diversity of cigars when it comes to the look, feel, color and taste. Of course, those are the same qualities a bourbon drinker will look for in bourbon. Early on in my whiskey experience, I thought one dimensional when it came to bourbon. Bourbon was just bourbon. The cigar guy said kind of the same thing. But as you explore either cigars or bourbon, you begin to find variances that actually contrast on a broad basis. Cigars go through a similar process as bourbon where the harvest is selected, aged and fermented. Then the rolling process begins and after that they are "laid down" for final aging and distribution. Bourbon as most enthusiasts know is similar in process; the grain selection, cooking process, fermentation, distillation and then storage. What I find amazing is that using these simple ingredients, cooking process and aging produces bourbon profiles that differ in many ways. For instance, last night I had some Elijah Craig 18 year. It's been some time since I've had this particular bourbon and didn't really remember much about it but at first nosing I picked up green apple. I don't think the distiller was dropping in apple slices into the cooker but as your palate develops, you will begin to pick out many attributes both on the nose and palate as you try different bourbons.

So, if you love bacon, you gotta love the pig. If you love bourbon, then you gotta love the diversity that bourbon brings.

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