I love bourbon. I work as a bartender at a prominent downtown hotel, and I consider it my sacred duty to educate those from out of state about our beautiful native whiskey. It is something about which I am passionate and knowledgeable, and so I was very pleased to be able to attend the Jim Beam Bourbon Dinner last night at Equus & Jack’s Lounge.
(In the interest of disclosure, I must inform my readers that my meal was complimentary. However, when reviewing food, I don’t let this cloud my judgment, as I strive to report objectively no matter what the circumstances.)
The dinner was a pleasant group affair; my wife and I were seated at a six-top table with two other couples, and Joy Perrine, “Bad Girl of Bourbon” and mixologist for Jack’s Lounge came out to address the room at large. She spoke a bit about the food and cocktails we would be enjoying before turning over to Fred Noe, master distiller for Jim Beam.
Mr. Noe introduced to us a very intriguing bourbon called Devil’s Cut. While bourbon ages in oak barrels, it seeps into the wood. When the bourbon is removed, about two gallons of liquor remain in the sides of the barrel. Devil’s Cut is the result of filling the “empty” barrels with thirty five gallons of water, shaking for one hour, filtering, and then reducing to 90 proof.
During the aging process, a certain amount of bourbon will evaporate. This is traditionally known as the “angel’s share.” Thus, the leftover bourbon extracted from the wood is playfully called the “Devil’s Cut.”
We each received a sample of the bourbon. Naturally, the oak flavor came through intensely. The bourbon was thin and smooth on the palate, and it tasted lighter and brighter than most bourbons. It was quite enjoyable.
Fred Noe then introduced Bernie Lubbers, Jim Beam Whiskey Professor, who talked a little bit about what makes bourbon bourbon as opposed to just another whiskey: bourbon must be aged in a new charred oak barrel; the grains used must consist of at least 51% corn; nothing can be added to the whiskey besides water (as opposed to other whiskeys, which can include artificial coloring or other additives). Contrary to common belief, bourbon does not have to be made in Kentucky to be called bourbon. It can be made anywhere, but it has to stick to the legal requirements of “bourbon.”
Then came the food. For the amuse course, we were served a deviled quail egg, along with a taste of Jim Beam (white label, seven year). The tiny half-egg had been filled with its yolk whipped with mascarpone, white wine, and apple cider vinegar. The bourbon was smooth and quite woody; the oak notes could actually be felt in the nose after drinking. It made for an interesting pairing: the creamy texture of the egg coated the palate, which served to mellow out the bourbon and dull the fire a bit.