Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | November 7, 2008

Bourbon with Jimmy Russell

Last night Bourbon in Adams Morgan hosted Wild Turkey’s master distiller Jimmy Russell. The event included a tasting from the Wild Turkey collection, as well as a special menu of featured cocktails.

I only got to talk to Jimmy Russell for a little bit, but it was very cool. Here is a man who knows and loves his craft. It’s hard not to immediately respect that, but he was incredibly friendly and really wanted to talk about his bourbon and why we were there to drink Wild Turkey products. I wish I was more of an experienced bourbon connoisseur, because I really feel like I missed an opportunity to learn more from him. Oh well, so it goes.

At the tasting, I started off with Russell’s Reserve bourbon (I wanted to try the Russell’s Rye, but didn’t get around to it). Then I tried Wild Turkey Special Breed. I didn’t take detailed tasting notes, but between the two I definitely found Special Breed more to my liking. I found it a bit sweeter and smoother to drink and will likely make it onto my next shopping list.

From there, I moved happily on to the cocktail menu. First up was a drink I had to try because it is Marshall from Scofflaw’s Den‘s personal favorite: Cocktail a La Louisiane. I could see why Marshall likes it – it’s complex, well balanced, and very boozy while being easy to drink.  Cocktail a La Lousiane was made with Russell’s Reserve, Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, Absinthe, and Peychaud’s Bitters. It was garnished with a cherry and is undoubtedly a drink I will order again.

The next cocktail in the mix was surely the most talked about one at the tasting, a Bacon Old Fashioned. The word “bacon” stands out on the cocktail menu and I heard tons of people remark about it, before enjoying it. It’s made with a bacon infused Wild Turkey 101, maple syrup, and Angostura bitters. I don’t know how the bacon-infusing process was done, but I was impressed with the outcome. It could have very easily been overdone, but the whiskey had a beautiful smoky flavor to it, extracting a real bacon flavor without any of the heft you might get from cooked pork in whiskey. But the real reason the Bacon Old Fashioned work was the maple syrup. I’ve recently started to use maple syrup in old fashioneds to change things up. It adds a deeper flavor and can balance very well with the bourbon. It was even better with the bacon infused bourbon, as the bacon and maple flavors are ones most people are probably used to experiencing in tandom. The people I was there with were all initially skeptical about trying it, but almost all of them were impressed by how accessible the cocktail was once they tasted it.

I ended the night with a Stone Fence, which was made with Wild Turkey 101 and house-made apple cider. The cider was brewed the night before and was deliciously tart, with a heft cinnamon kick to it. The cocktail was served in a rocks glass with a sugar rim and garnished with a slice of apple that may well have been soaked in liquor before entering the glass. It was a great fall drink and one that would work really well for anyone having a party. In fact, I’ll be keeping this in mind for any Thanksgiving parties I go to this year.

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