GSN Alert: June 14th – National Bourbon Day

imagesBourbon is the quintessential American spirit, and today is a today to celebrate it!  GSN is proud to share some classic bourbon cocktails from some of the great cocktail guides of the past 150 years.

Bourbon Crusta
2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce triple sec
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/2 ounce lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters
Garnish: Orange peel.
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Bourbon Milk Punch
1 1/2 ounces bourbon whiskey
4 ounces milk
2 teaspoons simple syrup
2 dashes vanilla extract
Garnish: grated nutmeg
Shake vigorously with ice, strain into a brandy snifter or wine glass.

2 ounces bourbon whiskey
3/4 ounce white crème de cacao
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 dash grenadine
Shake with ice. Strain into champagne flute.

Eastern Sour
2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1 1/2 ounces orange juice
1 ounce lime juice
1/4 ounce orgeat
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Garnish: Shell of the lime used for the fresh juice.
Shake with ice. Strain into an ice filled tumbler.

Lion’s Tail
2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce pimento dram
1/2 ounce lime juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Mint Julep
2 ounces bourbon whiskey
4 whole sprigs mint
2 teaspoons sugar
Garnish: Mint sprigs dusted with powdered sugar.
Muddle in a cocktail shaker until the sugar is dissolved and the mint is blended in. Add ice, and then shake well. Strain into a glass filled with shaved ice.

1 ounce bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce Cointreau
7 dashes Angostura Bitters
7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
5 ounces champagne
Garnish: Lemon twist.
Build in a champagne flute.

Suffering Bastard
1 ounce lime juice
4 ounces ginger ale
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 ounce bourbon whiskey
1 ounce gin
Garnish: mint sprig, orange wheel, and cherry.
Build in a rocks glass.

Ward 8
1 1/2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce orange juice
1 teaspoon grenadine
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Whiskey Sour
2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoon egg white (optional)
Shake with ice. Strain into a sour glass, or an ice filled Old Fashioned glass.

GSN Review: Knob Creek Bourbon

bottle-knobcreekKnob Creek has an interesting history.  The bourbon is named after the area where US President Abraham Lincoln grew up as a youngster.  In fact, he nearly drowned in Knob Creek as a boy when heavy rains swelled the waterway.  Fast forward to 1933, the year prohibition was finally repealed.  Lincoln’s boyhood home had by this time become a national shrine of sorts.  Some far-sighted businessmen decided to erect a tavern on the property in his name to attract the flocks of tourists who would come into town.  Undoubtedly, the bourbon flowed freely as vacationers made merry inside the large tavern cum dance hall.  Today, it is sadly just a gift shop.  But, the Knob Creek name still lives on in the form of one of Beam Suntory Inc.’s “small batch” Bourbons introduced in 1992.

Unlike most Bourbons, Knob Creek is aged for nine years and bottled at 100 proof, giving it a heartier color and flavor.

Knob Creek (100 proof)
Visual: Medium brown.
Nose: A lot of high and assertive notes.  This is a bourbon that won’t back down.
Taste: Woody notes percolate through milder flavors of roasted sweet corn and a touch of spicy rye.  Straight from the bottle, everything is very tight, but opens up into a wider vista of flavors with the addition of some branch water.  The main profile is of wood which makes for a bourbon which will make you stand up and take notice.
Finish: Fairly long with a balance of sweet and spicy.
Overall: Try of touch of this in your next sweet tea, or in a Mint Julep.  The high-proof will withstand the dilution handily.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Knob Creek

GSN Review: Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

BASIL HAYDENS BOURBON“Yeah, my whole family done give up on me
And it makes me feel oh so bad
The only one who will hang out with me
Is my dear Old Grand-Dad
And we drink alone, yeah
With nobody else
Yeah, you know when I drink alone
I prefer to be by myself.” – George Thorogood

Ever wonder who the dear old grand-dad is in this classic blues number?  As it turns out, it’s none other than Basil Hayden, Sr.  Interestingly, he was also the man who helped establish the first Catholic church in Kentucky.  Who knew?

But, of course, it is his namesake bourbon that we are concerned with today.  Hayden’s grandson created a version of bourbon in 1840 which he named “Old Grand-Dad” in memory of his ancestor.  In fact, if you look on that product’s label, the picture is of old Basil H. himself.

Basil Hayden’s is a modern bourbon and part of the Beam Suntory “small Batch” collection of whiskies.  Arguably the easiest of the quartet to drink (the others being Knob Creek, Booker’s and Baker’s), it is an absolutely fine spirit that we here at the GSN offices have been enjoying in Manhattans all week.

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon (80 proof)
Visual: Deep gold.
Nose: Rich, enveloping and welcoming notes of rye spice, oak stave, peppermint tea leaf and a touch of char.
Taste: Sweet corn, but with a rye forward spiciness.  A lighter touch of baking spice, caramel and vanilla comes through as a secondary wave.  Exceptionally smooth and yet with a depth of character that few other young bourbons can match.
Finish: Medium long with plenty of rye brightness to take home with you.
Overall: My current favorite bourbon for sipping straight, this also is absolutely amazing in Manhattans, Sazeracs and even Old Fashioneds.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Basil Haydens

GSN Review: Pennypacker Whiskey

gil500_bottleIt’s rare that an American spirit is imported from Europe.  But, Pennypacker is made in Bardstown, KY and then sent to Germany for bottling, then sent back to the US for sale.  How crazy is that?  Nonetheless, Pennypacker is a well-balanced and interesting bourbon made from 70% corn and the balance from rye and malted barley.  It is then aged for at least four years in new charred American oak before being brought down to 80 proof using Kentucky spring water.

The reason you may have never heard of Pennypacker until now is that it had been bottled for export for the past 40 years or so.  Which also explains the hyper-American labeling.  One glance of the bottle on a liquor store shelf in Western Europe, and you know this whiskey is from the good old U.S. of A.

Pennypacker Whiskey (80 proof)
Visual: New minted copper penny.
Nose: Spiced corn with a powerhouse of caramel and vanilla.
Taste: Nice and spicy with a good amount of heat.  The aging is spot on, just hinting at a little too much wood.
Finish: Fairly short, with a residual spice towards the back of the palate.
Overall: The body is somewhat thin, but the flavor is quite good.  A decent mid-shelf whiskey that can definitely compete with several of the more well-known bourbons.  Good enough to drink straight or with a little water to open it up.
GSN Rating: B

For more information go to: Our Niche

GSN Review: Maker’s Mark Whisky

bottle-makersDoes anyone remember the great Maker’s Mark controversy of 2013?  The company announced in late winter of that year, that they would be lowering the proof of their bourbon from 45% to 42% to keep up with consumer demand.  The public would have none of it.  It’s amazing how much publicity it generated.  In my mind, reminiscent of what Coca-Cola did when they brought New Coke onto the market in 1985.  Demand for old Coke went up, and they solidified their market. Granted, Maker’s Mark has always had a positive image in the eye of the consumer, but with so many new bourbons coming onto the market, it was a great move to remind people about their product.

Maker’s Mark debuted 60 years ago, and has since been owned by Hiram Walker, Fortune Brands, Beam Inc. and will soon be purchased by Suntory.

Maker’s Mark (90 proof)
Visual: Light maple syrup brown.
Nose: Rich, woody and spicy.  A lot of intriguing character comes through.  You can instantly tell this is a killer bourbon.
Taste: Smooth and bready with a hefty dose of aged corn spirit.  The wood aging adds a spicy character and brings a lot of high notes.  On the other end of the spectrum, there are elements of caramel, cinnamon, burnt vanilla and sweet corn.  A huge variety of flavors make for one intriguing bourbon.
Finish: Lovely and amazingly cohesive.  The fade stays true to itself the entire time, with no one element trying to overpower the finish.
Overall: Elegant and at the same time, self-assured.  The balance of flavors make for an eminently sippable whisky.  Lovely on its own, it also works wonders in classic cocktails like the Manhattan, Mint Julep and Boulevardier.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Maker’s Mark

GSN Review: Booker’s Bourbon

1281Along with the Jim Beam family, Booker Noe II is responsible for bringing some of the world’s greatest Bourbons to light.  Booker served as master distiller for over four decades at the Beam Distillery in Kentucky.  Many may not know that Booker was the great-great-great grandson of the founder Jacob Beam.  Over the years he began to bottle some special Bourbons for his friends and family.  It was uncut, non-chill filtered, aged six-eight years in the center of the aging racks.  In 1992, he debuted it to the general public, and it has since taken its place amongst the countries best spirits.  Booker’s Bourbon continues the traditions and memory of this great man.

Booker’s Bourbon (121-127 proof)
Visual: Medium dark brown.
Nose: Light, yet hinting at some depth and heat.  The distillate remains in the forefront, with the typical vanilla and caramel elements reaming in the background.
Taste: Elegant and quite refined.  Surprisingly understated, yet very much a cask strength bourbon in terms of flavor profile.  This speaks well of the master distillers ability to know when a cask is ready for bottling.
Finish: The heat is in the back of the throat with all of the pleasantries delivered up front.  Quite a pleasure and a superb sipping whiskey.
Overall: Again, despite the high-proof, this is eminently mixable and absolutely a winner as a slow sipper.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say that this was aged at least 12 years, instead of 7.5.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to:

GSN Review: Baker’s Bourbon

bakersThe Beam family has a long and storied history.  Originally immigrants from Germany named Böhm, they settled in Kentucky in the late 1700’s.  Johannes “Reginald” Beam successfully made corn whiskey in 1795, then passed the business on to his son David Beam.  He in turn passed it to David M. Beam who moved the business to Nelson County.  James Beauregard Beam (from whom the Jim Beam name comes from) ran it until prohibition, and then amazingly enough started it up again in 1933 in Clermont, Kentucky.  It continues to this day to be managed by the Beam family along with the family of former Master Distiller Booker Noe.  The company was recently sold to Suntory Distilling of Japan for an astounding 16 billion US dollars.  I’d say the family did quite well over the past 225 years.

Baker’s is named after Baker Beam, the grand-nephew of Jim Beam.  It uses a yeast culture that has been in the Beam family recipe for more than 60 years.

Baker’s Bourbon (107 proof)
Visual: Medium golden brown.
Nose: Powerful charred oak with caramel sugar. Rich and heady.
Taste: For such a high-proof whiskey, this is amazingly smooth and mellow.  There is some heat, but it’s intertwined so beautifully with the flavors of sugar and spice that you don’t really notice it.
Finish: Peppery spice edges out the initial sweetness and leaves your mouth feeling deeply satisfied.  I keep coming back to a sense of raw maple here.
Overall: This is like pure bourbon candy.  I’ve been sipping it for a few weeks every now and then, and I am still impressed.  A bit of water will open it up and mellow it out even further, but it’s not crucial by any means.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to:

GSN Backbar Review: Feb. 24-28, 2014

350x350_berkshireSheffield, Massachusetts-based Berkshire Mountain Distillers has partnered with 10 U.S. craft brewers to create a new range of Bourbons finished in beer barrels for a minimum of three months. Several offerings in the limited edition range began rolling out in January, including collaborations with Georgia’s Terrapin Brewing, Pennsylvania’s Tröegs Brewing and Massachusetts’ Samuel Adams. In the coming months, Berkshire will unveil new entries created in partnership with Michigan’s Founders Brewing, Florida’s Cigar City Brewing, Montana’s Big Sky Brewing, Washington’s Hale’s Ales, Oregon’s Full Sail Brewing, New York’s Brewery Ommegang and New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewing. The Bourbons, which range in price from $42.99-$60 a bottle, feature the name of the participating brewery and are available only in each brewer’s region.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

GSN Review: Flaviar Spirits Club

flaviar_image-620x350Over the years I’ve discovered that one of the best ways to learn about spirits is at home.  You can take your time savoring and discovering the differences between different styles and brands of each of the six main spirits: brandies, whiskies, rums, gins, vodkas and tequilas.  The only real issue is financial.  Go out to the local liquor store and try to buy five different bottles of spirit that aren’t hangover inducing crap for under $50.  It’s impossible.

What if I were to tell you that you and two friends could try five different top shelf spirits for less than $50?  What if every month there was a new package delivered to your door containing five new spirits to try ranging from hard to find Japanese whiskies to Highland scotches and more?  Each delivered with a guide on tasting notes, info on the distilleries and how to host a tasting party.  Sound too good to be true?  It isn’t.  Check it out below and begin your “spiritual” journey of discovery.

For more information go to: Flaviar

GSN Review: Four Roses Bourbon

four_roses_bourbon_logoThe legend of the four roses hearkens back to 1888. No doubt, Jerry Thomas of 19th century bartending fame was well acquainted with their product.  Founded by Rufus and Origen Rose, they also included the two male heirs of the family into the brands name.  Thus, the four Roses were born as a bourbon crafted in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

Although the company has had its share of ups and downs over the years mainly due to changing tastes from straight to blended bourbons, they have never entirely disappeared off the liquorious map.  It took a Japanese company (Kirin) to bring back the former glory of the distilleries straight bourbons under the tutelage of Jim Rutledge since 1995.

The company ages ten different bourbons which are bottled in differing manners depending on whether they are blended or single barrel versions.  They also release special and limited editions on occasion.  GSN was sent a selection of Four Roses bourbons currently available in the US.  For those of our lucky readers in Japan, you may wish to seek out a few other styles only available to you.

Four Roses Yellow Label (80 proof)
Visual: Light gold.
Nose: Tangy and sweet with a lot of woody high notes.  Very genteel.
Taste: Light and elegant with a very approachable sweetness.
Finish: Fairly short with a hint of honey at the very end.
Overall: Quite mixable and easy to drink.  A great bourbon for the beginner.
GSN Rating: B+

Four Roses Small Batch (90 proof)
Visual: Mellow gold.
Nose: Dry and crisp with a subtle apple scent.  Very autumnal.
Taste: Amazingly round and creamy with a very smooth mouthfeel.  The flavor goes beyond this though, with a lot of peppery spice and baked nutbread character.  Dessert-like and quite the sipper.
Finish: The ginger bite and honeyed sweetness fades fairly quickly, leaving an overall sensation of vanilla cream and cinnamon.  Very interesting and memorable.
Overall: A bourbon that not only is surprisingly mellow, but at the same time has a unique fruity character that I’ve not come across in many bourbons.
GSN Rating: A

Four Roses Single Barrel (100 proof)
Visual: Yellow-gold.
Nose: Hefty and with a brilliance of sweet summer corn.
Taste: Rich, warm, buttery toffee with a sudden burst of oaky intensity.
Finish: Long and sweet.  Like a southern belle, you’ll want to keep holding it close to you and remember the body.
Overall: I am highly impressed with this bourbon that just keeps going on and on.  One of my favorites.
GSN Rating: A

Four Roses 125th Anniversary (103 proof)
Visual: Darkening golden brown.
Nose: A huge amount of high notes with an almost well-aged cognac character.
Taste: The taste as well is surprisingly cognac-like.  Rich, elegant, enveloping and the kind of bourbon that you only pull out on special occasions.  Wow!
Finish: Medium long, but with a lot of percolating sweet and spicy notes that open up with a bit of water.
Overall: This is a world-class bourbon that exemplifies the art of distilling and blending.  Well worth seeking out to “cellar”.  Kudos to Master Distiller Jim Rutledge for this engaging beauty!
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Four Roses

Imbibing Mr. Boston: Bourbon Renewal Cocktail

IMG_4765-800A classic created in 2004 by Jeffrey Morgenthaler from his days in Eugene, Oregon.  He has this to say about it’s creation, “This one was named after a band that my business partner, Tony Figoli was in a long time ago. I thought the name was absolutely brilliant, so I decided to do up a drink to commemorate the band – and my favorite spirit at the time. I think the creme de cassis really works well with the sour component of this drink, and who can beat American whiskey on a warm spring evening?”

It is an interesting variation on a whiskey sour for sure.

Bourbon Renewal
2oz bourbon
1oz lemon juice
0.5oz creme de cassis
0.5oz simple syrup
1 dash angostura bitters

Shake with ice.  Strain into ice-filled old-fashioned glass.

Imibibing Mr. Boston: Bourbon and Elder Cocktail

IMG_4736-800It seems as if this drink was originally created in 2006 by Simon Difford.  However, it’s original name was the Elder Fashioned.  Much classier, don’t you think?

It is a tasty drink, and one I was surprised by.  The sweetness of the bourbon works well with the fruitiness of the elderflower.  I would also recommend an orange twist as a garnish.  The original recipe by Mr. Difford called for orange bitters, so you may also try that.

Bourbon & Elder
2oz bourbon
0.75oz elderflower liqueur
1 dash angostura bitters
garnish: lemon twist

Stir with ice and strain into chilled old-fashioned glass.  Add lemon twist.

Imbibing Mr. Boston: Bourbon à la Crème Cocktail

IMG_4709-800In spite of being rather heavy and almost syrupy; this has a really nice balance of flavors.  I’d easily order one of these instead of cake or pie.  To be honest, I didn’t have vanilla liqueur on hand, so I substituted a high quality vanilla vodka.  I think it helped by cutting the sweetness a bit and lightening the overall mouthfeel slightly.  The original recipe apparently called for a vanilla bean to be used as a flavoring garnish instead of the liqueur.

This seems like the kind of drink that would be brought out after a hearty old Kentucky home formal dinner, so I also took the liberty to serve it in a more genteel choice of glassware.

Bourbon à la Crème
2oz bourbon whiskey
1oz dark creme de cacao
0.5oz vanilla liqueur

Stir ingredients with ice.  Strain into chilled old-fashioned glass.

GSN Review: Smooth Ambler Vodka, Gin, White Whiskey & Bourbon

Not many people know this about me, but I was born in West Virginia.  I only lived there for the first three years of my life, but I did get to visit the great state for a week when I was 16.  I have to say that it is one of the most picturesque states I’ve ever visited.  Fresh mountain air, pure clean water and an independent spirit in its people.  What does this have to do with Smooth Ambler Spirits?  Well, we were both born in the only state formed east of the Mississippi during the American Civil War.  There’s a lot of history there, and certainly a lot of distillation going on over the past few hundred years.

Smooth Ambler is a very new face on the spirits scene, but one that bears watching, as their products really shine.  Read on to find out more….

Smooth Ambler WhiteWater Vodka (80 proof)
Visual: Diamond clear.
Nose: Light sweetness with a freshly peeled banana scent.
Taste: Very pleasant with a tropical banana overtone.  There is some green pepper going on, as well as rock candy.  This has more body than most vodkas, and will add a lot of character to any cocktail.  I like the fact that it hasn’t been over-distilled to the point of blandness.
Finish: Sugary with more of those banana notes that I found in the nose.  As the finish goes on, a lot of mineral comes out with a light saltiness.
GSN Rating: A-

Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin (80 proof)
Visual:  Crystal clear.
Nose: Juniper and oddly enough, dill intermingle with a sweet and light spice.
Taste: Much sweeter and less dry than a traditional London style.  More akin to a flavored vodka.  The distillation is fine, but I feel the herbal infusion lacks depth.  This would work well in a fruit juice heavy cocktail, but wouldn’t make for a martini or clear gin based drink.  There’s almost a creamy dry vermouth quality to it which is unusual.
Finish: Fairly short, but clean and less botanical than most gins.
GSN Rating: B

Smooth Ambler Exceptional White Whiskey (100 proof)
Visual: Absolutely clear.
Nose: Yeasty funk, notes of fennel, oak wood, oatmeal and band-aid.
Taste: A bit of heat, but very smooth with a woody bitterness that pushes a lot of high notes.  Loads of body.  A fine sipping white dog with a down to earth elegance.
Finish:  Relatively short, but with an almost brulee-like finish that is satisfying and classy.  Great job of distillation here.
GSN Rating: A

Smooth Amber Old Scout Straight Bourbon Whiskey (99 proof)
Visual: Burnished bronze.
Nose: Spicy with a dry and balanced nose with elements of caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch.
Taste: A great bourbon with a lot of spicy character similar to a rye.  Very well balanced and amazingly smooth for a high proof 5 year old.  Lots of sugar maple, small notes of caramel, light roasted coffee, cinnamon bun, and toast.  Hey, this would make a great breakfast in a glass!
Finish: Long and sweet with none of the bitterness that comes with a young or over-aged bourbon.  One of the best new bourbons I’ve had in recent years.   I predict great things will come from Smooth Rambler.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Smooth Ambler