If there was a signature American winter drink, one that could take you through the oranges and ambers of fall and into the white blanket of winter, or at least into the cool of a Manoa evening, then it would have to be bourbon. Not the gasoline-flavored stuff of years ago, but now handcrafted, mellow and made by the royal family of distillers, the Beam family, who have created some of the most stunning examples of American whiskey on the planet.
Small-batch bourbons, whether single-barreled, blended or unfiltered, represent generations of distillers all with one intent – making the world’s best bourbon.
With vanilla notes, toasted nuts, apples and the faint aroma of dried fruits, Knob Creek, for example, is aged for nine years in charred American white oak and bottled at 100 proof. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Novice bourbonites should introduce themselves to Basil Hayden’s. Light, elegant and with more than a touch of pepper, there’s a hint of mint, a sliver of honey and a lighter bodied, gentler finish.
Perhaps the gentlest and easiest of all the small-batch bourbons is Baker’s. Aged for seven years, it has warm amber color and inviting toffee, spiced fruit nose, a hint of vanilla and spice and a long, smooth finish.
Like your after-dinner drink to make a statement? Then pour a glass of Booker’s, the only uncut, unfiltered, straight-from-the-barrel bourbon since prohibition began and bootleggers reigned. Be careful, though – bottled at between 121 and 127 proof, it comes with oak, smoke and attitude.
You could put these small-batch sons of Jim Beam into a cocktail, but why would you? A splash of water, a cube of ice and you’ve got yourself a sip of America’s heritage.