It's been quite some time since my last update, so I feel I owe an explanation: I arrived back home in the USA after a 7 month deployment just a month ago. I moved across the country, made new friends, and started working hard getting ready to be on a ship for 7 straight months, so I couldn't find the time to write since my most recent work. I also missed out on a ton of football, but luckily I was able to watch MOST of my basketball Wildcats' domination of their season until that heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin. But more sports later.
Where I hang my hat presently is Norfolk, VA, and it's been great getting to know a new town and see what it has to offer. (Technically I've lived here over a year but I still feel new since, you know, 7 months were spent on a ship across the world). Even though I'm pretty comfortable with my immediate vicinity I still don't know the names of bars or restaurants when I go downtown, and this past weekend I stumbled upon a local speakeasy: a 20's themed bar "so called because of the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police or neighbors." - (a 1889 newspaper, via Wikipedia). This particular themed bar is called Gershwin's and it also has a piano.
"Yea yea yea, piano bars are cool and all but what the heck is that up at the top of this post!?" Great question. That, my friends, is smoke-infused bourbon. You see, somebody apparently thought that the natural smokiness of good bourbon (that comes from the charred oak, duh) wasn't, uh, smoky enough. So let's see what this is all about.
The pictures basically tell the story, but this $10 cocktail is far more than just another drink you will order sitting on a stool. It's an immersive visual experience with the smell of a campfire. And then at the end you get to drink it. Even though I've been craving another one all week, they have more than just one signature drink, and they offer all styles of spirits. The fun thing about speakeasy's is that they don't just have American light beers and shots of Fireball; your bartenders are the kind of bartenders from whom Bond would order a Martini. These aren't overly-sweet mixes of one liquor and a colored syrup, they are true cocktails and frankly more bars should be like this.
The House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is one of the most well-recognized family names in the western world. Louis XIV of France, aka the "Sun King" aka "the Great" was a Bourbon, and is often credited with modernizing France and bringing it to European preeminence during his reign in the late 17th century. His great-great-great grandson was Louis XVI, for whom Louisville, KY is named (mostly for assistance during the Revolutionary War). So how does the name carried by a ridiculously wealthy and powerful French family become the name for "America's Native Spirit", and what does it truly mean to be a bourbon whiskey (or simply, "bourbon")? I've spent the last several days looking for the answers to these questions and if you like whiskey, bourbon, or you just said to yourself "what's the difference?" then read on, my friends, and decide for yourself.
***History buffs: please excuse any generalizations or over-simplifications, but please engage and correct any glaring and significantly erroneous information***
Alcohol and Alchemy
People have been making and consuming alcohol for literally thousands of years, but with the exception of the last 800 or so this was exclusively wine and various forms of beer. You can read more about the difference between fermentation and distillation on your own if you like, but distillation is a fairly modern process. Believe it or not, distillation was discovered through the obsession with alchemy. Alchemy often has dark undertones and is closely associated with sorcery; famous pillars of alchemy include turning lead into gold and creating an elixir of life. However, alchemy is more than insane attempts at wizardry; it's considered a "protoscience" and has contributed to the fields of chemistry and medicine through its diligent experimentation. Fermentation is a natural process where the yeast consumes and metabolizes sugars, giving off the byproduct of ethanol (alcohol). Distillation, inspired by the principles of alchemy, was an attempt to 'perfect' liquid by increasing the concentration of alcohol. Thus all of the major liquors are named from their native tongue "water or life", or something along those lines: "whisky"-Gaelic; "vodka"-Slavic; "gin"-French/Italian/Dutch/English.
Whisk(e)y is born
The first recorded grain alcohol was distilled in *shock* Ireland in 1405, and they named it in their native Gaelic "uisge", which basically evolved to "whisky" because the English like to impose their will on others, like telling the Irish and Scots how to spell their own word. Remember that at this time nobody thought to age the whisky; it was labor-intensive and takes capital as well as a working knowledge of the distillation process, so distillers wanted to sell their product for profit as soon as possible. Whisky, at this point in time, was neither spelled with an "e" nor differentiated much from the vodka that was being produced in Russia and Poland at the same time. There are only three things that differentiate whisky from the other grain alcohols, specifically vodka, and those are "ingredients, oak, and proof". See this blog post "Dissecting the Difference Between Corn Vodka and Unaged Whiskey" for a good explanation. Ingredients are usually the same, as vodka is traditionally (and was originally) a "grain" spirit, and most major vodkas continue this tradition even though technically you can make a vodka from anything that ferments. Proof is essentially a question as to how much water is put into the ethanol to cut it and make it more drinkable and when to dilute, if at all. This leaves the most important factor, in my opinion, as oak. Whisky was stored in oak barrels even before they knew that it actually made the alcohol better, so it eventually became a defining characteristic. More on barrels later.
Kentucky and the French
Kentucky has a multitude of counties. 120 to be exact. Only Texas and Georgia have more (254 and 159, respectively). But this wasn't always the case. Kentucky started as a county of Virginia, and when it earned its statehood it had only three counties: Lincoln, Jefferson, and Fayette. Fayette county was named for Marquis de Lafayette, one of the most important French generals allied with the American forces under George Washington. From the very beginning of Kentucky, we have honored the French allies that helped America earn its freedom. Kentucky's largest city is named Louisville after King Louis the XVI (of House Bourbon), and one of the earliest counties, Bourbon, was named for that same family. French culture, especially the Bourbons' love for the arts, survives to this day in Louisville, but the name "Bourbon" will prove to be an unlikely legacy indeed.
The Bourbon Whiskey Revolution
Before I get to the point, can I just say that I think it's ironic that all of the best photos of Louisville come from Indiana? Maybe it's some kind of metaphor for looking through a lens of perfection, alluding to jealousy and stuff.
Anyway, despite our Francophilia, Kentucky had large populations of Scottish and Irish immigrants and descendants from our early founding that continue to this day. True to form, they made whisky. A lot of it. And what is the most abundant grain in Kentucky? Maize, or corn. As settlers came and built Kentucky, they fought off Native American tribes such as Cherokee, Pawnee, Seneca, Mohawk and Iroquois, dreamed of having the greatest college basketball program of all time, and distilled a metric shit-ton of whisky. If this wasn't the first corn-based whisky that people had tried, it was certainly the first time it was introduced as the norm, and in such large volumes. Somehow, the Scots-Irish couldn't drink all of it themselves and they had to sell their product somewhere. Queue the Mighty Mississippi.
People built cities on rivers and other waterways to supply their crops and because cargo was moved most easily on the water. The Ohio River forms the northern border to Kentucky, and it feeds into the Mississippi, which ranks as the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world. The goods in Kentucky were shipped down the river to be sold, and the most prominent port was New Orleans, nearly on the mouth of the meandering river. Now this brings us to three major phenomena and keys to distinguishing the corn-whisky from Kentucky from the Scots-Irish grain alcohol that was its predecessor.
First, merchants would label their products not by some marketed branding name, but by the location from which it came, usually by county. Bourbon County, Kentucky was once a huge piece of land (refer to the map above) and like most of Kentucky, boasted vast limestone deposits which naturally filtered the water used for making whiskey. Barrels of whiskey started making their way down the river labeled "Bourbon Whiskey", and the seed was planted.
Second, distillers were storing their whiskey in barrels for shipment, but barrels could sometimes be expensive or time-consuming to make while you are harvesting corn and distilling whiskey, so sometimes they bought used barrels. (See this great blog post for more on the process of making fresh barrels for making bourbon). There is no record of the first person to char the inside of a barrel prior to using it for whiskey, but it's largely thought that it would be charred to sanitize the inside after it was used for storing literally anything else.
Third, we have what is likely the beginning of the aging process being discovered. Waterways were faster and cheaper than travel on foot or wagon, but it still would take weeks or months before flatboats would reach New Orleans, and the distillers would usually have to wait for the spring for good rains for the safest travelling, and the whiskey was made in late summer and autumn after the corn harvest which led to longer amounts of time that the whiskey would sit in the barrels. Nobody intentionally held onto finished whiskey, and nobody knew that the whiskey is made smoother and more flavorful by absorbing elements of the wood, but people were drinking whiskey that was shipped in barrels labeled "Bourbon Whiskey", which used corn as its primary grain, and was sitting in charred oak barrels for months before they even got to smell it. The whiskey began to take on an amber color and had more complex flavors thanks to the charred oak barrels.
Many of the things that make bourbon great were discovered inadvertently through happenstance, accident, and many years of influence. Some of the accidents that led to the understanding of bourbon proper in its final form may have occurred in places other than Kentucky, although never all at once, nor were they consistently repeated until they became the norm. Only bourbon is made with a sour mash of grains that consist of at least 51% corn, is distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% ABV), is stored at no more than 125 proof (the whiskey is diluted with clean water after distilling to make it more pleasant to taste, limestone-filtered water, if its from Kentucky), is stored in new, charred white oak barrels (usually at least 4 years although no age requirement exists, but less than 4 years of aging requires a statement on the label) and bottled at no less than 80 proof (most are 90 proof). These practices evolved from the history of Kentucky whiskey and their distillers, and with many thanks to the loyal French drinkers in New Orleans that snatched up whiskey by the name of "Bourbon" faster than a French guillotine. Here is my case that bourbon is distinctly and exclusively a Kentucky product. Any whiskey made outside of that state is merely borrowing the name that made this style of whiskey so awesome, unique and enjoyable!
If you disagree, tell me why! Join the debate, or contribute your thoughts on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/guitarsandbourbon or on Twitter via https://twitter.com/guitarsnbourbon (@guitarsnbourbon). Use #kentuckybourbon to tell me what you think!
First of all, thanks for reading! A reader named Ryan politely pointed out an incorrect statistic for the UCLA Bruins Men's Basketball Team, so I have corrected that! Thanks for the comments, keep checking back!
Thanks to Lex for pointing out Kentucky Lake! Kentucky Lake is the largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi (still Kentucky!) The correction is reflected below as well.
I've been writing on this blog for over a year, and it's been a lot of fun. I'm grateful and ecstatic for people who are returning readers. If you can read between the lines, I'm from Kentucky. I'm fairly well-traveled for a 25-yo and would like to speak of my experiences. Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, is known as the Northernmost Southern City and the Southernmost Northern City. I like the former, but feel free to disagree. We have a unique heritage, with bloody fights in the civil war and long traditions of distilling bourbon and breeding horses. I hope this post brings non-Kentuckians closer to our state, and opens locals' eyes to the different world beyond the Bluegrass State.
#5: People don't understand your pronunciation of "Louisville"
You've seen the T-shirts. Printed "Luis-ville" "Luey-ville" "Loo-i-vuhl" "Loo-uh-vuhl" and "Louisville"; we have our own pronunciations and accents, but generally, if you're from Kentucky, you lean towards the "Loo-i-vuhl" and "Loo-uh-vuhl" pronunciations. I've lived in Kentucky, Louisiana, and California, and I've visited countless other states, including Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, New York and Rhode Island. When I say I'm from "Louisville" the first response is usually "What?" or "Where?". It's not that they haven't heard of Louisville, Kentucky. We are the 16th largest metro area in the country, with around 1.3 million people, but most recognize it as "Luey-ville". I've found that our pronunciation of "Louisville" is comparable to the way Baltimore residents say "Baldimor". It's a lazy and blended word that only residents can recognize and appreciate.
#4: The First Saturday in May isn't a Holiday
Remember when every Kentucky Oaks Friday gave us a day off of school? Did you go to "Derby Parties" and talk about what you were doing for "Derby"? "Derby" is just a generic word outside of Kentucky. It's not a special day, kids don't get out of school, and few people even care about it outside of "Horse People" circles. Sure, people have heard of the "Kentucky Derby"; it's a national icon, the first and most important of races in the coveted Triple Crown. Celebrities from Hollywood and around the world visit for the sites, smells, and fun hats (remember when the Queen of England and George W. Bush sat side by side at Churchill Downs?). It's a unique race fought through mud and dust and sweat and blood and the sound of thundering hooves and screams and yells and the smell of horse and Mint Juleps, but in order to reference it outside the Bluegrass State you must put "Kentucky" in front of "Derby". Don't even think about trying to explain the Steamboat Race, the Hot Air Balloon Race, or Thunder over Louisville.
#3: "Bourbon" and "Whiskey" are Interchangeable.
This is one of the inspirations for my blog in general. When I waited tables in New Orleans I would input orders of alcohol and all of the whiskeys were under the category "Bourbon". Jack Daniels, Crown Royal and SoCo are NOT bourbon, and there are even some Kentuckians that don't quite get it, but most of us do. Bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. Kentucky has a "Bourbon Trail", a stretch of two major interstate highways that touch all of the major bourbon distilleries including Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, Maker's Mark and Jim Beam, but some folks don't know that 95% of bourbon is distilled in Kentucky, nor what makes the difference. If it were up to me, I'd add that it must be distilled in Kentucky to the list of legal requirements for labeling your product as "bourbon". The name comes from Bourbon County, when products were labeled by county ("bourbon whiskey") and shipped, largely by river, to be sold. "Bourbon Whiskey" from Bourbon County, Kentucky, was shipped down the Mississippi and sold in a major port in the south, New Orleans, where a large French population had settled and they took quickly to the product with the French name. Remember, all squares are rectangles.
#2: Kentucky is Beautiful
When you tell people you're from Kentucky, they usually are a bit surprised. Whether it's actual concerns over lack of footwear and incest or just that Kentuckians don't travel much (except for basketball, see below) and it's a relatively low-populous state, they don't know a whole lot about us. The biggest thing they usually will remember is that it's absolutely gorgeous. Even people who only briefly drove through the state or visited for short periods of time will compliment me on my home state's beauty. We are truly the "heartland" of the U.S. Fort Knox is famous for its gold reserves, but was chosen because of its central location to the rest of the country. We have a mix of all the best the nation has to offer. We have tall southern pines, eastern mountains, vast grasslands and crop fields, a large metropolitan area, long and winding waterways and all of these are complimented by a full four seasons. We have bits of the north, south, east and midwest, but the seasons give life and color to each. The south is just as green, but is far flatter and can't boast the rolling hills and horse-fields we do. The north has more trees and valleys, but is far colder. The midwest is just as flat as the south, but starts to dry out. Lake Cumberland is the largest man-made lake on our side of the Mississippi by volume (that baby is deep!) and boasts some serious shoreline: "The shoreline of Lake Cumberland — at the theoretically maximum possible elevation of water — is 1,255 miles. The coastline of Florida, not including islands, is 770 miles in length. The total Atlantic coastline of the United States from Maine to the tip of Florida is 2,069 miles. The total Pacific coastline of the continental U.S. (California, Oregon and Washington) is 1,293 miles." - http://heartoflakecumberland.com/lake-cumberland/history/. The only outdoorsy thing that we can't really compete with is skiing and snowboarding. We get snow, but not nearly as much as this anomaly-winter is giving the east coast. Go northeast, or far west. To Colorado. To Steamboat Springs.
#1: Nobody Understands Our College Rivalry
You are Blue. You are Red. There is no in-between. There are no others. You have no Superbowl to yearn for, no Stanley Cup to defend, no World Series curse to overcome, you know two teams, and they are Kentucky and Louisville. You must pick a side. Children in the middle ages were chosen at birth to be high-born lords and ladies, knights, or blacksmiths, and Kentucky children are born to cheer for the Red or the Blue. We are bordered by Tennessee, who has the Titans; Missouri, who has the Rams; Illinois, who has the Bears; Indiana, who has the Colts; Ohio, who has the Bengals and Browns; West Virginia, who has the Hatfields; and Virginia, who has nobody. We don't have legitimate professional teams (I was at a San Diego Padres game once, and a friend used the "Riverbats" as trash-talk to another Kentucky native hating on the Padres), so we grew to appreciate our sports for what they were, and we excel at basketball.
Our football teams are in their own situations right now; Louisville with a seemingly waning supremacy after the loss of Charlie Strong and Kentucky's dawn on the horizon with Mark Stoops' reign, but our basketball teams have always been elite. Louisville itself holds three NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championships, and Kentucky has 8. UCAA has 11, winning 10 in a span of 12 years (1964-1975) with the same coach and one more in 1995; Indiana winning 5, 3 with Bobby Knight. Those are the only teams that come close to the dominance of college basketball in Kentucky. UK holds records in all-time winning percentage and games, NCAA tournament appearances and wins, Sweet Sixteen appearances, Elite Eight appearances, and is second in championship appearances and wins (UCLA holds the most for both). Come March every year, we are well-known and feared, and when we stumble, people are shocked and startled. The south (SEC schools), get the southern sports rivalries, but no one has a rivalry as deep and strong as Louisville vs Kentucky. The SEC has strong football roots but also has professional teams, so the contrast isn't as solid, as bold, as deep. To live in Kentucky is to Bleed Blue or Red, and that is no small claim. Choose a side.
Eagles are beautiful and impressive animals; they are graceful and powerful birds that soar, sweep, swirl, and dive over forests and rivers. They are at the top of their food chain (what bear catches eagles?) but they are elusive and rare. And so I could describe Eagle Rare Single Barrel 10-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Eagle Rare is distilled and bottled in Frankfort, KY at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. There's a 10-year and a 17-year bourbon (both of which are aged much longer than the average 5-7 years for a decent bourbon) and the version I'm drinking tonight is the 10-year.
Eagle Rare soars, sweeps, swirls, and dives smoothly; I would describe it as sweet with an orange spice tone, and the pros at Eagle Rare describe it thus:
(photo courtesy of http://sippingwithsmoth.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-bangin-single-barrel-bourbon-eagle.html)
To the left you see Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, the lead singer and guitarist (respectively, right to left) of Aerosmith, arguably one of the best rock 'n roll bands of all time, and certainly one of the best selling rock 'n roll bands of all time.
The band's history is storied; a dynamic and explosive start, several years of success, then Joe Perry and Brad Whitford (the other guitarist) leave the band, followed later by their return and a Rare return to success and continued fame. But you can read about the band Aerosmith on Wikipedia. Perry is a brilliant guitarist, writing much of the music with Tyler and even lead singing in a few of their songs. His style is smooth and sweet, like the bourbon in this feature; just listen to songs like "Sweet Emotion", "Same Old Song and Dance", "Rag Doll" and "Dude Looks Like a Lady" (can't hear this song without picturing Robin Williams in an old lady costume air-guitaring and dancing in pumps with a vacuum cleaner in "Mrs. Doubtfire"). The amplifier settings no-doubt feature some crunching riffs that rock 'n roll enthusiasts long for, but the notes flow and sweep through the songs, creating a very enjoyable sound most people can tap their feet to.
My favorite Aerosmith song, however, is "Last Child". Steven Tyler's almost sassy voice weaves in and out of the strong notes played by Perry through the verses, taking off to his almost wailing of "Last Child!" during the chorus, perfectly complementing the warm and resonating strings being plucked by Perry. Perry steps up and down on the neck of his guitar, sometimes soaring with Tyler's voice, sometimes swirling and sweeping through brief solos and riffs, and sometimes diving like a Rare eagle aiming for its prey.
There's no question that Eagle Rare is a fantastic bourbon, reasonably priced for such an aged whiskey. Its sweet flavors are perfect for the beginner bourbon connoisseur and complex enough to be enjoyed by long-time bourbon enthusiasts with its spice and bite. Joe Perry is a perfect pairing, offering gentle but still edgy noise to the ears of rock listeners.
Kentucky. It's known as the Bluegrass State because of its beautiful strain of grass that grows out of the rich soil. It's known as the Bourbon State because we make it. It's the 15th state admitted to the Union, and the year was 1792.
That's where the heritage of this great whiskey starts, but it's far from where it ends. It is an 8-year, small batch bourbon and the rye recipe keeps the flavor strong and dry for those who drink a lot of scotches, but like all bourbons keeps its dark honey-brown color and finishes smooth. Speaking of honey, I think I caught a note of honey, along with cinnamon, pepper and just the tiniest hint of vanilla. In my laymen's terms I think I would describe this as a transitional bourbon between the sweeter, wheat bourbons like Maker's Mark, and the drier, lighter-in-color scotches that leave the weak crinkling their face as it bites their palate.
I had a hard time finding this bourbon at first, out in San Diego, but I soon remembered a small liquor store near SDSU called Keg N Bottle. Below are a couple of photos of their wall of majesty, a.k.a. their whiskey selection.
It's reasonably priced, but it's more of a premium than a value. Keep in mind this is San Diego and it was a small liquor store, but I paid around $40 for it. Still not bad for a rich, complex and smooth bourbon straight from Bardstown, KY.
Kill... the Ghost... that hides... in your soul, rock 'n roll....
How do I transition from a top-notch bourbon to Slash? Because he's a top-notch guitarist. 1792 has the sweet smoothness we enjoy in our bourbons that separate them from scotch and "plain" American whiskey (think the "Sweet Child 'O Mine" intro), but keeps our tongues swirling with a dry spiciness that is unique and bites just enough to offend a few (the song "Ghost", performed by Slash and featuring Ian Astbury has a catchy, up-beat guitar riff that is as classic as it is unique, see lyrics clip above).
Doctor Alibi is another great song on Slash's 2010 compilation album (called, creatively, "Slash"). Lemmy Kilmister's raspy voice matches the crunch on the guitar and the almost choppy but steady rhythm. As I've mentioned before, I recommend Spotify for listening to music, but you can also YoutTube, or iTunes if you like pain.
I'll be trying to write more "guitarist and bourbon pairings". It was a great concept given to me by family, and I hope I can mold it into something interesting, unique, and enjoyable, like a slightly chilled glass of 1792 and some Slash guitar riffs.
Two last-minute thoughts: If you like scotches, try Red Breast. It's a smooth, cinnamon-y and spicy whiskey. And you may recognize the song "By the Sword" on "Slash".
Today was a solid day of golfing and sitting on my rear trying to come up with something to write about.
So here's a new list of some country songs that are pretty new that are deserving of my noble recommendation, as well as one of Mumford and Sons' newest songs, and lastly an under-rated song with a link to the music video because VEVO hates free internet.
Dierks Bentley: if you know anything about country, you've heard this guy. Maybe not the best, but he has longevity. This is a newer one that's on the top 40 right now. I love any song that references Kentucky, and I'm sure most of you guys appreciate a little bourbon reference. The song is called "Bourbon in Kentucky", and it features a modern country/rock guitar sound but in the spirit of the sad old country songs "There ain't enough bourbon in Kentucky for me to forget you". Listen on youtube, Spotify, or iTunes if you must, but listen to it somewhere.
Have I really not talked about any of Mumford and Sons' songs on here yet? I know I've mentioned the group at least, but maybe this is the first full song recommendation. Anyway, one of the most amazing things about Mumford is that all of their songs sound almost the same, but are still unique and incredible to listen to. A funny meme parodies the band here: http://cheezburger.com/7264897280. I can't guarantee that that link is G-rated, there's some enthusiastic language, but it definitely made me laugh. If you have go to restaurants or bars like normal humans, or have access to the radio, you've probably already heard this song. Let this be a reminder that it's awesome.
Mumford and Sons "I Will Wait" from the album "Babel".
I can't get over how alike this guy sounds to George Strait. It's uncanny. It's also great for our ears. The song "All Over the Road" is kind of a humorous romantic song where Corbin sings about a woman distracting him while driving. It's not explicit, but the music video is definitely a bit suggestive, but still fun. I believe the last time I mentioned him I recommended "Roll With It." The guy just has a great voice, you should listen to him if you haven't.
Easton Corbin "All over the Road"
Photo from this Site: http://bigfrog104.com/inside-easton-corbins-tour-bus-video/
Jake Owen is (or at least with the country music folks) already famous for songs like "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" and "Eight Second Ride", but he's been keepin' it comin' with songs like "Keepin' it Country" and "Anywhere with You". The latter is one of those few that the radio would otherwise ruin if it was a lesser song, and the former has a great guitar riff that makes me want to kick back and have a beer while sitting on a tailgate. (His guitar in "Keepin' it Country" sounds eerily similar to Brad Paisley's; Brad usually has a very distinct setting on his amplifier for almost every one of his songs.) There's just certain sounds and notes, like the twang in a distorted Fender Telecaster or steel guitar, that make me think of home and of backroads and corn fields. This is one of those. Keep it comin', Jake Owen.
Jake Owen "Keepin it Country"
Photo from this Blog: http://www.countrymusicrocks.net/2011/10/jake-owen-was-keepin-it-country-with-a-sold-out-low-dough-show-benefiting-a-childrens-hospital-2.html
Now, finally, the most under-rated song and music video of the decade: Brad Paisley and Keith Urban "Start a Band." I know, I know, it's not a new song, but this isn't your blog.
The song starts like a few other of Paisley's storylines, like "Cooler Online", but the beauty of this song is with the guitars and the video. (Also that beautiful Telecaster that Paisley plays, seen to the left!). You can hear some nice, twangy riffs that song distinctly like Keith Urban and Brad Paisley (Watch Keith Urban's "Stupid Boy" video on YouTube to hear how his guitar usually sounds). Come about 2:45 into the song, the two start going into solo-battles, and if you watch the video you can just see how much fun they are having, playing off of each other's leads and even playing each other's guitars in the middle of the solos. It's incredible, and these two are easily the best guitarists in mainstream country music. The video has great shots of their hands while they are playing and folks who have played guitar know what's going on and folks that haven't should get a little better appreciation for what goes into learning these instruments. So like I said, click here to watch the YouTube video of these two in action and maybe you'll see what I'm talking about.
Remember, I'd love to hear any of your own recommendations or thoughts on music, country or otherwise.
Doesn't it look like a meal fit for a king? Or at least for a 20-something amateur blogger with limited time on his hands? I had a good dinner tonight, and while I generally groan in disgust at the snore that is most food blogs, I thought this might be a nice change of pace. Also I've had an insanely busy month at work. Also there's alcohol to discuss. So let's get to it.
These beauties have been hibernating in my *gasp* freezer for the past month. I got them on sale and didn't find a suitable night until now to treat them properly. The freezer did no damage to them, trust me, they were delicious. About 1 1/4 - 1 1/2" thick, these are bone-in New York Strips. I'm starting to love the bone-in versions a lot better, not least of all because they are cheaper. Anyway, with the bone-in steaks I like a simple, natural flavor, so I minimize the seasoning. I make a really good marinade with Worcestershire (it took me 5 minutes to figure out how to spell that stupid word) sauce, red wine and various kinds of seasoning, but not for these. For these, I used Bourbon-seasoned black pepper, Bourbon-aged Worcestershire sauce, a little fresh garlic, and of course, a buttery spread. Any variation of buttery spread or butter probably works just as well. Also, I managed to talk about bourbon in a post about a night on which I didn't drink any bourbon... I know it sounds like a sad tale, but it gets better.
These are the two key ingredients. Seriously, that's about all you have to do. With pepper and Worcestershire sauce all you really need is to pour it on the steaks and press it into the meat with your fingers just before you grill, no need to wait for a marinade to sink it. Those above, as far as I know, can only be bought locally or online here: http://bourbonbarrelfoods.com/shop/sauces-marinades/bourbon-barrel-worcestershire-sauce. That company is doing some fantastic things with bourbon and the used barrels; and by fantastic things I mean they are basically covering everything in bourbon and selling it and it's awesome.
As far as how to grill the steak, that's up to you. I turned the heat up all the way then slightly down right before I put the steaks on; I'd recommend having water nearby if you put the butter on the steak pre-grill like I did, there will inevitably be some excess flames, which makes the outside layer char quite a bit faster, but as long as you don't keep it on too long you can still cook it rare-to-medium-rare which is right about where these two ended up (because of the thickness).
So, if I didn't drink bourbon, what did I drink? Good question. I have been known to open a bottle of red wine from time to time. Yes, yes, primarily it's all bourbon, but red wine is just as classy and it's delicious, and goes great with red meat. Also less calories than beer. This is probably one of my favorite wines; if you can't read the picture it's a merlot from Napa Valley. I won't pretend to be a wine connoisseur, and I definitely don't know the lingo. I'll refer you to this website, where the author describes wine as if he knew what he was talking about. All I know is I like a dry wine with a full flavor, rose or other floral notes and maybe hints of blackberry or other dark red fruits. There. That was my lame attempt at a wine description. But seriously, if you like red wine, try this one out.
Anyway, tonight was a pretty successful grilling night with one of my roommates, and I'm glad you're still reading this boring food post.
Where to begin? This painting is by Leroy Neiman (I found it on the 'google') and is the epitome of Louisville, KY. Here's the interesting thing: I don't particularly like horses (other than the fact that they are beautiful) and I didn't consider myself a fan of paintings and what most people think of when they say "art". But here it is; possibly one of my favorite images of Louisville.
It reminds me of paintings that some of my friends' parents had hanging in their houses, which I never admired as a child, but now bring me to feelings of nostalgia and take me back home to the Bluegrass State. Louisville is known for basketball, horse racing and art; and that's pretty much it as far as most of the country is concerned. But the Kentucky Derby, on the first Saturday of every May, is my favorite holiday next to Christmas. It's also one of the only days Kentucky gets national and international recognition outside of bourbon commercials and college basketball. The pastels in this painting magnify the bright colors of the horse/jockey teams and emblematize springtime, and the twin spires of Churchhill Downs timelessly crown this image.
For those who really just want to hear about booze, there's some of that too: the Mint Julep. Basically it consists of bourbon, sugar and mint. Plenty of recipes online and if you're lucky enough to find some pre-mixed outside of Kentucky give me a call. It's the official drink of the Derby.
I hope you all enjoy this classy, historic and beautiful weekend as much as I do; in fact I'm kind of banking on it. I'm hoping you guys can share your own favorite things about Louisville and the Kentucky Derby (don't forget about the Oaks!) in either the comments or on my Facebook page. The link is right there. No excuses. Go "like" my facebook page and share your photos of the Derby, or your first swig of the ultra-sweet Mint Julep. Remember I can't go. Ya jerks.
I promised you guys a post this weekend, so I won't disappoint all 3 of my viewers ;). Where to begin? I have several different topics to cover, and only so much time to hold your attention...
I'll start with how beautiful a day it was here in sunny San Diego. I know, it's selfish and annoying that I get this beautiful weather while many of my friends and family from the south are still dealing with rain and coldish weather before the summer... but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy my beautiful sunshine!
Look right to the left and you'll see my view from my apartment balcony. It's gorgeous, isn't it? I'll talk about the pipe in a little bit. But I woke up this morning and it was cool but bright and mild, so I expected it to warm up significantly, and I was right! I really haven't taken advantage of my pool at my apartment the way it should be, but today I decided it was about time! Looking below you will probably want to kick me, since it took me almost a year before I really enjoyed this gorgeous pool patio...
This is a nasty view from my apartment. I don't really know how to talk about this without bragging, so if you're jealous, just get over it. But seriously, part of the reason I don't get to enjoy this is that I work all the time. Yea I know, cry me a river, you guys all work all the time too. So we all are screwed.
The beauty of this summer-esque weather brings to mind several things, but not the least of which being cold, golden beers. My local supermarket has good deals on alcohol when bought in large-ish amounts, which means bottles of liquor by the 6 and 6-packs of beer by the fours. So I got four 6-packs yesterday as follows:
That's Beck's (mentioned in Beerfest! Watch that movie!), Kona Longboard, a great Hawaiian Lager, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, a Hefeweizen, (pronounced "Heff-uh-vizen"), and Sam Adams Summer Ale. Now, I'm open to more suggestions for great summer beers, but if you are looking for great beers to enjoy out in the sun, these are four fantastic choices. Beck's is very light, a classic German-style, very light and enjoyable. Kona Longboard is like Budweiser, but they put more effort into it. That's all I can really describe for it. It's a full-flavored lager. Classic. The 'Hef is light, crisp and citrusy, as are most 'Hefs, but some of them are too sweet, or too bland; Sierra Nevada did a great job creating something light and citrusy while still biting back a bit. It has a crisp bite while giving you a refreshing flavor and feeling as it goes down in the hot sun. And Samuel Adams Summer Lager is again light, crisp and citrusy, but it is very specific in that it tastes like an Ale, with a lemony-citrus flavor, and not as cloudy as the Hef. All of these beers are different in their own right, but similar profiles that compliment the heat and relaxation by the water. Enjoy!
Racine and Laramie
The picture you see to the left is pretty standard for the employees at Racine and Laramie. Don't ask me how to pronounce that name. Also, I don't know if it is a requirement to sport a curled mustache like shown in the picture to work there, but let's just say that when I visited, I saw a similar mustache on an employee that is not featured in the photo to the left.
This is the smoke shop in Old Town, San Diego, CA. It is located in an historic district (yea I pronouned "historic" as 'istoric', sue me) which looks like an old western village. There are lots of old museum-esque buildings as well as refurbished restaurants and modern cigar bars. This particular establishment, however, is particularly awesome. The clothing that the man to the left is wearing isn't because his style is queer, it's because the smoke shop is not just a shop, but a sort of museum!
The above photos shoe the smoke shop, Racine and Laramie (I still have to read it every time in order to spell it, and I can't even feel confident while saying the name out loud, so don't feel bad if you can't either...)
The shop is amazing for smokers; they have a walk-in humidor and cigar section where one can smoke a delicious cigar in-house. They have glass cases where they display not only gorgeous ancient artifact-type pipes that aren't for sale, but also expensive-to-cheap pipes for purchase and smoking. The best and most customer-friendly aspect, is the in-shop blends of pipe tobacco. One of the photos above shows some jars with labels; these are filled with said tobacco for pipes. The shop allows a customer to walk in, pull out his own pipe, and grab tobacco from the jars and sample a smoke! They provide matches, ashtrays and everything! It's a really great shop and a great experience if you like cigars or pipes!
Knob Creek. I've talked about it before. Tonight I am drinking it after coming in from the heat and those delicious beers above. It's just a classic bourbon. Smoke and vanilla, oak and just a hint of cinnamon, this is a whiskey man's whiskey. From Kentucky. I find myself listening to a combo of country (Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Brooks and Dunn, Eric Church, etc) and Rock, such as Third Eye Blind and Mission South. My taste in music is sorta eclectic, but my favorites are similar styles. Where are your favorite smoke shops? Do you have favorite bands or musicians to listen to while smoking or drinking? Do you have a favorite bourbon or whiskey that I haven't mentioned yet in my short tenure? Do you have suggestions for music? Post, share, talk, anything!
This isn't really a review of Maker's Mark Whisky. At least not one that you would be likely to find on most bourbon or whiskey blogs. I'm really just not a great writer, and I don't have the flavor-description training or vocabulary. But I try to talk about what I love. As some, if not many of you all know, Maker's Mark had a recent public affairs nightmare. Due to many factors, some not under Maker's Mark distillery's control, they decided to continue bottling Maker's Mark at a lower alcohol percentage, and subsequently announced it to the public, because they didn't want people to think that they were just trying to screw them by making more money and giving them less product. Long story short, people were furious, and they changed their minds. The photo above, left, shows an even more abridged version of the story (actually I think that's as short as you can make it!). I borrowed it from this blog, http://spiritsjournal.klwines.com, and particularly an article that talks directly about the situation. The blog seems to be run by a liquor store, and, according to this article, they are trying to sell the 42% bourbon that Maker's Mark released for a short time for only $5!Now here's the thing: you guys have your own opinion about Maker's Mark, but I think they handled the whole situation with flying colors. They had lots of options, some of which were to do the same thing but NOT tell the public upfront, to continue raising the price of their product until the demand shrank to meet their current supply, or just allow shortages of their delicious, sweet wheat-instead-of-rye-fermented whiskey. It really wasn't a bad idea, and they had many taste-testers claim that they couldn't tell a difference.
This photo is one of Maker's Mark's official ads, and it reaffirms their attitude throughout this ordeal. They didn't want to take less-aged whiskey to the bottle early, because that's not the same thing they always bottle. They also didn't raise the price, because they believe their bourbon should be enjoyed by the most amount of people possible, and in order to do that, it has to remain somewhat affordable.
For the record, I tried both bourbons, side-by-side, and although it wasn't a blind taste-test, I could tell a slightly-less-full flavor on the 42%. I would still say it matched the flavor profile, but I wasn't happy with it. I am definitely grateful they went back, and I would have eventually stopped drinking it if it was a permanent move. What do you guys think? Have you tried it? I always look at the red-waxed bottles in liquor stores even if I'm not buying, just to see if they are the temporary 42% or a full 45%.