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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012 @ 09:05 AM

IMG_0458It’s been a little while since we’ve heard from the lesser known member of Pop Culture Cuisine, so I thought this week would be a good opportunity for my husband Adam to tell you once again about one of his favorite things…bourbon.

Hello faithful PCC readers; and welcome to another installment of the ‘Bourbon Diaries’ as I’m now calling them. Yes, I know that is a bit cheesy…but work with me…I’m not the blogger in the family. Winking smile So last November we were down in Louisville for Thanksgiving with Katie’s family; and regardless of the time of year, I always look for an excuse to visit a bourbon distillery when we are down in that part of the country. So, on the day after Thanksgiving, my father-in-law (Art), bro-in-law (Christian) and I made our way down to the Mecca of bourbon…the Home of Jim Beam and Visitor Center in Clermont, KY.

For Art and me, this was our second journey to the bourbon trail to experience where bourbon comes from first hand, the first being our excursion to The Woodford Reserve Distillery (which you can read about on PCC here). Right away there is a big difference between visiting Jim Beam and our other distillery visits…they do not actually have a distillery tour. This is changing this coming summer when the folks at Beam will open up the distillery for official tours for the first time (can’t wait!). But on this trip it was…well…I’ll let the good folks at Jim Beam who explain it best tell you…

Start your visit with a guided Heritage Tour of the historic T. Jeremiah Beam home where three generations of Beam distillers lived overlooking the scenic landscape and towering rack houses. You can then step inside the Stillhouse Exhibit featuring our authentic 1800’s copper still, believed to be one of the oldest in America.

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Then it’s time to venture inside our oldest rack house, Warehouse D, built by Jim Beam after Prohibition. You’ll find yourself surrounded by the unmistakably rich and warm smell of Kentucky’s finest bourbon aging in 20,000 oak barrels. It’s the perfect warm-up for a sample of one of our Small Batch Bourbons in our tasting room. And finally, commemorate your visit with a purchase of a variety of Jim Beam® merchandise—including apparel and our world-famous bourbon candy—at our gift shop.

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The whole tour only takes about an hour and has quite a few high notes. First, it’s kind of awe inspiring when you look out across the hillside and see all the aging warehouses or rack houses as they are called. Whereas most distilleries have just a few aging houses, Beam’s houses pepper the countryside. I don’t know exactly how many there are, but it’s a bunch…easily in the 20 or more range! Another neat thing about the view is you’ll notice that all the trees are black…stark black! I don’t know if you’ll see this anywhere else but around an area where they are distilling spirits, because what happens is that the “Angel’s Share” or portion of distilled spirit that is lost to evaporation during the aging process eventually resettles on the surrounding bark as a dark black fungus. It is both an ominous sight and very neat at the same time.

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The tour of the old home of Jeremiah Beam is not much of a tour, just a look at some old pictures and distilling equipment in one room and then a (promotional) video about Jim Beam. Thankfully, this is just a short stop, because it doesn’t really add much to the experience. What does, however, is the walk through one of the oldest rack houses in the bourbon world. This thing is enormous…and full of yummy sweet bourbon! The first thing you notice is how cold it is…temperature controlled for optimal aging. The other is the sheer number of barrels. You can easily see how Jim Beam is the largest distiller of bourbon in the entire world. You know, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the sight of all those barrels in one spot.

Well, although you don’t get an official distillery tour, they do know how to send you out with a smile on your face at Jim Beam…by ending the tour with two tastings of their bourbon. On this day we were served Red Stag (not my favorite) and were fortunate enough to get to try one of the highest-end single barrel bourbons made today…Booker’s, named for former master distiller and 6th generation Beam, Frederick “Booker” Noe.

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Booker actually re-introduced small batch bourbons back onto the landscape some years ago and in 1992, he introduced his own signature bourbon, Booker’s® True Barrel Bourbon. Inspired by a 200-year-old tradition, Booker’s is the first bourbon bottled straight-from-the-barrel, uncut and unfiltered (single-barrel); and let me say it here…this is the real deal! After aging from 6-8 years, Booker’s is bottled anywhere from 121-127 proof, which is very strong; and on this day, we tried a batch that came in at 124 proof. Whoooo! It was just as smooth as it was strong…and it was hella-smooth! 😉 Let’s just say this is definitely a spirit that you sip slowly…or beware the burn, but definitely tasty and worth the trip in and of itself.

SIGNATURE DISH: Jim Beam is the largest producer of bourbon in the world. Not only is bourbon the signature of Jim Beam, but Jim Beam is the signature of bourbon around the world.

TASTE: Jim Beam has a whole family of bourbons, some tasting far better than others. While Jim Beam White Label (standard 4 year aged product) is better as a mixer and not what I’d prefer straight, many of their other products from Devil’s Cut to Knob Creek to Booker’s I’d be happy to sit and sip with you any day of the week!

AMBIENCE: Although they lose points for not having an official tour of the distillery, the surrounding countryside comes close to making up for it. Between the rack houses throughout the hillsides and the black stained trees, it’s a view you’ll appreciate and remember.

PRICE: You can’t beat the price of this tour…free!

SERVICE: Our tour guide was very helpful and informative. You could tell she was a bourbon enthusiast which I appreciated, and her knowledge and love of Jim Beam enhanced the tour.

All in all, I definitely got a little geeked out about visiting the pinnacle of the bourbon world; and although they didn’t have an official distillery tour that day, I’m excited at the prospect of returning to Clermont in the future to see Jim Beam made first hand. But for this trip, I give the Visit to the Jim Beam grounds 4 ‘Little Piggies’

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Monday, January 9, 2012 @ 06:01 AM

030Entering our 3rd year of Pop Culture Cuisine, I think it’s time we finally heard from the other member of the PCC team…my husband Adam. He’s always been a big contributor to blog, but this time we hear from him personally. This past summer, he and my father took a trip to the Labrot & Graham-Woodford Reserve Distillery and took a tour; and since I wasn’t along for the trip but think it’s definitely PCC worthy, Adam’s agreed to fly this one solo….Enjoy!

Hello loyal PCC readers! I know…that is a very corny way to start, but I’m not exactly the blogger of the family. Still, I’m very happy to be talking to all of you and share something that is a passion of mine…bourbon! Any of you that know me know I’m not exaggerating on the ‘passion’ part; and what better way to kick off the New Year then how we typically celebrate…liquor. Winking smile

This past summer, my father-in-law and I got the pleasure of an afternoon at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, KY. Originally known as the Oscar Pepper Distillery, it was founded by Elijah Pepper in 1797, making it the oldest distillery in Kentucky, something special in and of itself. However, throughout the years it has come to be known for much more like its origination of the ‘Sour Mash’ and pot still distillation processes so imperative to bourbon making, and more recently as the “Official Bourbon” of the world famous Kentucky Derby. In essence…Woodford is a pretty big deal in the world of distilled spirits; so when Art (my father in law) suggested we go and do the tour…I was in.

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Located in the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region, the area where the distillery (actually known as the Labrot & Graham-Woodford Reserve Distillery because of the company which ran the distillery for the majority of its history) is located is absolutely breathtaking, and the old limestone buildings that make up the distillery fit right in. Walking up to the main visitor’s center surrounded by the scenery of the old limestone structures set into wooded hills, I was very impressed and already in the “spirit.” What’s more impressive….the tour we were about to take is only $5.00!

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The tour starts off at the old still house where you get a little tutorial about bourbon & the history of Woodford Reserve (bourbon is a heavily regulated spirit that must meet certain criteria to be called such).

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Once inside the still house, they have a display of many of the old distilling equipment from the 1800’s which is pretty neat to see. The tour takes you through the still house and the steps it takes for grain & water to become bourbon.

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You go from the mash bins, which that day were actually fermenting the mash (don’t get to close or you’ll pass out from the carbon dioxide!)…

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…to the pot stills where the actual distilling process occurs…

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…the area where they fill the bourbon into charred American white oak barrels for aging…

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……the aging house, where the bourbon receives its character and flavor (all bourbon is originally clear before it is aged)…

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And finally…the bottling area, where the final product is tested and finishing touches are put on to sell to you and me.

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At the end of the day, this tour takes a good 45 minutes…worth every second! Seeing the process up close is kind of amazing and actually gave me a bigger respect for the industry. To stop and think…the process of taking a grain and turning it into a smooth flavorful liquid and something so many enjoy (responsibly) Winking smile is pretty remarkable. I’m just glad I got to see it for myself.

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SIGNATURE DISH: Bourbon. Woodford Reserve sells standard (and most common) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky (aged at least 6 years), their Master’s Collection (released once a year), and the Master Distiller’s ‘Personal Selection’ (must be ordered special each year).

TASTE: Although Woodford is not my favorite bourbon, many people swear by it…including my business partner and good friend, Neil Graves. It has a somewhat spicy finish, which is attributed to its above average Rye content. This is mostly what I don’t like about it, although for those that are Woodford drinkers, this is what sets it above the rest and makes it their “go to” drink….wouldn’t you agree Neil?

AMBIANCE: Of all the cuisine/distillery tours we’ve been on, this was easily the best…even better than the Anheuser –Busch tour. Perhaps it is because I’ve grown into such a bourbon enthusiast or the scenery where the distillery is. Regardless, it is a beautiful place and great tour!

PRICE: $5.00…How can you beat that!!! Definitely a bonus in my book…if only Woodford Reserve was that much in the store? Open-mouthed smile

SERVICE: Our tour guide was very informative and gave a great tour of the facility. Also, for those who are new to bourbon, she did a great job of explaining the basics. Finally, the best “service” was at the end, when we each got a free serving of their Straight Bourbon Whisky…and we even got to keep the shot glass!

In short…I really enjoyed the tour, plus it was good time with my father in law geeking out about bourbon & history, something we both really enjoy. So I’ll say it again, this process which allows us to “sip our corn” is kind of amazing…I’m just glad I got to see up close.

As an experience that I highly recommend…I give the Labrot & Graham-Woodford Reserve Distillery & Tour 5 ‘Little Piggies’

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Thursday, June 30, 2011 @ 07:06 PM

Today was one of those days where it finally felt like summer.  Rather than out enjoying our pool, I was unfortunately running around like a crazy person all day.  That being said I still knew a refreshing beverage was in order after a long day, and what a better week to test a simple drink recipe, than when Adam is out of town.  While I would have much preferred a tall Blue Moon…I have to wait a few more months for that…I decided to test out a non-alcoholic recipe of Claire Robinson’s that caught my interest.  What I love so much about Robinson’s recipes are their simplicity, I mean with a show like “5 Ingredient Fix,” it is hard not to be drawn to recipes that are so simple.

Strawberry Lemonade

Recipe courtesy Claire Robinson, 2010

Prep Time:
2 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Level:
Easy
Serves:
2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup or honey
  • 2 tablespoons mint leaves
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups seltzer
  • Ice

Directions

In a tall glass or shaker, combine the strawberries, syrup and mint leaves. Mash with a muddler or a ladle. Add the lemon juice and seltzer and pour over ice-filled glasses. Serve immediately.

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So after I was able to take a moment to breathe, I was quickly able to assemble a batch of this lemonade to accompany my equally summery satisfying dinner of a hot dog (A pregnant girl’s gotta do, what a pregnant girl’s gotta do!)

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TASTE: Believe me, I had such high hopes for this drink, I thought it would be my refreshing answer to a hot summer and with the addition of mint be a similar alternative to my favorite mojitos.  Unfortunately, this just did not do it for me…I think it was the lemon juice.  I literally looked over the recipe 10 times after I put together my batch to see if I had the ratio wrong, but since I didn’t I just couldn’t get past just how tart this was.  Now I LOVE tart, but this was too tart and really didn’t have a good alternative flavor besides the punch of lemon.

EASE OF PREPARATION: This recipe is simple, just put a few ingredients in a glass, muddle, and pour over ice.  With how easy this was to make, it made it all the more disappointing that it didn’t taste good.

COST: Now I happened to have all of the ingredients, but the mint on hand currently, so the cost for me was very minimal, but even if you had to pick up the other ingredients, this is a very cost effective recipe.

COMPLEXITY: As I mentioned above, not complex at all, which makes me want to figure out a better tasting option that is just as easy.

PORTION SIZE: The recipe makes 2 large glasses of lemonade, so perfect for you and a friend, or I could easily see being able to make a large batch quite easily for a crowd, just up the ingredients.

I just was so sad when I took a sip of this and realized there was no way I could be able to drink it.  Now, I’m not sure if it is something I did wrong, my pregnancy taste buds, or I just did not like the ratio of ingredients, but I will not be making this again unless I can tweak it to make it sweeter.  I still love Claire and her recipes, this just didn’t hit home for me.  So if anyone has an alternative I would love to hear it, because I am still on the lookout for a fun pregnancy mocktail!

So this post isn’t a total downer, I do hope you take glance back at a recipe I featured awhile back that I am going to be whipping up for a work barbecue tomorrow.  This green bean salad is a constant fave and would be a great addition to your summer get togethers, and do feel free to try this Strawberry Lemonade, just know that I am giving it a measly 1 Little Piggy.

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