It’s Derby Time

The Kentucky Derby is this weekend. You know what that means… Mint Juleps. This year, Early Times Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby (even though Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon). There are a few Mint Julep recipes out there. The ingredients are all the same, but the mixing and ratios often vary. The ingredients are bourbon (of course), sugar, water (some recipes use simple syrup instead of sugar and water), mint and ice. I’m going to break down a few methods for you.

The official Early Times Mint Julep calls for 2oz. Bourbon, 1 tbsp simple syrup, 1 tbsp water, mint sprigs and crushed ice. What makes this one ‘advanced’ is the simple syrup is infused with mint. To make the simple syrup, boil 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Pour the simple syrup mixture over a bunch of of mint leaves. Gently crush the leaves into the mixture. Chill, strain, and chill some more.

Crush mint leaves into the bottom of an 8 oz glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Add 1 tbsp water, 1 tbsp simple syrup (our mint infusion), 2 oz. bourbon and stir until frost forms on the glass. Garnish with mint.

A little easier:
If you can’t be bothered to make your own simple syrup, you can also muddle 2 tsp water with 2 tsp sugar and 6-8 mint sprigs. Add bourbon and ice and you are good to go.

For the truly lazy:
Early Times makes a premixed Mint Julep Cocktail. Serve it over ice with a mint garnish.

Some Trader Joe’s stores also carry simple syrup for a hybrid of the recipes above.

I’m not a big fan of Early Times bourbon, so I’ll be making my Juleps with Buffalo Trace this year. I recommend using something good but not very expensive. The flavors of the sugar and the mint complement the bourbon, but they do cover up some things. Do not waste the last of your Woodford Reserve Four Grain on one of these.

Drink well. Drink responsibly.

Gateway Series #1: Jim Beam White Label

In honor of the Kentucky Derby, we have decided to kick off our “Gateway Series” with Jim Beam “White Label.”  The gateway series is an attempt at preparing the neophyte for a trip to the average (or below average) bar.  We will be reviewing the most common “well” whisk(e)ys and other easy to find drams.

Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (it’s the one with the white label), Aged 4 Years

40% ABV/80 Proof
Available just about everywhere

What the distillery says:
Constant.  Guaranteed.  Like gravity.  Sunsets.  Taxes.  But a hell of a lot more satisfying.  The same bourbon.  Made pretty much the same way.  By the same family .  For 213 years.  Sweet.  Satisfying.  Seductive.  This is the world’s #1 bourbon.  For a reason.  Or several.

Seven generations of craftsmanship go into every bottle.  Ingredients:  Corn, rye, barley malt, water, time and pride.

What Richard says:
Nose: Honey and fresh cut wood.  With water lighter vegetal notes start to creep out.
Palate: Spicy black pepper with the slightest, and I mean slightest hint of sweetness.  It’s very harsh with a lot of alcohol sting.
Finish: This stuff goes down rough.  All pepper, fire, and burn.
Comments: This is the bourbon most neophytes think of when they think of bourbon.  It’s sweeter than scotch but harsh as hell.  Not something I would reach for by choice.
Rating: Probably Pass

What Matt says:
Nose: Rubbing alcohol, vanilla, and something sour at the back (vaguely reminiscent of the excrement of an infant).  With a little bit of water, it opens up to grape lollipops and the sweet smell of decay.
Palate: Big Red chewing gum and wood smoke.  There’s also something hard to place that rolls around at the back of the tongue.  It’s almost like drinking the beer from the sour mash straight.  With water, the palate disappears.
Finish: Burns all the way down, comes back up and wraps around the edges of the tongue leaving traces of that sour smell.  With water, the finish tastes like a three day old wet cigar butt.
Comments: I don’t want to sound like a snob by saying that I would rather drink just about anything than this.  There is a reason it is primarily used as a mixer.  If you want a Beam and cola, that is fine by me.  I would not recommend this either neat or on the rocks.  This Jim Beam expression desperately needs something to mask the taste.  If you want a good sipping whiskey, this is not the one.  There are other whiskeys in the Beam family that would be much more appropriate.  Remember, Booker’s, Baker’s, Basil Hayden’s, and Knob Creek are all part of the Jim Beam line and more and more bars are carrying these in addition to regular old “white label.”
Rating:  Probably Pass

Overall Rating:  Probably Pass

Reader Request

From one of our readers:

Dear [Whisk(e)y] Apostle,

It strikes me that the epistolary form is not best suited for whiskey proselytization. In the interest of efficiency, you understand, I propose an Event for the spreading of the Gospel.


Well Janel, that is a fine idea (and finely phrased). How about it folks? Is there interest in having Richard or I host a tasting event in either NYC or Atlanta? What would be most useful to you if we were to host such an event? Intro to bourbon? Single malts? Irish? Rye? Whisk(e)y in general? Comment or email with your thoughts. I’m down if you are.

Georgia and their wonderful Blue Laws

I’m going to try to keep this blog as PG rated as possible.  That said, I’m really pretty pissed off.   Matt and I were talking about our new “Gateway” series of reviews over the weekend and we thought a good way to save money would be grabbing some miniature bottles of some the regulars like Jim Beam, Bushmills White Label, etc.  It seemed more cost effective that going out and dropping $300.  So yesterday I headed out to Total Wine in Dunwoody.  I’ve spoken before about this particular establishment.  It’s well laid out, has a broad selection, and best of all it has a wall of miniatures to buy from.  The selection of these is nice but what I really like is the fact that they aren’t buried behind the counter where you can’t see them.  That’s one of my major pet peeves with liquor stores. 

So I go in last night and notice that they’ve moved things around.  No big deal.  Or so I thought.  By the time I’d walked through the store I noticed that they were missing something.  LIQUOR!  It was all wine and beer.  I asked one of the guys working there and he said that they were told by the state that they couldn’t sell liquor anymore.  The reason?  The way the blue laws are written in Georgia to prevent gas stations and grocery stores from selling spirits is written ignorantly broad.  Apparently, in Georgia if a retail company owns two or more store locations then it is prohibited from selling spirits.  Because Total wine has two locations, they can no longer sell spirits.  How F—–G stupid is that? 

I accept the no sales on Sunday because I grew up here.  I accept that a restaurant has to wait until 12:30 PM on Sunday’s to pour because I figure I can wait.  But this is just stupid.   Maybe one day we’ll pull ourselves out of the dark ages.  Until then, I’d like to formally raise a middle finger to Blue Laws of the great state of Georgia.

Acts of the Apostles

There has been a flurry of excitement here at Whisk(e)y Apostle.  You can now be a fan on Facebook and follow my (Matt) adventures through Twitter (WhiskeyApostle).  Maybe I can drag Richard out of the dark ages for a tweet now and then.  Furthermore, we are hard at work designing a questionnaire to aid our readers in finding the perfect dram.  This should launch in a rather rudimentary version, with each one being handled directly by us, in the coming weeks.  Eventually, we hope to automate the process.  Yes, we know there is other whisk(e)y software out there, but it is much too complicated for a novice.  Our mission is to introduce whisk(e)y to the uninitiated, after all.

To make things more exciting, we are launching our “gateway” series this week.  In this series we will be reviewing some of the most readily available and easy to find whisk(e)ys.  When we started down the road to becoming whiskey apostles, we found it quite irritating that we could find ten reviews of some $100 bottle only available at Duty Free, but never anything we could afford or find.  Therefore, we are going to review some of the “gateway” and “well” whisk(e)ys.  This way, the true novice will have a way to make educated decisions on their first dram.

To top things off, I just found out that we will have whiskies from both India and Australia (specifically Tasmania) here in the US around Labor day.  Both Amrut (India) and Sullivan’s Cove (Australia) have tested well in blind tastings against Scottish single malts.  I read about Sullivan’s Cove a while back and I’m all aflutter with excitement.  The folks from Sullivan’s Cove will also be attending WhiskyFest in both San Francisco (Oct. 16) and New York (Nov. 10).