Everybody knows that, when asked "what are you drinking, a real Kentuckian will never just say, "bourbon." We take our brands seriously. True Kentucky women don't keep one bottle of bourbon on hand any more than we own one pair of shoes: we know that you keep a bottle for drinking, a bit for cooking, and some to savor. You use different brands for cocktails than for sipping. You serve your guests something a little nicer than you'd drink on a regular day. Today's HerKentucky Summer Fun List was a fun experiment -- I asked our writers what they're drinking right now. Click here to download. The list may surprise you.
- Basil Hayden's. I sipped some Basil the other day when I visited Jim Beam. I'd forgotten how ridiculously smooth and full-bodied it is. 80 proof, rye-heavy, and aged 8 years, it's a lovely sippin' whiskey.
- Bulleit. This is another rye-heavy mixture. Very bold and spicy. And, as I learned at the Original Maker's Club Pimento Cheese Social this year, it makes a fantastic Old Fashioned or bourbon punch! Great for mixing, great for tailgating; the flavor is complex yet clean.
- Four Roses: If it was good enough for William Faulkner, it's good enough for me. The yellow label is good for everyday use -- clear and clean with high caramel notes; the Small Batch is fantastic for tastings.
- Maker's Mark: The iconic red bottle symbolizes so many good things for me: Christmas, football games, and basically every chocolate-flavored baked good I've concocted in the past 10 years or so. Maker's Mark is the "house wine" at my house, and we completely ignored the know-it-all from the New York Times who called it the "Volvo of bourbons." The high-wheat mash bill provides a smooth, sweet, drinkable bourbon with up-front notes of caramel and vanilla. You know it's delicious.
- Woodford Reserve: This is a great sipping whiskey. High-rye, lots of vanilla and oak notes. Basically, the creme brûlée of bourbon. Makes a great sweet cocktail, like an Old-Fashioned!
- 1792: Mellow and sweet, slightly spicy, with a brown sugar note. Named for the year that Kentucky became a state. Just a lovely whiskey with a very complex palate. Great for mixing or for an end-of-the-day drink.
- W.L. Weller 12: So, while people are running around paying zillions of dollars for Pappy Van Winkle, folks around here know that this well-aged wheater delivers a huge punch. In fact, it's what Pappy's own grandson, Julian Van Winkle, recommends when he can't drink his family's famous product. I've even heard it called "The Poor Man's Pappy" due to its similar smoothness, super-high wheat content, and intense age. Toasty notes of oak and toffee; unbelievably smooth.
- Elijah Craig: Heaven Hill's 12 year has a mash bill that's overwhelmingly corn, with nearly equal parts of rye and wheat. The result is a spicy, balanced whiskey named for the minister who,as legend has it, first produced the spirit we know as bourbon. Whether that's the stuff of fact or marketing, it's a smooth, fine drink of bourbon.
- Old Forester: Mark my words, y'all: This is the next big thing in bourbon. Now, that sounds a little odd, given that OlFo has been around since 1870. But, "America's Guest Whiskey", as it was marketed during WWII, is poised to make a huge comeback. It's the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, it will soon have an opulent new visitor's center in Downtown Louisville, and it's, simply put, as delicious as ever. If you don't believe me, head down to St. Charles Exchange for the world's best Old Fashioned.
- Evan Williams 23: They say that Evan Williams was the first commercial distiller in Kentucky. If you visit the Evan Williams Experience, you'll get a little taste as part of the cost of admission. A bottle runs in the $400 range retail, and climes near $900 in the aftermarket. It's smooth, oaky, and mellow, and quite drinkable!
What are y'all drinking this summer?