Monday, 16 June 2014

An evening of fine American Whiskeys & Cocktails - @Vivanta By Taj, Bangalore

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Being an ardent fan of the famous TV series - 'Two and a Half Men', I have always been curious to explore the range of Bourbon whiskeys. Not being well versed in this segment of beverages but always willing to try new stuff, I was looking forward to attending an evening of discovering fine American Whiskeys. It was an evening hosted by 'The Distilled Spirits Council of United States' (in short - DISCUS). The session was highly interactive and was led by India's Ace mixologist, beverage consultants and Indian American Whiskey Ambassador - Shatbhi Basu.

Over the rest of the evening I learnt some really interesting stuff about whiskeys and of course also went through an elaborate tasting session of some Bourbons from Kentucky and Tennessee.

Interesting Facts: Like the rest of the world, I was amazed to learn that Bourbon has been recognized as a distinctive American product and has also been included in the constitution of United States of America in the year 1964. Being recognized by the American constitution, this whiskey has certain legalities to follow to be identified and termed as Bourbon. Some of these being:
 - American made
 - Barrel: Aged in new charred oak barrel
 - Content: the grain mixture must contain at least 51% corn
 - Distillation: not more than 160 proof
 - Entered into the barrel for aging at not more than 125 proof or 62.5% alcohol by volume
 - There's a lot more..

Whiskey Tasting:
The whiskey tasting began with 'Jim Beam White Label' - a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey which is aged for 4 years and has a high content of Rye in the grain mix. This whiskey was sweet on the nose, exuded flavors of vanilla, toasted oak and spices on the palate and left a long finish which was a melange of spices, pepper and a hint of sweetness. I personally enjoyed the 'finish' of this whiskey.

Interesting Facts: Considering only new barrels are used for ageing, what happens once the barrels are made use off? They are sold to distilleries around the world for ageing other whiskeys.

'Jim Beam Black Triple Aged' - again a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is one of the most recognizable  labels. It is aged for 6 years and has a nice caramel like color. On the palate it is silky smooth and shares flavors of butterscotch honey and dried fruits.

Interesting Facts: Whiskey matures and gets its character from the oak barrel it is stored in. Barrels are toasted to pull sugar to the surface and charring further turns sugar into dark caramel.

The third whiskey was 'Maker's Mark' a fruity and rich drink. The drink was really smooth with flavors of spiced honey, butterscotch, vanilla and of course the primary toasty oak. What I loved the most about this drink is the sweet and smooth finish with no burning sensation left behind. This comes as a result of the rye being replaced with red winter wheat. Post the tasting I have this drink included on list of purchases.

Interesting Facts: The degree of charring actually reflects in the color and flavor of the whiskey.

'Woodford Reserve' is known to be a great ingredient in the famous classic 'Old Fashioned cocktail'. This was a very well balanced whiskey with hints of tobacco, mint, leather (Yes! Leather) and surely more. The finish was warm, spicy (coming from hint of black pepper) and long.

Thus far, we tasted whiskeys from the distilleries of Kentucky. Now, we move on to the whiskeys from Tennessee. Speak of Tennessee whiskey and the first to come to mind is most often Jack Daniel's, in short known as JD. From this brand we tasted 3 products each having characters of its own.

Interesting Facts: Per the 1964 constitutional recognition, any whiskey produced in US with the required set guidelines was catgeorised as Bourbon and JD fit the Bourbon bill too.

Having been filtered through 10 feet of sugar-maple charcoal, a top seller from JD; 'Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey' impresses you with its sweet and slightly smokey aroma. Not stopping at that, this drink is really smooth on the palate with flavours of banana and caramel clearly evident.

With a double filtration process through sugar-maple charcoal, Gentleman Jack is a really mellow and smooth drink and a classier counterpart of the classic 'Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey'. This whiskey is smokier than its counterpart classic with hint of vanilla toffee and some spices.

Interesting Facts: All American Whiskeys meeting the required Bourbon criteria are not necessarily Bourbons. At least, Tennessee whiskey producers claim that Lincoln County Process where the whiskey is filtered through sugar-maple charcoal is a key differentiator between Bourbons (Kentucky Whiskey) and Tennessee Whiskey.

Coming to the last of the whiskeys we tasted is the legendary 'Jack Daniel's Silver Select' which has been on my list of purchases to be made. I love this whiskey for its nice christmas cake like fruity flavors. A lovely marriage of spices and sweetness, this drink has a long and spicy finish.

American whiskeys are lovely to drink up on the rocks or straight; they also make for a great ingredient in cocktails like Whiskey Sour and the likes or the simple mix of bourbon and ginger-ale. On this evening, Shatbhi concocted two wonderful cocktails; one was the 'Twisted Whiskey Sour' and the other was Choco-nut madness. 

Twisted whiskey sour was a very refreshing cocktail with bourbon as the base and came topped with a couple of drops of the wonderful and fragrant 'Angostura Bitters'. Since good things are to be shared, follow me on twitter ( or @nkandhari) where I will shortly be sharing with you the essentials to make this simple cocktail at home.  

Natasha says, "anything that contains peanut butter has to be so very good." I agree with her and what a lovely cocktail 'Choco-nut Madness was. It did get its share of repeats and in my view this made for a perfect dessert cocktail. Again, twitter is where I will share this goodness, so don't forget to follow me.

A great evening spent with friends learning about and sipping on some fine American Whiskeys. At the end of this session, I know I'm gonna attempt to make the above 2 cocktails and also include the following whiskeys in my home bar collection - 
- Jim Beam White Label
- Maker's Mark
- Jack Daniel's Silver Select (Well, I always wanted this one)

Joining in with DISCUS to spread the word - Drink Responsibly.. Cheers!!!


  1. Hey Nitin

    So good to read this. I'm at my happiest when I see joy in another's writing and am so glad to have added to yours :-). Bourbon & Tennessee are special. They exude character and boldness yet retaining mellowness. Look forward to sipping some more with you on my next visit. Cheers!

    1. Hi Shatbhi.. This evening with you was really an eye opener for me in terms of whiskey knowledge as well as tasting.

      Missing Bourbon got me back to this post.. So glad to see your comment.. Hope to catch up soon... Do let me know when you plan a visit to Bangalore next.


    2. Shatbhi.. Also, thank you very much for a lovely evening..

  2. Fantastic card alcohols :)