I’ve been exposed to the world of bourbon by our awesome host of the evening, Matt Jones. This dude has a vault full of facts and tidbits about Jim Beam, Knob Creek, and Basil Haydens! The event was hosted at the fun and eclectic space of The Mule on King William Street. Chef Matt Johnny prepared a southern feast complimenting the roots of our bourbon drinks.
Did you know that bourbon is certified gluten-free? The main ingredients are corn, barley, and rye. Also, in order for the distilled liquid to be called bourbon, by law, it has to age in an oak barrel with a charred interior – that’s what gives it the dark caramel colours and flavours!
We began the night with a few appetizers and a cocktail called, “Black on Both Sides”. It was made up of Jim Beam Black, blackberry juice, lemon, and black pepper. It was quite strong with a bit of sweetness and a kick from the black pepper. We snacked on little portions of cornbread with fresh strawberries, oysters with low country mignonette, and house country ham with red eye gravy before we got into the good stuff.
Starting from left to right, we tasted: Jim Beam Black, Basil Haydens, Knob Creek 9 year, and Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve. I’m not going to pretend that I know my shit about liquor, ’cause I don’t. But these were some of my notes during the tasting. I tried really hard to figure out what I was tasting but I only felt the spicy burn of the liquor.
The golden amber tones of the Jim Beam Black (43%) had the aromas (aka ‘nose’) of vanilla and corn. The taste was burn with hints of oak. The 86-proof premium bourbon has been extra-aged (total of 6-years), giving it that full bodied flavour with smooth caramel notes. While we tasted this one, Matt pointed out that we could add a bit of water to dilute the bourbon so we could taste the natural flavours. Of course, I diluted the shit out if it but it still burned.
Basil Haydens (40%) burned a little less. The ‘mild’ 80-proof is a drink for beginners and OG’s. The light-bodied bourbon had some citrus, peppery, and spicy notes.
Next, the Knob Creek 9 year old Straight Bourbon (50%). Being that it was 100-proof, my tongue couldn’t handle the intensity of the burn, so I wasn’t capable of picking out the rich, sweet, woody, full-bodied, and almost fruity flavours. It’s a sipping drink that will linger in your mouth and throat leaving you quite satisfied.
Lastly, the 120-proof Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve (60%). I tried it without water and it was a whole new world of burn. The colour was deep, aroma was deep, flavour was deep. Definitely another good sipper. You’ll also find a smokier aroma with the same smoothness and complexity.
I pulled through to the end and learned a lot about my tastebuds along the way. Following the tasting, the staff at The Mule pumped out a fantastic 3-course meal. Veering away from the typical southern fried chicken and collard greens, Chef Matt prepared a refreshing watermelon and peach salad with spiced pumpkin seeds and chow chow brined shrimp as our appetizers.
It was followed by fried quail with pickles and a heavenly creamed corn. We finished off the meal with a banana pepita with oat crumble from Rudy’s.
We washed it all down with a “Be Healthy” cocktail that consisted of Knob Creek 9 year old, orange-flavour liquor, honey-ginger syrup, and lime juice. I actually really enjoyed the ginger, honey, and lime flavours in this one! Once dinner was served, we wasted no time to get to the fun mixology part of the night! I completely winged my cocktail but Matt Jones, the whisky chef, was there to guide me through.
From what I remember, I used Jim Beam Black, vanilla infused simple syrup, orange bitters, and lime juice, topped it with an egg white foam and a sprig of rosemary! We put enough lime juice and syrup to balance the alcohol flavours, I loved how it turned out! The rosemary also made it classy as fuck. I’m really happy I came out to this event even though it focused mainly on liquor. I would’ve taken a hard pass if this happened a couple years ago. Definitely down for more liquor tastings and cocktail classes!