WARREN BOBROW (this article was first published on December 13, 2012)
Homestead Whiskey from Bardstown, Kentucky is a fascinating, sip-by-sip glimpse into a new style of liquid refreshment. This new style of drinking is prefaced by the terminology of old style bourbon. Most whiskies are bottled at eighty proof.
To bottle a spirit at 80 proof means that water has been introduced to the final product, diluting the intense flavors inherent to the cask. The skill of blending a spirit depends on the quality of the distillate. If the distillate is deemed the highest quality, then why dilute it?
Perhaps the best way of describing this process of blending, we must approach the distillation of whiskey as a business model. If you have X number of casks and a thirsty populace, we first have to determine two things. How much whiskey can we make and what number of consumers can we serve? If a whiskey company can make 1000 bottles of blended whiskey why would they want to decrease the amount by at least half? The answer is flavor. There are more flavors in uncut/unblended whiskey than a commercial, watered down version.
The new wave of whiskey distillation is certainly about commerce. A company will not stay in business very long if it lose sight of its specific business plan. What the new wave of whiskey distillation has done for the overall marketplace is offer a choice. But what is this choice? How are the newer whiskies in the market making this apparent to the consumer?
A major determinate that will drive a consumer to that company’s door is flavor. Flavor, texture, color and aroma plus alcohol level attracts this consumer to a bottle of whiskey.
Homestead Whiskey is a new player on the market. It is not cut or filtered. The handsome bottle is framed by a large H (for Homestead) and under this bold H, the words written in white against the clear perfume grade glass say it all for me: barrel proof bourbon whiskey.
Barrel proof? What is barrel proof? Briefly, these words mean that what is in the bottle is at the same proof as what was in the bottle. This whiskey has not been diluted. The next words set against the glass is are red: Stake Your Claim. Now I’m not sure why it says this, but what stake your claim says to me is make a place for our whiskey on your bar. I love the tall, almost gin-like bottle. And the best part is the cork finish. Fine whiskey needs a cork. A screw top just won’t do! This bourbon is comprised of the finest corn, barley and rye. It is clearly a very sophisticated distilled beverage, more than worthy of a place in your cocktails.
Next on the bottle the important stuff: 56.65% ACL/VOL (113.3 PROOF). One hundred and thirteen proof is considerably more potent that the usual 80 proof of bourbon. This translates to flavor. Homestead is modern bourbon made to taste like bourbon of the past.
Old style bourbon whiskey would have been aged in oak giving vanilla-like flavor and a burnished color to the final product.
Homestead is bottle uncut and unfiltered like the whiskies of long ago, with modern flavors of citrus and stone fruits- all inherent tastes long detected in the finest spirits.
Homestead is a revelation of flavor and I think it makes a marvelous Manhattan.
The first thing I detect is the aroma of charred barrels, folded into a creamy nose of Anson Mills grits. Sweet vanilla and white flowers weave a cloak of comfort around your nasal passages. Be careful though because this bourbon has some serious heat. A whiskey that it 113.3 proof packs quite a punch! The flavors of slow-cooked beef barbeque based on tomato and sweet spices come into view along with a long finish of salted caramels. All at once the finish moves to the back of your mouth, peppering your throat with the staccato notes of the toasty distilled grains.
The next flavors are of dark stone fruits. Freshly picked Washington State cherries fill the back of your throat at the same time as citrus notes come quickly into view, rising up into your nose! Homestead Bourbon is lovely, lovely stuff.
For this tasting I combined a new version of Vermouth to the market named Atsby. Atsby makes two New York State produced Vermouth expressions. The Armadillo Cake version, stuffed full of carrot cake notes – brown sugar, vanilla, sweet cream and Asian spices, is my favorite for a Manhattan cocktail made with the Homestead Bourbon. The other version of Atsby Vermouth is called Amberthorn. This is also New York State produced Vermouth. Lighter in flavor and color than the Armadillo Cake, the Amberthorn is equally as delightful in an Old Fashioned cocktail made of muddled fruit and bitters.
I think the choice to use small producer bottling spirits for the classic Manhattan cocktail shows great use of these passionate ingredients. These are not made by the veritable boatload in highly mechanized factories, but by skilled artisans who are keen about flavor!
The Classic Manhattan Twisted up a Bit by the Cocktail Whisperer, Warren Bobrow
Yield: One very strong drink
- Homestead Barrel Proof Whiskey
- Atsby New York Vermouth “Armadillo Cake”
- Bitter End Mexican Mole’ Bitters
- Home Cured Cherry – (pit out a pound of cherries then submerge in Bourbon for a month or more in the fridge)
To a mixing glass add:
3 oz. Homestead Bourbon Whiskey
1 oz. Atsby New York Vermouth (Armadillo Cake)
Stir gently with a bit of ice
Add one 3×3 inch cube of hand cut ice to a crystal rocks glass
Pour the chilled cocktail over the top of your ice cube
Garnish with a home cured cherry and three drops of the Bitter End Mexican Mole’ Bitters