I Went To A Bourbon Pairing Event Despite Disliking Bourbon
There’s something about pairing events that really interests me. I love the idea that there is a specific drink that goes with a specific food based on experts’ opinions on their flavors, and the way they interact with or compliment each other. I’ve been to a few wine pairing events, and once opted for the wine pairing to go with a set five-course menu at a fancier place, but this was the first bourbon pairing event I’d heard of.
This was a ticketed event at Crafted & Cured. If you haven’t seen my other posts over them, Crafted & Cured is a local eatery that specializes in awesome charcuterie boards and craft beers, ciders, wines, and more recently has introduced their bourbon bar. This was also their first time doing an event like this. I knew I didn’t want to miss out on their first pairing event, so I got a ticket, which was $75.
You might’ve heard me mention a time or two before, but I really don’t like bourbon. I know some people love a good scotch, or a whiskey neat, but I never got the hype. It’s gross to me, and every time I try it, I am reminded why I generally steer clear of it.
So why would I go to an event specifically centered on tasting bourbon? At first I thought it was just because I wanted to support a local business I love, but then I realized I actually wanted to learn about these bourbons and hear an expert in the field talk about them. Just because it isn’t my passion doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting to listen to someone talk in detail about theirs. There’s so much to learn about the process, the making of, and since I work in a related field that is also more interesting than I originally thought (wine), I thought I’d give it a try.
So, off to the event I went. The first thing I noticed, as I often do at things like this, was that I was the youngest person there, and I was the only one alone. I thought I’d be sitting by myself at a table on my own, but there were actually a few large tables set up, so everyone ended up sitting with strangers one way or another. I sat at the head of one of the longer tables.
The food and bourbon was already set up at each individual seat, ready to go:
Along with the food and bourbon there was also a sheet for recording your thoughts on each bourbon:
It also told you which bourbon went with which item on the charcuterie board.
And here’s a closer look at the bourbons before I start talking about them in more detail:
First up was Russell’s Reserve 10 year old bourbon by Wild Turkey. I have actually heard of Wild Turkey before, as it’s a pretty popular brand. This was paired with the sliced salami, which was a bourbon and sour cherry salami by Brooklyn Cured. Now, the salami, I really liked. Salami is a great cured meat in general, and I love the inclusion of fruit with cured meats, so no complaints there. As for the bourbon, I was not so much a fan.
I smelled it first, as the paper indicates you’re supposed to do, and it mostly smelled like rubbing alcohol (which vodka does too, I’m not blaming the bourbon for that), but it also had that very specific sort of sweet scent that only bourbon seems to have. Tasting it was like drinking liquid fire. It burned and I made a ridiculous face. I totally hated it.
As for the second one, it was a scotch. The expert guiding us through the tasting told us what makes a scotch a scotch. Turns out, scotch is made in Scotland. It literally has to be made in Scotland to be called scotch. The more you know. Anyways, it was a Famouse Grouse Smoky Black Blended Scotch Whisky by Glenturret Distillery. That’s a lot of words! The guide also told us that this is the best selling scotch in Scotland for the past forty years.
It smelled smoky, and the people around me said it had notes of tobacco. I can’t say I care for tobacco, but I gave it a shot. Good lord, my tongue was literally like AHHHHH when I tasted this one. It BURNEDDD! Again, I thoroughly hated it.
It was paired with a lovely Italian buffalo milk cheese, which they had flown in overnight from Italy. We were told it came from the spur of the boot of Italy. It was creamy and delicious, a relief from the fiery bourbon.
Thirdly, we had a Yellowstone American single malt whiskey by Limestone Branch. I learned a lot during this segment too, like about how limestone is perfect for making bourbon, and how Kentucky is full of limestone so it’s like the best place for it. It also probably contributes to why Kentucky’s horses are pretty much the best anywhere.
This whiskey smelled even sweeter than the first one, but just like all the others it just burned and was unpleasant. I tried to listen to the people around me, they were saying how sweet it was and that it had notes of honey and whatnot, but I just wasn’t getting it. Someone suggested I use the dropper bottle full of water to dilute it, but a drop or two didn’t make much of a difference for me. It dulled the burn a bit, but not enough for me to taste any of the flavors everyone else was claiming there to be.
One thing I did find cool about this one was that some of the proceeds go to Yellowstone. If you’re going to use Yellowstone in your marketing, it makes sense you’d give money to Yellowstone to preserve and protect it.
As for the food portion of this segment, it was paired with bison bresaola from Green Plains Bison Ranch. They actually brought in the guy that owns Green Plains Bison Ranch, as he’s a fellow Ohioan. He talked about his farm, the bison, the process, all that good stuff. It was so cool to hear from the owner himself. The bison are grass-fed, no grain. There’s no hormones or antibiotics, and they believe in sustainability and regenerative agriculture. It was really neat! And this bison bresaola we were given was the first ever in Ohio. How cool is that?
The bison was sliced ultra thin, like prosciutto, but was way leaner, not fatty at all. Super thin, really salty, but quite good overall. It was definitely an interesting experience.
Finally, last on the list was the Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Seagrass 16-year Canadian Rye. Again, so many words! What do they all mean?! This one had a really strong scent, like smoky rubbing alcohol, and burned more than all the rest. So much so that my eyes watered and even my nose burned. At this point I was sincerely trying to find any redeeming quality about it but it was no use, I just plain hated it. I couldn’t even finish this one, whereas the other three I managed to polish off.
The final food was a housemade chocolate bark, made with two different types of chocolate, peanuts, dried figs, and smoked paprika. Holy moly, it was so good. Like wildly delicious. I absolutely loved the chocolate bark, and it was probably my favorite thing of the evening.
Throughout the entire bourbon tasting, I hadn’t written a single thing down on the sheet they provided. I knew it would be wasted on me because the only words would be “fire” and “gross”.
To be clear, I was undoubtedly the only person there not enjoying the bourbon. People all around me loved each and every one of them, and some people even wanted to know if they had bottles of it there for purchase so they could take it home with them. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the bourbon, except me. And that’s okay!
I learned so much stuff about the qualifications of a bourbon, what it takes to be a scotch, about limestone and bison and Italian cheese, and it was just a lot of fun and interesting all around! I really enjoyed the experience, despite how much I dislike bourbon.
At the end of the event, they did a raffle for some prizes. They gave away some tumblers, some bar mats, and a grand prize of a small barrel to make your own bourbon in. They also gave everyone at the event a 20% off coupon for a drink from their bourbon bar, which I immediately went and got a Strawberry Siesta from:
I love this drink so much, it’s my favorite of theirs from the bourbon bar.
All in all, it was a super fun event and I’m glad I could attend. They said they’d be having more like it in the future, so I’ll probably try to attend those as well. I enjoyed learning and conversating with the people around me, and it was a great way to spend a Wednesday evening.
Do you like bourbon? What looks the best to you? Would you try bison meat? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!