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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bourbon: The Fountain of Youth (At Least for Me)

Bourbon: The Fountain of Youth (At Least for Me)

How exactly is bourbon a fountain of youth? And what is this obscure diagram with the illegible notes?

As any lawyer will tell you, answer only one question at a time. How exactly is bourbon a fountain of youth? Happily, sadly, or both, I turned forty last month. The fortieth birthday might be a mixed blessing, but one upside was my wife's gift of a session for two at the latest bourbon class at Acadiana, a DC restaurant decadently and delightfully focused on Louisiana's cuisine.

The very chart you see above was set before our seats. Within each of the ten circles was a slim, tall shot glass with about a half ounce of bourbon. A bourbon nirvana. I thought I had a decent bourbon background, but after a few minutes it was clear I had a lot to learn -- for example, understanding the terms on the labels (single barrel, small batch, and so on) to the extent they mean anything at all.

I could resist no longer and started tasting. All these excellent bourbons were new to me, and tasting them side by side brought their differences into focus. My favorites were the three Four Roses bourbons (90 proof, 100 proof and 120th Anniversary), and paradoxically, I found the 100 proof version to have richer caramel and buttersctoch flavors. The 120th Anniversary bourbon had a more understated and floral nature. Noah's Mill made as much of an impression with its smooth, almost buttery texture as with its sweet flavor. Willet's bourbon had a pleasantly salty undertone that was an intriguing contrast -- like the flavor of salted caramel. We capped off the tasting with a few rare bottles -- such as Hirsch Reserve (aged 16 years -- in Pennsylvania, no less) and Pappy (aged 23 year) -- that I may never encounter again.

Lunch was wisely included in the program, and it was outstanding. The fried chicken was coated in a hearty crunchy crust, and the biscuits were tender and buttery. While I enjoyed the meat pies -- a savory pasrty reminiscent of an empanada -- the restaurant also prepared some Southern vegetable pies bursting with corn and pepper that stole the show. I will most certainly return to Acadiana for dinner, to include of course a couple of pours of these outstanding bourbons.

At the end of the tasting -- and a generous amount of bourbon -- I felt relaxed, satisfied, and even rejuvenated. That's a bold statement for a newly minted fortysomething.

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