Sunday, March 26, 2017

Whiskey Road Trip, Frankfort - part 1

When I planned out my travel itinerary through Tennessee and Kentucky last year, I was mostly focused on coordinating the available distillery tours that I wanted to take and calculating drive times so everything would proceed smoothly. The only meal I had considered in advance was lunch on the Thursday I would spend in and around Frankfort. I’m not much of a breakfast person, and with limited window of time between the 10:00 tour at Four Roses and the 1:30 tour at Buffalo Trace I wanted to make sure I knew where that meal was coming from. I could figure out where to have dinner on Wednesday night and Thursday night at my leisure.

A very cursory online search turned up a place called Bourbon on Main which sounded promising and was penciled in to my schedule for that day. The day before, I started with the first tour of the morning at George Dickel. Despite their website listing it with a 9:00 start time, the tour didn’t get underway until 9:30. By the time I finished the post-tour tasting it was 11:00 and I was losing an hour to a time zone change on the ensuing drive to Kentucky, effectively making it noon.

Google maps put the drive to Maker’s Mark at a little over three and a half hours, but the run from Interstate 24 to Interstate 65 goes right through the heart of Nashville, so I was concerned about the potential for traffic. With the last tour at Maker’s starting at 3:30, I was going to have to skip lunch if I would have any chance of getting there on time (I ended up making it with about 20 minutes to spare).

Needless to say, by the time I had checked into my hotel after finishing the tour in Loretto and making the hour-plus drive to Frankfort, I was starving. No time for research; I was off to Bourbon on Main for dinner.

Frankfort can feel like a bit of a ghost town if you’re driving through on a weeknight in February, so I was a little surprised to see a lively atmosphere when I walked into the two story brick building housing Bourbon on Main. I later learned that BOM had only been open for about six months, having taken over the space previously occupied by a different restaurant. The room on the second floor can be used for private events or additional seating on busier nights. There was actually a Four Roses bourbon dinner, hosted by the master distiller, happening upstairs that night. The event was already underway and sold out when I arrived, but that’s the sort of thing I would check for in advance if I was going to be back in the area.

The building sits on the bank of the Kentucky River, which bisects Frankfort. The back deck seems to be one of the prominent features of this business; it overlooks the river and has views of the state Capitol building, which is less than a mile away. This was obviously not in use in the middle of winter though. The bar is on the smaller side, with five or six stools, but a few of them were free when I walked in, giving me my preference of seating.

I was quite happy to get a burger in my belly, but the food left a little to be desired. I wouldn’t say it was bad by any means, just uninspiring. I also got the impression that the kitchen was undersized relative to the rest of the space and it was hard for them to get food out in a timely fashion if the upstairs was full of diners or the back deck was in season on a busy night.

I sampled a few local beers before and during dinner, and then moved on to the whiskey in lieu of dessert. The list of American whiskeys on their website currently shows slightly more than 100 selections. I feel like that has probably grown since my visit last year, when I’m guessing they had closer to 70 offerings. I decided to try out the Old Scout Single Barrel, Cask Strength Bourbon.

This is from Smooth Ambler, which is a craft distillery located in West Virginia that was established in 2009. In addition to what they distill themselves, Smooth Ambler also bottles sourced whiskeys. But they are very transparent about what they do and keep all of the whiskey they don’t distill themselves under the Old Scout label. Most, if not all of these come from the MGPI distillery in Indiana. The Single Barrel, Cask Strength bottling is an older and stronger version of their standard Old Scout Straight Bourbon, which is aged a minimum of 7 years and bottled at 99 proof. Both are non-chill filtered and come from a mashbill of 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley.

This particular Single Barrel, Cask Strength bottling was aged 9 years and came in at 100 proof. It was big and full flavored (but not too hot or punchy), with a rich and dark character showcasing saddle leather and abundant spice notes. The long, spice-driven finish carried balancing oak notes and a subtle, dark baked fruit character. A solid performer.

1 comment:

Ryan Mulligan said...

That sounds like a solid whiskey! Reading your post left me wondering if I could get it anywhere close here in the Pacific Northwest, which made me realize I know very little about distribution systems for spirits. I'd love to hear your perspective if you ever do a post on who gets what when, where and why, and maybe also about how different countries approach those issues. Cheers!