You could just as easily call this the “Nathan forgot to stop by LeNell’s this weekend edition,” but I’ll go for the classy way to look at things. Thus, in honor of the upcoming American holiday on Thursday, I will be detailing the recipe for a hooch of my very own design: Pumpkin Pie liqueur.
I started making liqueurs almost two years ago when I got curious about limoncello and scoured dusty internet message boards and long-neglected websites reading every recipe I could find. I eventually settled on a combination of a few involving lemon zest, grain alcohol, simple syrup, and a good bit of time. What came of that process was an incredibly bright, incredibly lemony, and incredibly potent liqueur that would make you forget lemons ever had an easy-going image to them.
Since then, I’ve had a few more missteps, but I’ve also had a few successes – one of which was my Pumpkin Pie liqueur.
I didn’t choose this week’s tasting for its nominal similarities to the blog, but I’d be lying if I said it was completely unrelated. I first read about American Honey in Malt Advocate (I think?), but finally saw it in the corner liquor store a few days ago and decided to give it a try.
Last winter I started mixing honey with bourbon every now and then to great effect as a simple, enjoyable winter drink. I’d imagine AH does a fine job coming from such inspiration, but I’m worried that it will stray too far from the simple mixture of its roots.
- Made by Wild Turkey / Austin, Nichols
- 71 proof
The bottle is quite attractive: sleek, simple, and unadorned – yet it begins to approach the dangerous territory of chic vodkas. The major visual element is a silhouetted turkey on the rear of the bottle. Otherwise the design consisted of a clearly printed “American Honey” on the front along with a brief description.
Perhaps thankfully, a long-winded, tall-tale origin narrative isn’t expected of this product.
A careful whiff demonstrates that this is indeed bourbon – you can definitely smell the char and wet grass elements. It is definitely much softer and and lighter as one would expect.
On tasting, it opens strongly with honey then moves more into its bourbon elements of oak and hay. What takes me most off guard is the almost floral finish to it, odd. This is most certainly different from the mixtures I’ve whipped up at home.
I like this, but I’m not sure I’d buy it on a regular basis. It doesn’t offer much beyond what you might get by adding a bit of simple syrup to your bourbon. That said, there are some interesting qualities to it that go beyond a simple honey/bourbon concoction that might merit further exploration in the realm of cocktails.
Basil Hayden’s is the other of Jim Beam’s top-shelf selection, along with Booker’s and Knob Creek which I’ve written about before. I’ve heard that BH is a lot smoother and gentler than those other two. That could be a good or a bad things depending on who’s saying it and what the occasion is, though I have to admit I prefer a bolder drink so I’m a little wary. On to the stats!
- 80 proof
- Made by the Jim Beam folks
Certainly the bottle reflects Basil Hayden’s relative lighness to an extent. Soft tones and carefully constructed curves contrast with Booker’s homemade feel and Knob’s bursting angularity. The labeling is actually pretty interesting. It consists of a smooth, brown paper tunic over the neck of the bottle and extending down the sides and belted by a band of wood and copper.
I like the consistent soft coloring and relatively minimal look, but the story about George Washington and the four-year-old state of Kentucky is a little schlocky. I suppose anyone who’s read this blog before could have seen that coming.
Basil Hayden’s immediately lets off a sweet aroma once it is poured. While strong, further inspection opens up tree bark and dry wheat, but remains powerfully candied all along. Candied wheat? Is that a thing?
On tasting, there is a quick hint of the explosiveness of Knob Creek, but it quickly fades into a strawberry mingled with a bit of spice. Toward the end there’s a slow burn of something like dry corn followed by a very clean and easy finish.
One thing that did surprise me here was the mouth feel – it was much bigger than I’d expect from the lighter end of the Beam small-batchers.
Basil Hayden’s was very pleasant. Just now I’ve poured myself another tasting, in fact. But ultimately it’s nothing to get excited about.
It would make an excellent introductory bourbon for the uninitiated or those used to lighter fare, but only if it weren’t so pricey. This will be nice to have around and contrast with some of the rest of my collection, but isn’t my favorite of its immediate family.