Subtitled ‘A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker’, the book works equally well as a primer for the non-savvy drinker who wants an introduction to the world of bourbon. One of its aims is to help you choose the right bourbon for you, and if you follow its advice you’ll enjoy tasting a lot of bourbon on the way to finding your favourite.
Bourbon Curious: The Author
Fred Minnick knows his bourbon as well as any man alive. If you need proof, so to speak, then he’s the ‘bourbon authority’ for the Kentucky Derby Museum, where he teaches classes in bourbon-tasting. He’s also a bourbon judge for the San Francisco World Spirits Championships, writes on bourbon for the Wall Street Journal, Whisky Magazine and Whisky Advocate, and has written other books such as Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey.
Minnick begins with a background to bourbon – its history, its types, its famous names like Jack Daniels, its politics, and its myths and truths. It’s a potted summary, and slips down as easily as a mint julep. It’s followed by an explanation of what happens before fermentation, and then the whole process and the effects of different stages, including the importance (and necessity, if you’re to make bourbon) of charring the oak barrels.
The author then gets down to the basics of bourbon itself, but in an unusual way. Rather than deal with the ingredients, as most people do, he groups bourbons into four main flavour profiles: grain, nutmeg, caramel, and cinnamon. It’s the kind of approach which makes perfect sense. Most bourbons have all four flavours, but often one will be dominant. By gaining the ability to differentiate the flavours, and discovering which tastes you prefer, you can start to make much more sense of bourbon-tasting with a view to finding which styles and makers are more suited to your palate.
The Tasting section also describes examples of the different styles (grain-forward, nutmeg-forward, caramel-forward, cinnamon-forward) so that you can buy some and taste them while reading the author’s notes. Each one also has suitable cocktail samples, as of course each style is suited to different cocktails. For a cinnamon-forward bourbon, such as Maker’s 46 from Maker’s Mark, the author suggests an intriguing-sounding fig and bourbon cocktail.
And that’s it. Bourbon Curious is an approachable book that does help simplify a complex subject. By the end of it you will have learned a lot more about tasting bourbons, and are sure to have added to your bourbon collection as well as your book collection.