Whiskey and Wine: A Welcomed Part of Almost Every Celebration
Whiskey and wine—they make a perfect combo for serving and giving. Fundamentally speaking, wines are fermented spirits made from a variety of grapes. Whiskeys and bourbons are distilled spirits made from a variety of grains.
Bourbon must be 51 percent corn and aged in new or charred oak barrels. Whiskey can be aged in any kind of barrel and made from a variety of grains. Both have been hot for years, and their popularity shows no sign of slowing down with small-batch producers constantly hitting the scene.
Jennifer Nickerson, co-owner of Tipperary Boutique Distillery in Ireland, is on a mission to get her award-winning whiskies in the glasses of women. Her tip for a delicious pairing is whiskey with chocolate and/or cheese.
Tipperary Watershed Scotch ($64.99) is aromatic, almost fruity and defiantly fun. The slight bit of smoke initially gives way to toasted honey and spice. Nickerson’s Knockmealdowns ($89.99) is aged for 10 years. That extra time in the barrel produces a smoother, more velvety finish with rich flavors of butterscotch.
If you’re looking to give a spirit to someone who has everything, look for TX Whiskey ($37) or TX Straight Bourbon ($49) from Firestone and Robertson Distilling Company. Both are brand new to Florida. Made in North Texas from local corn and wheat, they also use a wild Texas yeast strain captured from a local pecan. The bourbon is warm, smooth and feels like the outdoors with cinnamon, allspice and caramel. The balanced whiskey smells like the inside of an ice cream shop. I want to drink this with a hot apple crumble topped with vanilla bean ice cream. It’s full of caramel, toast and vanilla with a slightly sweet finish. An unexpectedly smooth profile, this is a good one to drink neat or on the rocks.
Neat means it’s served at room temp with no ice or water; rocks means served with ice. Large ice spheres or cubes are desirable, as they don’t melt as fast to water down your drink.
If you’ve tried whiskey or bourbon neat or on the rocks and find them too strong, try mixing with ginger ale or lemonade for a refreshing treat or coffees and teas for a warming one.
Another new whiskey is Prizefight ($45), a transatlantic collaboration from Steven Grasse (creator of Hendrick’s Gin) and Irish spirits innovator Flor Prendergast. The whiskey from Ireland is finished in American rye barrels for a spicy finish.
Prizefight is clean with some floral notes and smoke—a complex blend that packs a punch without a burn. The label commemorates a fight between famous Irish-born boxers John Morrissey and Yankee Sullivan in 1853.
A well-established bourbon brand you can’t go wrong with is Four Roses; this Kentucky distillery is celebrating its 130th anniversary. Four Roses Single Barrel is made from 10 distinct bourbon recipes, each with a unique flavor profile. When combined, a smooth spirit is created with aromas and flavors of cherry, and a finish that leaves you craving the next sip.
Oak barrels play an important roll in finishing the flavor profiles of bourbons. Barrels also have a tremendous influence on wines. Imagine those already seasoned from whiskey. More winemakers are buying these barrels, and it’s more than a marketing ploy; you can taste the subtle influences of whiskey-soaked wood in the wine.
Masking itself as bourbon with label and bottle shape is Cooper & Thief Red Wine Blend ($26). It smells like the holidays and looks like them, too, with a deep garnet color. A weighty blend of mostly merlot and syrah, there are smaller amounts of zinfandel, petite sirah, and cabernet sauvignon to produce a sweet, jammy finish. The winery also makes a barrel-aged cabernet and sauvignon blanc.
The 2016 Exitus Red Wine ($25.99) is a blend of zinfandel, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah and merlot, aged for three months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. It smells like cherry and baking spice, with smoky caramel notes on the palate. Exitus comes in a clear, bourbon-style bottle and label, topped with a traditional spirits-style ribbon seal.
Try It For Yourself
2 ounces Prizefight Irish Whiskey
5-6 fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon blackberry preserves
Splash of club soda
Mint sprig garnish
Muddle mint leaves and blackberry preserves into the bottom of your glass—a Moscow mule mug is suggested. Add ice and then whiskey. Top with club soda and garnish with a mint sprig. The idea of this drink is that it has layers, essentially starting off strong like all juleps should but ending with a more refreshing finish from the mint and blackberry.
Dahlia PunchBumblebee Rose Petals
1 part Tipperary Whiskey
½ part Bumblebee Dahlia Cordial
2 parts soda water
Dahlia and rose to garnish
Infuse whiskey with rose petals overnight. Add the rose-infused whiskey to a punch bowl with ice, soda water, marjoram and Bumblebee Dahlia Cordial. Stir and garnish with floating dahlia and rose. Serve in favorite punch glass
Gina Birch is a regular contributor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida.