Pre-1960 Bourbon tasting notes

Tasting Notes: Pre-1960 Bourbon

  WARREN BOBROW grew up on a biodynamic farm in Morristown, New Jersey. He is a reluctant cocktail/wine writer and a former trained chef/saucier.



Photo Credit: travelingmcmahans; creative commons

My grandfather, a Yankee like myself, truly enjoyed Bottled in Bond, 100 Proof Bourbon Whiskey.  I didn’t know about his passion for Bourbon because he never drank it around me and he never ordered it in a restaurant. Usually he ordered an extra dry Dewers Rob Roy.  For many years I only thought he drank Scotch whisky. What I didn’t know at the time was that his true passion was Bourbon.

My grandfather owned his own company and one of the things that people would give him at Christmas time were some very special bottles of Bourbon.  These bottles remained hidden from me for many years.  After he died I learned from my grandmother that there were several nice looking (from a design perspective anyway) bottles of pre-1960 Bourbon in a hidden compartment of the bar.

She went on to tell me that she was going to pour out the contents (the historic Bourbon) and turn them into flower vases, because the bottles were so pretty.  I got over to her home as quickly as I could.  She showed me the hidden compartment in the bar.   Inside there were several bottles of Bourbon from the 1940’s to the late 1950s. These bottles of Bourbon had rested, in the dark, away from my youthful fingers since he placed them there and forgot about them.

These remaining bottles are a liquid history of the last of my grandfather’s Bourbon collection.

Photo: Warren Bobrow

Truth be told, as a “damned” Yankee, I know the true value of these ancient spirits.  Not as an investment in dollars, but as a flavor-driven window into my family’s past.  The bottles that I hold in my hand are a history of flavor.  This is a specific type of history that could never be duplicated today, primarily because the people who crafted the contents of these historic Bourbon bottles are now long gone.  The ingredients used today are similar, but the Whisky is different because each sip holds liquid ghosts belonging to the past.

Tasting notes:

Old Forester “Bottled in Bond” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky.  100 proof. This bottle has been filled and stamped under the provisions of sections 5008 and 5243 of the Internal Revenue code.

Set into wood 1954. Bottled 1959.

A gentle, almost cedar nose gives way to candied orange peel, sweet jasmine flowers and caramelized pecan. The brooding heat burns the tongue.  With a texture almost as thick as maple syrup, the freshness and liveliness of this Bourbon hasn’t changed a bit since entering the bottle over fifty years ago.  Charred notes of Anson Mills stone ground grits stuck to the bottom of an ancient cast iron pan is the next thing tasted as I rolled a few precious drops around my mouth.  The soft, mineral finish goes on and on, revealing itself with another slow burn as if the bottom of the glass was aflame.  This Bourbon, when served with a bit of Kentucky Colonel mint from the garden, awakens ghosts from one’s grand-pappy’s generation.

Ancient Age.  Date uncertain due to the loss of the tax stamp, estimated somewhere between 1945-1950.  Space Age in design, this Mid-Century modern bottle is filled to just over a pint in liquid.  Marked straight Bourbon Whiskey.  The bottle reads: carefully distilled according to the finest old traditions. 86 proof.  Marked Full Six Years old. Distilled and bottled by Ancient Age Distillery Co., Frankfort Kentucky.

Warm aromas of sweetly delineated, hand-hewn oak- remind me immediately that Bourbon Whisky is not Scotch Whiskey or Tennessee sippin’ Whisky.  One reason for certain is the lack of smoke, peat and saline in the nose.  Normally, I find these flavors to be overpowering.  I suppose I just don’t understand Scotch.  The nose of this Bourbon Whisky resembles a liquid caramel candy.  A burst of fire from the nearly 90 proof alcohol makes itself known then a finish of fleur du sel and freshly cut herbs like thyme and tarragon.  This Bourbon, although “only” 86 proof, acts on the palate like one almost double the potency. In fact it resembles in many ways the potency and grip of some un-cut corn whiskies I’ve tasted recently.  Each slurp reveals sharply aromatic Asian spices with a razor sharp finish that exposes itself on the back of the tongue; with a nearly 2 minute long finish!  This Bourbon tastes nothing like the roughness of the neither 1952 Old Forester, nor does is resemble the overly oaked  “modern-style” of the 1955 Old Grand Dad. With a crumbled leaf of Kentucky Colonel spearmint this Bourbon really opens up, revealing its wood-driven flavors as a contender for a (very rare and expensive) mint julep.  This Bourbon has all the stuffing for a drink made with its primary ingredient over a half-century old!

Old Forester 1952. Bottled in Bond in 1957. Freshly baked charred- corn “hoe” cakes are smeared with melted, sweet strawberry butter. The first flavors take a bit to get used to.  Sweet is usually a flavor more akin to Canadian Whisky or Irish Whisky.  Freshly brewed sweet iced tea reveals itself- then flavors of caramel corn and cinnamon laced red-hot candy folded into a mug of boiling hot water, Asian spices and sugar cane lurk in the background.  The backbone of alcohol is a sudden wake up call to the throat.  It BURNS!  A glass of this Bourbon has amazing heat for spirit almost sixty years old!   The 1952 taste as lively a drink in the glass as a 2002 bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon!  It’s just amazing how little the alcoholic power has diminished over the past half century!

Old Grand Dad “Head of the Bourbon Family” 1955. Set into bottle 1959.  Part of a more modern and new style of Bourbon Whiskey, this is a roughly hewn, heavily oaked version of the classic drink.  It’s just amazing to me how much Bourbon has evolved during the late 1950’s.  The soft almost billowy quality of the Bourbon is ever-present, yet the finish is much sharper, but it lingers on the tongue for several minutes.  The 1959 bottling is more akin in many ways to Four Roses or Pappy Van Winkle with an almost lemon oil, citrus tinged mouth-feel.  The oils from the cask rise to the surface creating an illusion of a rainbow.  Each sip is laced with banana, vanilla bean, toasted corn bread, the char from well- seasoned cast iron pan and brook trout cooked in that pan with a handful of toasted hazelnuts thrown in at the finish.   An Amaretto-liqueur nose predominates.  The finish is like the first day of golden sunshine, streaming into the windows after a spring thunderstorm.  This is serious stuff and it deserves a drop or two of branch water to release its secrets.  The next flavors are like authentically seasoned Thai food served Thai spicy.  Flavor before heat is the mantra of this Bourbon.  A few sips signal the essential drink to take the edge off the afternoon or evening like none of your neighbors have ever imagined or enjoyed.

These bottles are a bit less than ½ full … As much as I want to share them with well- meaning friends, I know that once they’re gone, they can never be replaced.

I’ll be drinking small glasses from these bottles without any mixers from now on.  Well, maybe with a few drops of some sweet, local branch water flicked over the surface to connect these liquid history lessons with the flavor driven memories of the past.

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3 Responses to “Tasting Notes: Pre-1960 Bourbon”

  1. prufrock

    October 28, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    What a great find! I love having a window into the past, in any way that I can. And to have that connection to your granddad is a sweet thing indeed. I was able to get a cache of a grandparent’s booze about twenty five years ago, too. Cognac, B&B, some Scotch…. and I was excited to compare them to contemporaries. But they were pretty much the same; I didn’t know at the time that spirits stop aging once they are bottled, so I was all worked up for a big taste explosion! But, alas… that 8 year-old whisky that had been bottled in 1958 was still just an 8 year-old whisky. It did have a bit of funkiness, but not necessarily in a good way.

    Still, the thrill of opening something that had last been opened by someone long dead held a thrill for me, and I enjoyed sharing their liquor. During the Republican Convention in 2008, a very old bar in St Paul reopened for the week. The owners’ family had been keeping the place pretty much as it had been since the 40s forever, though it hadn’t been open since… maybe the 70s? 80s? Anyway, they brought ought some Old Forester and Ancient Age and others and were selling them at low prices. It was cool to see the old labels– nostalgia for a guy who started tending bar back in the 70s. But the whiskey was pretty bad. It wasn’t bonded, just normal proof, and they might had been spouted for God only knows how long. Still– it was really cool.

    I did read somewhere that Tequila and Mezcal actually do change in the bottle, though I guess it is just a mellowing rather than added complexity. Not my cuppa tea, though.

  2. HahlerGirl

    August 1, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    What a swell bourbon rememberance. You certainly saved an important liquor legacy and did your “Old Grandad” proud. Thank you to sharing!

  3. Cocktail Cloister

    July 24, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    Liquid ghosts indeed. What a pleasure, Warren. Thanks for sharing!

The Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail


Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour – Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail

Tuaca- Dark Rum from Atlantico- Angostura Bitters, Grade B Maple Syrup and charred citrus fruits make up this week’s cocktail experience.

The inspiration for this drink came during dinner a few weeks ago at the highly regarded modern American restaurant named Serenade; located in Chatham, NJ.

They prepare a cocktail that’s similar in scope, using sweet vermouth and chopped apples named the Chatham cocktail.

I love it.

In keeping with my twisted cocktail logic, I deepened the version served at Serenade by adding Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth, Tuaca- the savory Mexican Vanilla / Citrus Liqueur, Atlantico Dark Rum, a muddle of chopped, grilled citrus fruits (tangerine, orange, grapefruit) with Grade B (Dark Amber) Maple Syrup and finally a few dashes of Angostura Bitters with a splash of Perrier.

I call this drink the Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail in reverence to the coming week’s activities.

I’ll be traveling to Charleston, South Carolina to judge the Iron Cocktail Competition at the renowned Charleston Wine and Food Festival.

With regards to the Iron Mixologist competition I will be judging, William Grant & Sons is sponsoring this competition and the back bar will feature their entire portfolio (or most of it).  Their master mixologist Charlotte Voisey will be the master of ceremonies.  The competition is 3 rounds.  The 4 mixologists involved are Charleston locals and were the finalists in the Official Festival Mixologist Competition in January for the Festival featuring Milagro Tequila + Hendrick’s Gin.  They are:

Jon Calo of The Cocktail Club

Mick Matricciano of The Belmont (Mick won the competition in January + his cocktail will be featured at the opening night party)

Brent Sweatman

Evan Powell of Fish Restaurant


The first round will have all 4 competing against one another to create a specific themed drink (decided by Charlotte).  You and the other judges – Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef and Nicholas Polacchi, The Balvenie – will then narrow the finalists down to 3 who will then go to the next round to create a specific themed cocktail (decided by Charlotte).  The second round will continue like the first and the 3rd will be the final two.


The competition is from 4:00 – 5:00 PM on Friday, March 2, 2012 in the culinary village in Marion Square in the Palmetto Cheese Culinary Hub Tent.

If you are anywhere near Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, stop by and introduce yourself.

The Dripping Spanish Moss Cocktail– is named for the surfeit of Spanish Moss that hangs gracefully from the “live oak” trees.


Atlantico Dark Rum

Tuaca Italian Liqueur

Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

Angostura Bitters

Charred Citrus Fruits – combinations are up to you. Sear in a sizzling hot pan until crunchy, then muddled with the Angostura Bitters and Maple Syrup

Grade B (Dark Amber) Maple Syrup



In a sauté pan that is heated to smoking hot, sizzle the citrus fruits until nicely charred and crunchy

Add a couple of chunks of the seared fruits to a cocktail mixing glass

Muddle with a few splashes of Angostura Bitters to release their aroma and juice

Add 2 Tablespoons of Dark Amber Maple Syrup and muddle a bit more

Add 2 shots of the Atlantico Rum

Add ½ Shot of the Tuaca

Add a couple cubes of ice to the cocktail shaker

Shake and strain into a pre-chilled Martini glass

Garnish with a chunk of grilled citrus fruit and finish with a splash of Perrier for spark


Branch Water

Branch Water

WARREN BOBROW grew up on a biodynamic farm in Morristown, New Jersey. He is a reluctant cocktail/wine writer and a former trained chef/saucier.



Photo credit: Warren Bobrow
I first learned about branch water, or branch as it was called, from my governess, Estelle Ellis.  She and her husband were from Georgia.  She’s gone now, but my memories of her are quite vivid.  She taught me how to cook, not by telling me but by showing.  She was very kind to me and I still honor her memory by retelling her culinary stories that I learned in the kitchen of my grandparents’ “big house,” where I spent much time as a child.

She held the tenets of the older and slower ways near and dear to her, evidenced by the smile that came through in the way she spoke about ingredients, the ancient cast iron pans she used in cooking, and especially the way she took a cool glass of locally gathered branch for good health.  She believed that branch was life-giving.  Everything in her kitchen had a meaning, especially when it came to the flavors and aromas of times gone by.  Branch was a part of my childhood as much as her peach pies made with fresh peaches from my grandparents’ orchard.

There was a patient cadence to the way Estelle spoke- the words that she chose and the descriptions of the way things ought to taste have resonated in my mind since I was a boy.  In a few words there were meanings for everything in life.  She used to tell me that it was time to “put-up” fruits for the long winter months in NJ.  The apples were made into applesauce, and some made their way into the winter as Apple Jack.  The peaches that didn’t make it into a lard-crusted pie were soaked in strong southern whiskey for a late night nip after the day’s chores were finished. This woman took care of my family in a way that is lost to time.  She taught me lessons by using ingredients so fresh that the dew hadn’t even begun to be absorbed by the flesh of the fruit.

She would add a bit of this locally gathered water to a drink- correcting it.  Adding a bit of branch to a glass of Bourbon, as I learned in later years, connects that specific drink in your hand to the past.

What is branch and where does it come from?

Branch- by nature of its provenance is sweet water.  Perhaps the definition is the nature of the Branch itself.  We all idolize the purity of a hidden spring that only exists in our dreams.  Branch is the liquid sweetness that flows unhindered from the ground.

Branch can sometimes be seen oozing up and evaporating immediately when it hits the air or it can make a cheerful bubbling sound as it bursts forth. Sometimes the branch erupts from the earth as a gurgle, almost like a belly laugh.

Branch can also be as kind and gentle as a bedtime story.

To truly enjoy branch you must capture it in the place where it comes up from the earth.

The spring up near our home is located in a spirit-filled place formerly inhabited by George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War.  Estelle told me about this spring, it was where she gathered her Branch.  To get to the spring you must walk down the ancient camp roads- it’s over there a bit, by the base of that long gone oak tree.  You can tell there was a giant tree at one time by the number of smaller trees emanating out into the forest.  Its progeny has spread throughout the woods and their roots still feed a sweet vanilla flavor into the earth.

The water bubbles up to ground level meeting the air in a hushed flurry of activity, for this well is an artesian well.

The branch that flows from this spot tastes as sweet as cotton candy on the first day of the state fair!

How would it taste with a tin bucket of the White Dog? A splash or two of branch in a pail of freshly drawn white whisky is illuminating to say the least. The sweetness it emits meets the fire from the freshly drawn whiskey and makes a carousel dance around on your tongue.  Purists may scoff at cutting whiskey with water- but it’s the way I like to drink it. And you don’t use very much.

A Branch Water Cocktail

Take some of that really old Bourbon that you’ve been saving for a special occasion down from the top shelf.  Carefully open the bottle and pour it into your grandfather’s favorite glass that you keep away from curious hands.  Visit the hidden spring with your bottle and glass in hand and gently scoop a bit of the cool branch into your hand just as it emanates from the ground.  Moisten your fingers in this water, feel the minerals in it – rough against your hand.  Taste some of the sweet water in its cool, pure state, precious like fine jewels.  Now, please scatter just enough of the branch that fits between your thumb and forefinger over your glass of Bourbon.

Contemplate your ancient cocktail, sipping with reverence and passion.  Take another sip and roll it around on your tongue.  Swallow it slowly, taking in lots of air while you taste it.  This is important because certain environmental influences are as important as the flavor of the branch mixing with your Bourbon.  If it’s a day in the fall and you’re alone in the forest, crunching your feet through the leaves, you can almost taste this aroma in the air.  Aroma absolutely changes the way you perceive flavor through memory so take an aromatic note of the place while you sip cocktail and remember.

Gently slurp this precious brown liquid through your lips and smile.

And after you finish drinking, think of Estelle with her glass of branch and a slice of warm peach pie at the ready.

Rebel Rouser or is it the Rabble Rouser?


Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour – The Rabble Rouser Cocktail

I just spent the past week down at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival. This explains why there wasn’t a Friday cocktail last week. I was too busy. In between judging the Iron Mixology Competition and that lovely party at Nathalie Dupree’s home- time just slipped away from me. Maybe it was the soft Southern accent, or the Antebellum architecture.

Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lovely luncheon I enjoyed at Martha Lou’s Kitchen, feasting on a fried pork chop with a side of textbook macaroni and cheese- I’m getting hungry all over again. Almost makes the 15- hour drive from New Jersey to Charleston and 16 hours to return home worth while.

If you are ever in Charleston, South Carolina- please visit Martha Lou’s Kitchen over on Morrison Drive. Order the fried chicken or a fried pork chop.

Don’t deny yourself a large cup of sweet iced tea. It’s so sweet that your teeth will ache for days afterwards and if you have the chance, please say hello to Martha Lou for me.

She’s a true American treasure- Don’t let Saveur Magazine tell you that- they did already.

This leads me to the cocktail of the week. It is called the Rabble Rouser. Not because I am one- perhaps in a small way, yes I am- more of a Rebel Rouser than a true dyed in the wool Rabble Rouser- but I digress. This cocktail is better enjoyed by the bucketful. In a crowd? Certainly yes.

I like to stir things up. It is my métier.

Cocktails like this one can create a certain tension. This means to an outsider, to stir up trouble. I’ve always said of myself- trouble finds me.


Rabble Rouser Cocktail

1. 2 shots Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey or your choice of Bourbon

2. 1 shot Lucid Absinthe or your choice of Absinthe

3. Regan’s Bitter (citrus) a couple of shakes or Fee Brothers Orange Bitters

4. Grade B Maple Syrup a few drops

Preparation: To a cocktail shaker add ½ with ice.

Add the Bourbon to the Absinthe

Add bitters and maple syrup

Shake and strain into a short cocktail glass.

(Similar to a Sazerac)

Cardinal Gin and.. trouble= a Friday Cocktail for Modenus


Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour: The Cardinal Gin Mind Liberator

Gin has percolated deeply into my dreams as of late. I’ve been dreaming about a perfect Gin and Tonic that I enjoyed down in Charleston, SC during the recent Wine/Food Festival. There wasn’t very much of it, Gin can be very dangerous in hot weather.

There is something about being in the humidity and saline tinged air that drives a thirst for aromatic, crisp, thirst quenching and pleasing cocktails. In the ninety- degree weather, a refreshing Gin and Tonic became more than just a sum of the parts. This Gin and Tonic was exactly what I thirsted for. The cocktail had tonic water, nothing fancy, Schweppes served in little bottles (nice touch) and the size of the cocktail, was one of those little tasting glasses, just enough to whet my whistle. I was sated quickly, enough to find out more about this very delicious Gin.

Cardinal Gin is a new brand to the market. I like to try to discover passion in my spirits writing. It’s important for me to help the craft distiller with the brainpower and passion about what it takes to launch a distillery. I can visualize their dream and though the application of the myriad of Social Media, get their name out there in ways they never thought possible.

Flavor is the major determinate. You don’t go into the spirits business to make something that tastes like someone else’s product. It’s all about individuality and American ingenuity!

Cardinal Gin for example is all about flavor. The Company is named SAS- Southern Artisanal Spirits. I like that, the name of their company is catchy and memorable. They are located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on King’s Mountain in North Carolina.

Their ingredients are all organic- a major plus in my mind. I’ve always made an extra effort to seek out producers who use organic methods.

Sure they’ve won some awards- big ones. But a Gin shouldn’t just taste good to the judges; it should also taste good to me. And in that tent, down in Charleston, in the ninety- degree heat, a Gin and Tonic made with Cardinal Gin was as satisfying as the first time I ever tasted Gin as a boy. My sip said FLAVOR!

I suggest trying to find some. You can buy it down South and I think they will be in the Northeast before long. The packaging is really fantastic with the bright red cardinal bird etched into the glass, visible from the front- but you don’t drink the bottle. The flavor is reminiscent of cream, freshly cut flowers and toasted citrus.

I’ve tasted many Gins, but none like this one.

Gin is becoming my go/to for real flavor- I suggest trying some soon on the rocks with a chunk of blood orange or… try this cocktail (below)


A Quite Twisted Cardinal Gin Mind Liberator Cocktail (serves two)


Botanical Gin (Cardinal, Bulldog, Hendrick’s, Martin Miller)

Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur

Lucid Absinthe

Charred Lemonade- griddle lemons then juice into lemonade sweeten to taste with Royal Rose Syrups (your choice)

Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water

Angostura Bitters


Griddle Lemon rounds until charred, juice them and strain you’ll need about 8 oz total so get to work!

Add Simple Syrup like the one from Royal Rose (use your choice of flavors)

2 Shots of Botanical Gin

1 Shot Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur

1 Shot Lucid Absinthe

Fill cocktail shaker 1/3 with ice

Add liqueurs and three shakes of Angostura Bitters

Shake and double strain into low champagne glasses (coupe’)

Finish with a splash of the Perrier Sparkling Water and a home cured cherry!

The Green Fairies Ear


Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour: The Green Fairies Ear


 Absinthe posterAbsinthe stirs the imagination.  All those paintings from France in the 1800’s exemplifying the mystical aspects of this misunderstood liquor makes me want to delve deeply into measured sips.  But how does Absinthe work?  It does because of the mystique surrounding the clear liquid that somehow turns cloudy after dripping scant drops of water over the surface.  Magic happens!  Sure there are the botanical herbs, of course there is the ever-present alcohol- you cannot miss that with many varieties exceeding 120 proof!

Absinthe is powerful stuff indeed!

I love Absinthe because of the bad boy (bad girl) element.  From a flavor perspective, Absinthe is every bit as delicious as botanical Gin, but it is thicker somehow.  On the first taste, you can feel the creamy texture against your lips and tongue- then- coming quickly into view is the anise elements- then suddenly as if a monster awakened- the brooding depth of the alcohol.  Sweet, savory, tart and herbal elements differ from brand to brand.  The European varieties are known to contain certain long banned ingredients, but the American ones are no less potent.  The rumor of a brand of Absinthe that may have plied Van Gogh to cut off his ear is known as the Green Fairy- good luck finding it! (No, not his ear) La Fee Verte.

This week’s cocktail is woven of Absinthe, freshly squeezed, charred grapefruit juice and a splash of Q-Tonic water.  Q-Tonic water is available in nearly every Williams-Sonoma store and also in Whole Foods.  It’s worth the extra expense for a hand-made product!

I’ve taken a small producer Absinthe from St. George in California- certainly available around the country- although you can use your choice of Absinthe- and added freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.  I char the grapefruit segments in a cast iron pan before juicing to reveal a deeper personality and a hint of mystery!

The Green Fairies Ear


  • 2 shots of St. George Absinthe
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented, charred in a cast iron pan, then juiced/strained
  • Coconut water ice cubes (freeze un-sweetened coconut water in an ice cube tray)
  • Q-Tonic water


  • To a small rocks glass, add two or three coconut water cubes, then the Absinthe, mix a bit to cool.
  • Add about three tablespoons of the charred grapefruit juice
  • Top with Q-Tonic water and sip (carefully) to the Belle Epoque!The Green Fairies Ear - made with Absinthe

Martin Miller’s Gin. (you could say that I’m a BIG FAN)


Warren Bobrow’s Cocktail Hour – The Gin Twist



Martin Miller - hotelier and maker of Martin Miller's London Dry GinMartin Miller – Bon viveur and maker of Martin Miller’s London Dry Gin via


I’m sitting in front of the fireplace right now. Also in front of me are over 15 bottles of Artisanal Gin. My new favorite is the London Dry Gin from Martin Miller’s Gin. This is truly exotic stuff. The London Dry is in a low, squat bottle. Upon opening the handsome bottle I detect immediately the scent of cucumbers. Not just any cucumber but an especially aromatic variety. This Gin doesn’t need to be mixed- it’s got all the stuff right inside. I’m absolutely blown away by the softness of the nose- coupled with that unmistakable aroma of the cucumber. I got to thinking- when was the first time that I smelled this quality of Gin? Hendrick’s does a cucumber scented Gin that I like, very much. This Gin from Martin Miller is a very sophisticated and dare I say sensual slurp of liquid pleasure. The cucumber is right there in the foreground. You cannot miss it. I’m almost shocked by the depth of the vegetable aroma and flavor. White flowers follow up immediately- those little tobacco flowers. Then the attack of herbs and spices come quickly into view. The initial distillation happens in England. The blending occurs in Iceland with pristine glacial water as the adjunct. I’m just blown away by the finish- it goes on and on and… on .

I thought I introduce a new cocktail to Modenus this week. Gin and Citrus come to mind. Charred grapefruit juice, Maraschino Cherry liquor and a chiffonade of Thai Basil. What? Fresh herbs in a drink? Why not?

To make this cocktail you must be ready to take your palate to another place. In this case, the drink is Martini-like but not a Martini. Sure it has Vermouth, but Carpano Antica is the Sweet Vermouth (instead of dry) and there is the slightly charred grapefruit bringing up the rear.

I love working with great ingredients and you should too!

The Gin Twist

Makes two invigorating cocktails for whatever you desire at the end of the day.


Martin Miller’s London Dry Gin

Carpano Antica

Cucumber chunks

Bitter End Thai Bitters

Lime hunks

Grapefruit chunks

Fresh mint

Seltzer water like Perrier Pink Grapefruit

Chiffonade of Thai Basil


To a cocktail shaker filled ¼ with ice add some charred grapefruit. (sear grapefruit segments in a sauté pan until nice and colored on all sides, then muddle with fresh mint and the cucumber, lime and grapefruit chunks until they release their essence about 3 minutes or so. Add to the shaker the Carpano Antica Vermouth (about a shot) Roll the Thai Basil into a cigar shape, and then slice on the bias to release the aromatic oils. Add to the shaker.

Add the Martin Miller’s Dry London Gin and the Maraschino Liqueur. ( 1 shot)

Shake and strain into a coupe’ glass and garnish with a flamed peel of orange peel. Top with a home cured cherry. Add a splash of seltzer water to finish.

Slurp away to a freezing cold and wet spring in old England.

The Single Barrel from Jack Daniel’s is world class in every way

On Whiskey: Macallan Single Malt v Tennessee Sippin’

Features, On Whiskey | November 15, 2011 by admin | 0 Comments

WARREN BOBROW is the On Whiskey columnist for OKRA. He grew up on a biodynamic farm in Morristown, New Jersey. He is a reluctant cocktail/wine writer and former trained chef/saucier.


A quick, yet highly focused tasting of the Macallan Single Malt Scotch vs. 2 offerings of Tennessee “Sipping” Whiskey

My old friend Becky once told me that she’d “rue the day” that I called Tennessee “sipping” whiskey bourbon. She said that only a “damned Yankee” would be confused enough to call Jack Daniel’s bourbon.

Tennessee “sipping” whiskey is not bourbon. The char, smoke, and charcoal filtering make Jack Daniel’s unique in the dichotomy of whiskey. There is the rub.  The smoke, the char, and the power.

Macallan, on the other hand, is an extremely fine Scotch whisky. The most immediate difference between Tennessee whiskey and Scotch whisky is not that one is spelled with an e, and the other without- but the terroir, or taste of the place.  Scotch just tastes different.

I recently received a bottle of Macallan whisky and set to comparing this benchmark 12 year old single malt whiskey against the very American slurp of whiskey.  What I discovered is quite profound.  The Tennessee whiskey is every bit as sumptuous and delicious as the kindred cousins from across the pond.

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select

Notes of fire-toasted pecans give way to a smoky, peat-laden mid-palate.  Flavors of sweet cream and sweet vanilla gelato enrobe your palate with sharper notes of scorched toffee and treacle pudding.  This is a very sophisticated slurp of liquid American History.  The finish goes on and on and right into the robust 94 proof finish.  The price is usually about forty-five dollars and is worth every sip.

Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey

Lighter in color than the Single Barrel Select, this whiskey is more akin to a blended Tennessee whiskey. The high price is from a double application of the “Lincoln Country Process.” In other words, filtering the spirit through charcoal- twice for a more mellow taste.  The barrels are charred and often make their way to Scotland at the end of the aging process.  Like what you taste? It rests in the cask for about four years.  Be prepared to fork over about twenty- five dollars for the pleasure.

Macallan Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey (12 year aged in Sherry Oak Casks from Jerez, Spain)

Pure lust is the first thing I taste when I drink Macallan Sherry Cask Scotch Whisky.  The nose is smoke, peat and wet wool shorn from sheep accustomed to living outdoors.  There is a fire burning in the fireplace in the cottage and it is a slow burning peat fire – smoldering and giving off little bursts of wet soil; charred wood; more wet wool; sweet toffee; and a lingering, charming, dried fruit finish.  The Sherry nose is immediately apparent through the attack of sweet/spicy and the sophisticated elegance is long lasting in your glass.  There is no doubt that this is Scotch whisky (spelled without an e) The taste of the place – oily, salty, and dripping with history – will stay on your palate for minutes, leading to hours to the eventual finish.  Twelve years in the barrel only means one thing- a classic single malt passion.   I wouldn’t say that I prefer the Scotch whisky to the Tennessee sipping whiskey.  What I will say is that they are very similar in nose, follow, and finish.  You can expect to pay about fifty dollars for the pleasure.

Which one is better?  I’ll leave that to you.

I will say that the Single Barrel from Jack Daniel’s is world class in every way.


The Blackadder (Scotch you will never be able to find)

On Whiskey | March 14, 2012 by admin | 0 Comments

WARREN BOBROW is the Food and Drink Editor of the 501c3 non profit Wild Tableon Wild River Review located in Princeton, New Jersey. He attended Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. He has published over three hundred articles on everything from cocktail mixology to restaurant reviews to travel articles. In addition to OKRA Magazine, Warren writes for Williams-Sonoma’s Blender Blog and Foodista.

Imagine, if you will, a liquor company that is able to source a single barrel of whisky at a time.  In an age where liquor companies are trying to produce more and more of their product to slake the thirsts of thousands of thirsty drinkers- there is one company that is decidedly set on satisfying only a couple of hundred- it that!

Enter the Blackadder.  You many remember the BBC Television show by the same name.  If you do, you’re half way there.  The Blackadder was a dark comedy on British television and in many ways the philosophy of  this television show is evident in every sip of the Blackadder!

There is stuff in every bottle of Blackadder.  This stuff is from the inside of the casks!  Blackadder is not filtered or blended.  It is bottled at Cask Strength.

The Blackadder is a one of the most unique single malt Scotch whiskies that I’ve ever tasted. My friend Raj facilitated this tasting by sending me four hand numbered bottles.

1.      Lochranza Distillery- 2011- Raw Cask- label reads that it contains its natural Cask Sediments as well as all the natural oils and fats.  Mmmm, that’s what I like to hear.  The Lochranza  is bottled at 104.8 proof.  At the bottom of the informative label it reads Sherry Puncheon.  I suppose this means that the Scotch was aced (finished) in used sherry casks.  Bottle 82 of 548, Bottled 14th of October 1996

2.      Mannochmore Distillery-1999-Raw Cask- label reads that is also contains its natural Cask Sediments as well as the natural Oils and Fats.  Label reads Speyside malt whisky- one of only 304 bottles drawn at Cask Strength from a single oak cask no.5400 bottled by Blackadder in November 2011. 121.2 Proof 12 years old

3.      Blair Athol Distillery- 1999- 1st September 1999.  Reads: This Highland malt whisky is one of only 462 bottles drawn at Cask Strength from a SINGLE REFILL SHERRY BUTT, marked bottle 66 out of 462. 114.6 proof 12 years old

4.      Blackadder Smoking Islay- The Spirit of Legend-11 year old Islay Malt Scotch Whisky Raw Cask- 118.8 proof- Distilled 12th April 2000, bottled August 2011.

All the whiskies read that they are bottled from carefully selected casks.  They do not chill filter or otherwise filter their whiskies through small filter pads to remove sediment.  No two casks of Whisky are ever exactly alike because of the type of oak used and the conditions under which it is stored.

Like fine wines, these naturally bottled whiskies may throw a little sediment.  Now we’re talking!

I love wines with stuff in them.  Why not whisky?  Why not!?

Tasting Notes:  I did all the tastings in front of a blazing wood fire after eating a rib steak sandwich with Swiss cheese and grainy French mustard on Pechter’s Rye bread.  I used a tiny bit of spring water to open up the Whiskies. No ice.  A Maine tumbled granite sea-stone (frozen overnight) provided a bit of chill- to cellar temp.  Truth is this tasting is highly un-scientific.  You will never read scores from me.  I find them incongruous.

1.      Lochranza Distillery- I’ve woken up in a honey bee nest.  My skin is covered in honey and the bees are giving me little tiny nips with their stingers. Not enough to hurt, just enough to know they are there.  Pure smoke lingers on the periphery. It’s the beekeeper- smoking out the bees.  It tastes of peat and smoke-honey and dark stone fruits. Luscious stuff- the finish just goes on and on.

2.      Smoking Islay- the fire in the fireplace is giving off that tell-tale smoky scent of wet wood.  There is the scent of wet-dog and wet clothing and wet leather.  Spanish leather at that.  What does Spanish leather taste like? Come off your horse in the pouring rain, the last thing you remember before you bury your face in the mud is licking your saddle on the way down.  That’s what Spanish leather tastes like.  Candy sugar on the tongue and deep inside my throat gives way to sweet honey and freshly cut grasses.  There is some citrus in there too. Almost a wine like nose- if the wine was a very well aged Muscadet that is.  I love this stuff.

3.      Blair Athol Distillery- There is wind blowing through my hair- tinged salt water and more wildflower honey, a farmhouse comes into view and there is a fire in the chimney- yet the residents are not aware of the pending disaster.  Approaching the house I realize there is no fire in the chimney, it is coming from a peat fire in the backyard.  But no matter- there is fire and salt and smoke.  Honey gummy bears on the tongue with little bursts of sweet rock candy in the finish.  This is awfully sophisticated.  Thick perhaps. Creamy.

4.      Mannochmore- What can I say about perfection.  With a splash of cool spring water I am transported to a foreign country without grasp of the language.  This Speyside whisky is frightening in its depth and grip. I taste more honey and salt- smoke and smoked salmon- yes Scottish smoked salmon in the finish.  Salty. Salty Salty. Golden honey in color- there is stuff in the bottle. Scotch is not usually my go-to on spirits but with bottles of whisky as sensual and delicious as these in my cabinet, the frosty winter winds may blow- causing me no immediate harm.   Thank you Raj for being so generous with gifts of perhaps the best whisky you can find.


Pappy Van Winkle (My article “on Whiskey” for Okra Magazine in New Orleans)

On Whiskey: Pappy Bourbon

On Bourbon, On Whiskey | February 1, 2012 by admin | 2 Comments

TwitterWarren Bobrow is the Food and Drink Editor of the 501c3 non profit Wild Tableon Wild River Review located in Princeton, New Jersey. He attended Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. He has published over three hundred articles on everything from cocktail mixology to restaurant reviews to travel articles. In addition to OKRA Magazine, Warren writes for Williams-Sonoma’s Blender Blog and Foodista.

Photo by Warren Bobrow

There comes a time in everyone’s drinking history that they aspire to seek the very best that money can buy.  Be it a bottle of wine, a bottle of Port- or in my case a bottle (or two) of Bourbon.  The Holy Grail for my drinking history was reached about five years ago when I received several bottles of pre-1960 Bourbon.

To some, present company included, the gift of a bottle of Bourbon is a high honor.  When FedEx arrived yesterday bearing a rather large box, hailing from Kentucky- I knew something special was inside.  Carefully unwrapping the bottles, their inner glow revealed themselves as the extremely rare and utterly profound bottles of Pappy.

But what is Pappy?

Those of us who follow the art and history of making bourbon aspire someday to be able to taste the liquid charms of Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon.  It’s not inexpensive stuff- I don’t want to quote prices, but you can look that up.  Is this a considerate gift to someone who appreciates the very best?  You can bet your last nickel on it.  But I will tell you, you need to rub your nickels together and hope they meter out a bit more than the amount needed to wet your lips with this magical elixir. There are few bottles of anything distilled that even approach the charm and subtlety of Pappy.

Pappy is not for everyone- just as a bottle of a First Growth wine may not please everyone.  Good taste comes at a price.  But good taste is tough to come by since very few bottles are produced each year.  If you see some on the shelf at your local bar,  it must be a very special place because most people don’t even know about Pappy.

They call their method of making their bourbon “wheated. ” This means the process uses corn, wheat, and, barley instead of corn, rye and, barley.  Pappy ages gently and produces a softer finish than its peers on the bourbon shelf.   They say it ages more gracefully. I say it is unlocked history in your glass.

I would also go so far to say that each taste unlocks more than just memories of the past.  The deeply aromatic flavor of this bourbon helps you create new memories of the present through the finely tuned craftsmanship of the past.

Tasting Notes:

Pappy Van Winkle 15 year- is it me or is the 15-year more powerful than the 20 year?  Well, first let me tell you what’s on the label.  It reads very clearly 107 proof.  The first things I taste are wild gathered acorns on the nose- followed closely by the unmistakable scent of saddle leather.  The heat of the 107 proof touches every part of my mouth and the finish just goes on and on.  This is not your typical Bourbon and cola sip- I think if you were to mix it you’d be on your own.  I’m not suggesting any mixing.  Ok, maybe a sprinkle of Branch.  But that’s it.

Pappy Van Winkle 20 year- Soft dew coated white flowers give way to the flavor that only time in the barrel can give- it’s soft to the tongue- easy to savor- easier to swallow and images of charred wheat bread smeared with sweet butter and apricot jam come into view.  This is very sophisticated stuff- certainly not for just anyone.  In fact just anyone can buy it, but good luck finding it.  Extremely rare.  Entire websites are dedicated to finding out when the next batch will be released- doubtful that you can find it?  Well, you’re halfway there.  The way that this liquor is made- they do so little of it- wealthy people just buy it up.  Again, I’m not telling you how much it costs- but a healthy part of your mortgage payment will just about cover the price of admittance!

Not everyone will like the softer, rounder flavors of Pappy 20.  They might say, save your money and buy one of the overly oaked barrel aged Bourbon varieties that clog the shelves of your local spirit shop.  To me, many of them just taste the same.

Let me tell you- and you can quote me on this.  Pappy 20 and the 15 year old versions are things of rare beauty.  I drank my tastes in a small glass with a polished hunk of Maine granite. (Frozen in the freezer overnight)  You really can do what you want with it as far as mixing or adding ice- but I don’t recommend it- just like I’d never add crushed ice to a glass of the uber-expensive white wine named Le Montrachet. And some people like to do that too!

Of course you can do anything you want, after all it’s your hard-earned money that purchased a bottle.

I’m just saying that it’s just not recommended, so I’m not making any mixing suggestions.  Of course if you want to sprinkle some freshly gathered Branch water over the top, please feel free to do so.   And do so with reverence.

But please enjoy with restraint and create your own memories!