Monday, July 19, 2010

Heaven Hill Distillery Tasting at Wilshire Restaurant

Wilshire Restaurant was the scene of "Whiskey Social", a collaborative dinner and whiskey pairing with chef Andrew Kirschner, Heaven Hill Distillery and mixologist and cocktail consultant Alex Straus on June 30th. The dinner was followed by a whiskey tasting and the opportunity to sample Straus's whiskey cocktails.

Straus (above) poured his Cucumber Jalapeño Old Fashioned, which had a nice balance of spice from the pepper and coolness from the cucumber. It was my favorite of his whiskey cocktail menu. The recipe is below:

3 slices of cucumber
1 slice of jalapeño pepper
1 sugar cube
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz Elijah Craig 12 year
soda water
Stir the ingredients together and then top with soda water

The Parker's Heritage Collection 27 year aged Bourbon was a highlight of the tasting. It is 96 proof, but was extremely smooth and had not a dram of harshness in it. It is named for Parker Beam, who is Heaven Hill's 6th generation master distiller and the great nephew of Jim Beam. A bourbon of this age is a rare product and it is the Heaven Hill bourbon with the most age available. The Parker's Heritage 27 year is still going strong and has not suffered any of the effects that can be a danger with long term aging. Retail price is ~$200/bottle.

The Elijah Craig 12 year is pictured above with the Cucumber Jalapeño Old Fashioned. The Elijah Craig had a nice balance and is a good whiskey to mix in cocktails both because of its accessible price point ($20) and its flavor profile.

I also sampled the Bernheim Wheat Whiskey, which was made with 51% wheat, not something I had ever seen before in a whiskey. That is because it is the only wheat whiskey on the market; something different to try. It is distilled in and named for the Bernheim Distillery in which Heaven Hill distills their American whiskey. I found it too sweet for my palate but it is great to see distilleries be willing to experiment with different grains and techniques. ($50 at retail)

Another highlight was the Rittenhouse 25 year aged single barrel rye, which had strong caramel notes and was also exceptionally smooth. The finish was long. The smoothest rye I have sampled. (Retails for ~$170)

The patio at Wilshire was a great spot to taste the Heaven Hill portfolio as it was a warm summer night in Los Angeles and it is a beautiful spot. Straus was a gracious host who was happy to talk about the various whiskeys, ryes and bourbons and his thoughts on how best to use them in cocktails. I am looking forward to trying more of the drinks he created for the Wilshire Restaurant cocktail list.

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