The Bourbon Issue In the Holiday Spirit
Bill Goldring: The First Gentleman of Bourbon
Building Your Bourbon Bar
CALL me OLD FASHIONED RECIPE Spiced Cinnamon Syrup Fresh Sliced Apples Angostura Bitters Bulleit Rye Whiskey 1 Part Hot Water 1 Part Granulated Sugar Cinnamon Sticks, Cloves, Star Anise and Allspice to Taste
In a cocktail shaker, muddle 2 to 3 fresh apple slices with 1oz. spiced cinnamon syrup. Tart apple varieties like Granny Smith or Braeburn work best to balance the sweetness of the syrup. Add 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters and 1.5oz. of Bulleit Rye Whiskey. Top with ice. Stir to combine for 30 seconds and strain over fresh ice.
Mention code SPCROUSES2019 for 10% off your bill at Butler’s Bar & Lounge!
LOCATED ON THE MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST
Must be 21. Valid until Friday, December 27, 2019. Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort reserves all rights to cancel or modify any program at any time. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-522-4700. 9380 Central Avenue • D’Iberville, MS 39540 • 888–752–9772 • ScarletPearlCasino.com •
The Sweet Spot by Donny Rouse, CEO, 3 rd Generation The very first whiskey drink I ever had was SoCo and Coke. That’s the nearest I’ve come to a cocktail since, aside from the occasional margarita. SoCo — Southern Comfort — is a whiskey with natural flavors that's made at Buffalo Trace. Since that first introduction to brown liquor, I’ve never turned back. And I’m not the only one who likes bourbon. It has never been more popular than it is now, especially around the South, where our history is steeped in it. Louisiana in particular loves bourbon; the state is the ninth-largest consumer of it. With that in mind, we’ve built the largest bourbon selection on the Gulf Coast at Rouses Markets. Thanks to ambitious distilleries, we have a lot more budget-friendly options when it comes to good bourbon. Thanks to smart distillers who gambled on letting their bourbons spend additional time in the cask, we have a lot more older, better, investment-worthy ones. And, thanks to our relationships with distillers, we’re able to source more of both than anyone else. This year I’ll be watching the Saints game over a plate loaded with Thanksgiving turkey, ham and dressing, along with a tumbler of Blanton’s. But I do appreciate the importance of a well-made cocktail. In this issue we share the history behind the Sazerac, Manhattan and Boulevardier — the kind of bourbon drinks your grandfather would recognize. We also present Thanksgiving-themed cocktails perfect for serving at Friendsgiving get-togethers (see page 58). Have you heard that flavored bourbon is the fastest- growing segment in the bourbon market? If you like flavored bourbons, this holiday season is a great time to try onewith the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving, like cinnamon-flavored Fireball, or Jim Beam Apple, made from fresh-pressed apples combined with Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — it’s great with cranberry juice. Wild Turkey American Honey is a bourbon liqueur made with pure honey. There’s also Heritage Bourbon BSB (Brown Sugar Bourbon), which was awarded the “World’s Best Flavoured Whisky” award from World Whiskies Awards. It just sounds like pie. Lest you think bourbon is only a man’s drink, at last study, a solid 30% of bourbon drinkers are women. My wife, Kara, is a recent convert and a fan of Maker’s Mark. That distillery’s own Margie Mattingly Samuels, the woman behind the most iconic bourbon bottle in history and its trademark red wax seal, was inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2014. Kara’s favorite bourbon cocktail is the Kentucky Mule, which is a bourbon-based version of the Moscow Mule (see page 34). Whether you’re new to bourbon, or already a connoisseur, I hope that this issue helps you add some new bottles to your bucket list.
Peanut Butter & Pineapple Glazed Ham Serves 10-12
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: Ham (any style)
1 pound box dark brown sugar 1 jar Rouses creamy peanut butter 2 tablespoons Rouses yellow mustard 20 ounce can pineapple slices in pineapple juice Small jar maraschino cherries
HOW TO PREP: Preheat oven to 325°F. In a shallow roasting pan, bake ham, uncovered, according to weight. (Cooking times vary based on size and type of ham).
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, yellow mustard and the juice from the pineapple and mix until you have a creamy sauce. Set aside.
Remove the ham 20 minutes before cook time elapses and pour off the drippings. Brush with glaze until ham is completely coated. Decorate ham with pineapples and cherries. Cook an additional 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes before serving.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
COVER PHOTO BY ROMNEY CARUSO
In Every Issue Letter from Donny Rouse
Features Buffalo Bill —
1 6 7 8 9
Kentucky Mule by Robert Simonson
Bill Goldring, The First Gentleman of Bourbon by David W. Brown
Letter from the Editor
20 39 40 46 49 23 34 48 51 80 81 82 15
Mint Julep Brownies
On the House by David W. Brown Building Your Bourbon Bar by Wayne Curtis Collecting 101 by Sarah Baird
Letter from Ali Rouse Royster
Mint Julep by Robert Simonson Manhattan by Robert Simonson Boulevardier by Robert Simonson
Departments & Services
36 38 58
BARREL PROOF We hand-select our very own private barrels of bourbon — from distilleries like Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve — that are bottled just for us. These limited, hand-select bourbon barrels arrive throughout the year.
Comiskey’s Whiskey by Justin Nystrom
Bayou Bourbon Hunters by Sarah Baird Small Batches Bourbon Glossary Around the Bar by Robert Simonson Talk Derby to Me by Sarah Baird What’s in a Name? by Marcy Nathan Making Waves by Michael Tisserand Smoke & Whiskey by Sarah Baird In Our Stores Holiday Gift Guide Freezy Does It: Jack & Coke Popsicles Cocktails An Intoxicating Mix of Cheese & Cocktails by Liz Thorpe
Holiday Recipes & Cooking Tips Friendsgiving by Ali Rouse Royster
56 60 63
Cast-Iron Skillet Cornbread
Sweet Potato & Green Onion Sausage Hash
TIM ACOSTA’S Buffalo Trace Cherries
Leftover Turkey Pot Pie
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 2 12-ounce jars of maraschino cherries Buffalo Trace Bourbon, enough to cover HOW TO PREP: Drain and pack your cherries into a large Mason jar. Pour the bourbon over the cherries until it covers the fruit completely. Screw the lid on tight. Let stand at least 48 hours to macerate.
Buttermilk Brined Turkey
Smoked Sausage & Tasso Cornbread Dressing
Browned-Butter Bourbon Pecan Pie Mr. Anthony Rouse’s Down-Home Oyster Dressing
Merry Christmas & Happy Gruyere! by Liz Thorpe
GIFT BASKETS For all the bourbon fans in your life, we offer bourbon gift baskets and gift sets. We can also make personalized cocktail gift baskets.
Old-Fashioned by Robert Simonson Whiskey Sour by Robert Simonson
MANUFACTURERS COUPON EXPIRES 01/31/2020 SAVE $ 1 . 00
WHEN YOU BUY ONE (1) PACKAGE OF RICHARD’S 16 OZ. SAUSAGE (ANY VARIETY) Consumer: Limit one coupon per item purchased. Void if copied, sold, or transferred. Consumer is responsible for all sales tax. Not eligible for doubling. Retailer: Richard’s CajunFoods.will reimburseyou the facevalueof thecouponplus8¢handling ifsubmitted
in compliance with our coupon redemption policy. Redemption policy available upon request. Send coupon to: Richard’s Cajun Foods 1606, NCH Marketing Services, P.O. Box 880001, El Paso, TX88588-0001.
When you need a unique gift
idea look for the Certified
certifiably great gift ideas.
logos in stores, farmer’s
markets and restaurants to
support Louisiana businesses
and families, while keeping
your dollars at home and
helping the local economy.
Buy certified louisiana products today!
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE & FORESTRY MIKE STRAIN DVM, COMMISSIONER
In theHoliday Spirit by David W. Brown Though its precise origin is unclear, what is known is that bourbon was born in America in the mid- to late- 18th century. It was a pioneer’s drink, made with sweet corn and Kentucky water fermented in white oak, and it found a fast following across the burgeoning young nation. Some say the spirit was named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans, a major port city from America’s earliest days and the place through which countless barrels and bottles would pass. Some suggest it was named after Bourbon County, Kentucky. Regardless of its name origin, the word “bourbon” soon became synonymous with any corn-based whiskey. It was a serious drink for serious drinkers. In more modern times, it was the distinct absence of bourbon that led eventually to its pronounced popularity. During World War II, American GIs in need of an up- lift were reduced to imbibing “ersatz whiskey”—mostly what are called “grain neutral spirits” that are made of just about anything that could be fermented and distilled. This worked out to bottles of “whiskey” that were essen- tially 80 percent vodka and 20 percent the good stuff. When the war ended, soldiers returning home were thirsty and understandably ready for some real whiskey. Post- war, bourbon exploded on the scene, but in satisfying the demand for the bourbon boom of the ' 50s, the industry overly commercialized its products, and bourbon lost its prestige. In satisfying the demand for the bourbon boom of the fifties, however, the industry overly commercialized and lost its prestige. “It was akin to selling Rolls-Royces for $25,000,” says Mark Brown, the president and chief executive officer of Sazerac Company, one of the largest spirit companies in the world. “It tends to mess up your image.” The American spirit invented this uniquely American spirit, and it was the same sort of tenacity and know-how that would ultimately save it. Master distillers rolled up their sleeves and began asking themselves what made bourbon great anyway? What made it distinctive? What advantages did it have over foreign liquors? Who made up its market, and what flavor profiles best suited both drink and drinker? “Pioneers like Bill Samuels Sr., his wife, Margie, and Elmer T. Lee then launched handcrafted bourbons like Maker’s Mark and Blanton’s, aimed at communi- cating that bourbon is expensive to make and a finely crafted product,” says Brown. Their artistry helped defined bourbon as being versatile enough for mixing in cocktails, while retaining the smoothness, subtlety and complexity necessary to be enjoyed neat. The work of these master distillers made bourbon particularly acces- sible; with a little time and reflection, even a drinker new to the liquor can learn to pick out such notes in its flavor as vanilla, honey and oak...
SARAH BAIRD Sarah Baird is the author of multiple books including New Orleans Cocktails and Flask , which was released this summer. A 2019 Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, her work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Saveur, Eater, Food & Wine and The Guardian , among others. Previously, she served as restaurant critic for the New Orleans alt-weekly, Gambit Weekly , where she won Critic of the Year in 2015 for her dining reviews. DAVID W. BROWN David is a regular contributor to The Atlantic , The Week and Mental Floss . His work also appears in Vox , The New York Times , Writer’s Digest and Foreign Policy magazine. He is a regular commentator for television and radio. ROMNEY CARUSO Romney is a Mandeville resident and has been a professional photographer for over 25 years. He has styled and photographed food for hundreds of local and national publications, and for several cookbooks. His portrait series of chefs and bartenders, titled “Shakers, Knives & Irons,” was displayed in New Orleans and Los Angeles. WAYNE CURTIS Wayne is the author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails , which was updated and re-released in 2018. He’s written frequently about cocktails, spirits, travel, and history for many publications, including The Atlantic , The New York Times , enRoute , The Wall Street Journal , The Daily Beast , and Garden & Gun . He lives in New Orleans. JUSTIN A. NYSTROM Justin is the Peter J. Cangelosi/ BEGGARS Distinguished Professor of History at Loyola University New Orleans where he teaches
American History, Foodways, and Oral History. He is the author of the James Beard nominated Creole Italian: Sicilian Immigrants and the Shaping of New Orleans Food Culture and New Orleans after the Civil War: Race, Politics, and a New Birth of Freedom. ROBERT SIMONSON Robert writes about cocktails, spirits, bars, and bartenders for The New York Times . He is also a contributing editor and columnist at PUNCH . His books include The Old-Fashioned (2014), A Proper Drink (2016) and 3-Ingredient Cocktails (2017), which was nominated for a 2018 James Beard Award. He was also a primary contributor to The Essential New York Times Book of Cocktails (2015). Simonson won the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation's 2019 Spirited Award for Best Cocktail and Spirits Writer, and his work, which has also appeared in Saveur, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, New York magazine, and Lucky Peach , has been nominated for a total of 11 Spirited Awards and two IACP Awards. A native of Wisconsin, he lives in Brooklyn. LIZ THORPE Liz Thorpe is a world-class cheese expert. A Yale graduate, she left a "normal" job in 2002 to work the counter at New York's famed Murray's Cheese. She is the founder of The People's Cheese , and author of The Book of Cheese: The Essential Guide to Discovering Cheeses You'll Love and The Cheese Chronicles . MICHAEL TISSERAND Michael is a New Orleans-based author whose books include The Kingdom of Zydeco ; Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White ; and a post-Katrina memoir, Sugarcane Academy , about Tisserand and other parents persuading one of his children’s teachers, Paul Reynaud, to start a school among the sugarcane fields of New Iberia. Tisserand is a founding member of the Laissez Boys Social Aide and Leisure Club, a Mardi Gras parading organization.
Letter from the Editor by Marcy Nathan, Creative Director
I have colleagues who obsess about bourbon, with whiskey collections organized by distillery. I like to drink those special reserve and bucket- list bourbons, too —especially when somebody else is paying for them. For this issue’s photography, I borrowed some of their bourbon bottles, including a 12-year-old W.L. Weller and 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve. They fussed over their precious bottles having to go to New Orleans for the photo shoot as if they were children heading off for a first semester at Tulane. It was a helluva hullabaloo. My first taste of bourbon came when I was still in diapers, rubbed on my gums to help alleviate teething pain. My parents would give us a spoonful when we were sick too. And we were allowed to have a taste of their drinks on special occasions (or at least, allowed to eat the garnish). In high school, we spiked slushy Coca-Cola ICEEs with whiskey pilfered from a parent’s liquor cabinet. In college, everybody drank Jack and Coke. I still like a Whiskey Cola now and then, but now that I do know a jack more about bourbon, my standby is an Old-Fashioned. (See page ...) It was love at first sip. I had my first Old-Fashioned at the venerable Antoine’s Restaurant in the French Quarter. Numa, my family’s designated waiter, made the cocktail tableside, muddling sugar with Angostura Bitters, adding the bourbon, and garnishing it with a cherry and twist of orange peel. I still judge every Old-Fashioned by that one, and every waiter by Numa. Here’s what I know after months spent researching this issue. Bourbon is not just a drink around here; it’s part of the culture. It can still be a bit intimidating, however, especially around these big whiskey types who can rattle off obscure tasting notes and the histories of various distilleries. At the end of the day, though, it’s just fancy
American whiskey — in my case, served with an orange peel and cherry. But try telling that to a serious collector. A few weeks ago, after unloading those borrowed bottles
of bourbon and memorabilia, I texted a colleague in Thibodaux: “Help!” I wrote. “What do I do? One of the boxes is wet! I think there’s a crack in the Weller.” The text reply: “Oh jeez.” (That’s an 80 proof curse word at best, instead of the expected cask strength, which I’m sure he muttered —OK, screamed — out loud.) Of course the only thing cracked open was the opportunity to play a joke. When I returned the bottles to Thibodaux, someone tried to tell me the Pappy was missing. Puh-lease. I invented this game.
Holiday Open House Everyone’s invited to our Free Holiday Open House, Saturday, November 16th. Sip, sample and savor dozens of our holiday offerings, 11am-2pm. Holiday Recipes We’ve collected some of our favorite recipes and holiday how-tos in one convenient place — our online holiday cooking guide. Whether this is your first holiday as the cook, or you’re an old hand, this guide will help make your holiday meals memorable. Visit www.rouses.com. You’ll also find cooking and heating instructions for our Cajun meats and specialties there. Heat & Serve Holiday Dinners The holidays are showtime for our Rouses chefs and cooks. Our complete holiday dinners are freshly prepared and cooked, then refrigerated, so all you have to do is heat and eat. Choose baked turkey or ham as a main course. We also have family-sized servings of prepared dressings, including Shrimp & Mirliton and Oyster Bienville Dressing. Order your complete holiday dinner in our Deli Department. Turduchens What is a turduchen? It’s a deboned turkey stuffed with boneless duck and chicken and, in our case, two helpings of fresh sausage or dressing (or both). Other specialties include stuffed boneless chickens and chicken breasts, and stuffed pork roasts and center loin roasts. Order your turduchen in our Butcher Shop. quality whole turkeys for your Thanksgiving table, plus duck, goose and Cornish hens. For Christmas, choose a bone-in, boneless or spiral cut ham, or our extra-special prime rib, crown pork roast, whole beef tenderloin, rack of lamb or leg of lamb. Ingredients For Your Dressings Our savory fresh dressing mix is made daily in our Butcher Shop. It’s the perfect start to rice or cornbread dressing, or dirty rice. Scratch cooking? You’ll also find chicken gizzards and livers, turkey necks, smoked sausage, andouille, pickled pork and tasso ham in our Butcher Shop. Whole Fresh Turkeys We have fresh, never frozen, premium-
GET THIS RECIPE ONLINE
Thanksgiving by Ali Rouse Royster, 3 rd Generation There’s something about the simplicity and tradition of Thanksgiving that really makes me happy. My family doesn’t do anything incredibly special or unique — our traditions are much like your average family’s. My dad is always in charge of the turkey and the ham, which are sometimes ready early and sometimes later. For the past five or so years, he’s made his famous guacamole to tide us over —in case this is one of the “later” years — and every year I quip, “Just like the Pilgrims” and nobody laughs, but I still maintain that it’s funny. My mom is a great cook and a bit of a control freak (sorry, Mom!) and so she remains in charge of almost all other dishes, by her own choosing. She does allow my sister and me to bring vegetable dishes, mainly because she doesn’t like vegetables, so who cares if her daughters mess them up? She also allows desserts to be outsourced, and everyone’s favorite is her mom’s (my granny Mary Ann Barrilleaux’s) apple spice cake. It is a perfect fall dessert! And is super- scrumptious when it’s still warm. We eat and visit; people stop by after lunch to say hello and we visit some more. It’s very low-key, even with lots of little ones, and feels so very different from the hustle and bustle of Christmas festivities. If the weather is nice we usually end up in my dad’s outdoor kitchen, sitting on barstools watching a game while the kids play in the yard. This year I can already imagine going home and munching on leftovers while watching that late Saints/ Falcons game! Thanksgiving for my family is a slow holiday, and slow is just my speed lately; this precious time with my precious family deserves to be savored, just like every last nibble of my mom’s cornbread dressing!
Satsumas Just picked, just for Rouses!
Fall and early winter are harvest time for so many great local ingredients. Be on the lookout for local oranges, grapefruits, Meyer lemons and satsumas grown just for us by second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-generation farmers. Some of our sweetest satsumas come from the Plaquemines Parish father-and-son farming team Ben Becnel, Sr. and Ben Becnel, Jr. Local Seafood Just caught, just for Rouses! Most of our seafood comes from local fishermen with whom we have close personal and professional relationships. We have fresh-off- the-boat local shrimp in a variety of sizes, fresh local crabmeat and crab claws, and Gulf Coast oysters. Our frozen seafood case is packed with peeled Louisiana crawfish tails. Party Trays & Platters Entertaining is a whole lot easier with our tasty selection of ready-to-serve party trays and platters. We make all of your favorites including mini crawfish pies and meat pies, mini muffalettas and bacon-wrapped shrimp. Our professional in-store sushi chefs make fresh platters to order. Stop by or call your neighborhood Rouses Market. For locations visit www.rouses.com.
WE’VE GOT EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR THE HOLIDAYS — FROM GULF COAST SEAFOOD TO CAJUN SPECIALTIES.
Rouses Gift Cards You’ll never go wrong with a Rouses Gift Card. It’s the perfect gift for friends, family, coworkers, business associates and employees, and a great way to help your college student buy groceries. Discounts are available for company bulk quantities. The quickest way to get a Rouses Gift Card to someone is to send it electronically. Visit website for details. Our Gift Cards are redeemable at any of our locations. Support Your Local Food Bank Local food banks rely on donations from people just like you. We make it easy to give right at the grocery store. Just scan a coupon at any Rouses register to add to your bill, or purchase a pre-packed bag of canned goods for $10, which we will deliver for you. You can help support local food banks all year long at Rouses, but your generous contribution of non-perishable food or money is especially welcome during the holiday season.
Holiday Pies & Cakes We have a variety of delicious pies for the holidays. Our most famous pie by far is our milk custard Tarte-A-La-Bouille. It’s a time- honored Rouse Family Recipe — the recipes goes back three generations, and a Cajun tradition at Thanksgiving. Our Chocolate Thunder, Fresh Fruit Bavarian Cake, signature New Orleans-style Doberge and creamy Gentilly Cake are also showstoppers. These are the perfect finishing touch to the holiday meal, and great for holiday parties and hostess gifts. Holiday Flowers & Decor Looking for that perfect holiday centerpiece? We have one-of-a-kind holiday arrangements, gorgeous bouquets, red poinsettias and Christmas wreaths, and you’ll love our great selection of decorations and gifts. View our Holiday Gift Guide on page 81. Visit www. rouses.com to order flowers for delivery within specified areas. PHOTOS BY ROMNEY CARUSO
GET THIS RECIPE ONLINE
RASPBERRY BRIE MELT
INGREDIENTS: 8 oz La Bonne Vie® Brie
2 tbsp raspberry jam 1/2 cup sliced almonds METHOD: 1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. 2. Place the Brie in an oven-proof dish. Spread the raspberry jam over the cheese and sprinkle the sliced almonds over it. 3. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. 4. Pair with crackers and/or fresh fruit. Serve at room temperature. ACCOUTERMENTS: Crackers & fresh fruit (opti onal)
SAME DAY DELIVERY
Santa’s not the only
one who delivers!
©2019 Celestial Seasonings, Inc.
ENJOY A CUPFUL OF
Creating uniquely delicious blends since 1969. Sip and LIVE FLAVORFULLY.
Bottled in bond whiskey — or bonded whiskey — must be produced in a single distillation season by a single distillery, matured in a U.S. bonded warehouse for at least four years, and be bottled at 50% ABV, or 100 proof. Bottled in Bond
ABV Proof is defined as twice the alcohol content by volume. Bourbon is bottled at a minimum of 80 proof, which is 40% ABV. Alcohol by volume
The share of bourbon that evaporates from the barrel during the aging process and is taken “into the heavens.” It varies according to factors like heat and humidity, but averages about four to five percent of the total volume per year.
Bourbon must only carry an age statement if it’s older than two years but younger than four. Bourbon has no minimum aging period, with the exception of straight bourbon, which has additional legal requirements, including a minimum aging of two years.
A set of rules that require whiskey to
Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897
High-proof, unfiltered and uncut bourbon straight from the barrel or cask. Barrel Proof
be aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations to ensure the quality of any spirit labeled “whiskey.”
Bourbon legally has to be aged in new white oak barrels, and those barrels need to be burned and blackened. The char level affects the bourbon’s flavor. Char Level
A technique used in the production Lincoln County Process Liquid is filtered through sugar
The longer a bourbon stays in the barrel, the
So why does age matter?
more the barrel’s influence comes through in the flavor of the final product. The upper limit for bourbon is typically 10 years because of the climate conditions in KY.
of Tennessee whiskeys like Jack Daniel’s.
maple charcoal before going into the barrel for aging.
a bourbon’s list of ingredients, or its recipe
Just what it sounds like — bourbon distilled in limited quantities.
sometimes referred to as single cask
Bourbon must, by law, contain at least 51% corn, but the other grains in the mash bill are up to the distiller.
Most bourbon that’s put in a bottle is the product of blending multiple barrels together. Single barrel bourbon comes from an individual aging barrel. Famous single barrel bourbons include the original, Blanton’s, which is produced at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.
This is the process of using leftover mash from a previous batch to start the fermentation of a new batch, a method similar to using a sourdough starter for bread. Sour Mash
The warehouse or building where barrels full of bourbon are stored for aging. Rackhouse or Rickhouse
PHOTO BY ROMNEY CARUSO
Buffalo Bill: The First Gentlemanof Bourbon by David W. Brown “When I first got into this business,” says Bill Goldring, “my father said, ‘Bill, you never want to go into the bourbon business, because one day you’re gonna wake up and you’re going to own a lake full of bourbon, and you’re not gonna know what to do with it, because people’s taste changes.’” Today Goldring is chairman of the Sazerac Company, which owns the most award-winning bourbon whiskey distillery in the world: Buffalo Trace, which is spread across hundreds of acres in Frankfort, Kentucky, and which produces bourbon from five recipes, with the broadest range of aged whiskey in America. The distillery’s heritage reaches back two centuries, and Buffalo Trace is the oldest continually operating distillery in the United States. It even survived Prohibition, when it was given special dispensation to produce “medicinal” whiskeys — and anyone who has tried any one of its labels can attest: Medicine it is, if not for the body, then for the soul. The advice Stephen Goldring gave his son all those years ago wasn’t wrong. The fortunes of all spirits rise and recede like the tides, but despite its longevity and distinctly American story, bourbon in particular proved prone to calamity. In the 20th century, after the Second World War, the illustrious liquor experienced a surge of popularity. Throughout the European and Pacific campaigns, GIs looking to ease their woes had to endure “ersatz whiskey” — what amounted to a blend of crude vodkas with a splash of whiskey for color. When soldiers came home, they were thirsty for the real thing, and no whiskey was more honest or American than bourbon. Tomeet the demand, themarket was floodedwith somuch bourbon that pairing animals and building arks wouldn’t have been the worst idea out there, and as a result, a spirit known for its craftsmanship became inexplicably associated with shoddiness — or worse, swill. Mark Brown, the president & CEO of the Sazerac Company, told me in an interview that it was like selling a Rolls-Royce for 25 grand. The magic was lost. The fate of the whiskey fell to master distillers like Elmer T. Lee and T. William “Bill” Samuels Sr., who took the wheel and guided bourbon through the rough waters of the 1950s, however torn aplenty the ship might have been. They restored the liquor’s luster and then some, but tastes change, and by the late ’70s, the bourbon market again collapsed — this time with little hope of recovery. The business problem was one of capital: Bourbon is expensive to make, and takes years to age before being ready for bottling and selling. An industry in dire straits cannot wait two, four, six or seven years before putting a product on shelves and in bars — especially not a product that might turn out disappointing when the time comes, for a market that might not be that interested. Thus the advice of Stephen Goldring, and a risky bet years later by his son Bill. VODKA RISING, BOURBON FALLING “By the time the ’80s came,” says Goldring, “vodka had taken over.” This wasn’t a bad state of affairs for the Sazerac Company. In the late ’50s, the company premiered Taaka Vodka (which today is the largest-selling beverage alcohol in the state of Louisiana). It was, at the time, one of just two vodka brands on the American market. Just as Bill’s bet on bourbon would be…risky at best, Stephen’s gambit to
release a vodka brand during the McCarthy era was either visionary or insane. With the country turning over every rock in the hunt for communists in American society, who but a commie would drink a Russian alcohol ? But tastes change. The beauty of bourbon is its age, its taste and its aroma, and drinkers expected and enjoyed that. Vodka, on the other hand, was a surefire failure in the alcohol business because it was bourbon’s opposite: It had no taste, no smell, no odor. Who would drink a product without the very things that drinkers wanted in the first place? As it turned out: everyone. The secret of Taaka’s success was, and remains, written on every bottle’s label: “Mixes easy…just add people.” Whatever you mix vodka with is what it tastes like. A Bloody Mary tastes like tomato juice. A screwdriver tastes like orange juice. An Arnold Palmer tastes like lemon juice and honey. “People could go out and have a vodka martini or a screwdriver, and could come back and [they] didn’t have alcohol on their breath,” says Goldring. His father’s plan proved prophetic, and as years elapsed, vodka’s mixability took it from zero percent of the market to about one-third. Bourbon, meanwhile, continued to suffer catastrophic losses in market share. Which is what made Bill Goldring’s move in 1991 so daring. He knew someone in Kentucky who owned a bourbon distillery that was about to go out of business entirely. “The distillery, after Prohibi- tion, had a reputation for making the best whiskey in America,” says Goldring. “His problem was that he had a lake full of bourbon — just like my father had predicted — and he said, look, you buy my inventory and I’ll give you the distillery.” It wasn’t much of an offer. The distillery by then was floundering, dilapidated and down to 40 employees on 113 acres. Goldring knew the quality was there, but had no idea at the time that bourbon would ever make a comeback. “Sometimes you’ve got to get lucky and you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time; and we bought the inventory, we got the distillery, and we started buying other brands from other major distillers.” Why would someone sell such revered brands as W.L. Weller, Old Charter or Benchmark to the Sazerac Company? Because bourbon was doomed, and distillers had lost interest in the category all together. So Goldring’s company spent seven years renovating its newly purchased distillery, modernizing it and renaming it for the migration path of buffalo headed westward from Kentucky. Buffalo Trace Distillery was born.
“We just figured bourbon was going to come back,” says Goldring. And he was right. Its first product, Buffalo Trace, ignited a bourbon renaissance when it was released in 1999. BESTING THE COMPETITION “If you wake up in the morning and you think you have a J-O-B, you’re in the wrong place,” Goldring tells me. “This is a fun business. Everybody likes to talk about their favorite beverage alcohol, and it’s easy to have a passion for something that is so much fun.” With that joie de vivre , he set his sights on rival liquors whose products he felt were inferior to his own. “We thought bourbon, certainly, was a better product than scotch.” Indeed, Goldring placed scotch directly in bourbon’s line of fire. Scotch, in Goldring’s prescient estimation, was a dominant whiskey worldwide not because of its quality, but because of the British Empire’s global footprint. They would move into a continent and bring their booze with them. It simply had a head start on the superior American whiskey. And before long, he says, people started to realize that bourbon does taste great. “I’m not just saying that because I’m in the bourbon business,” he adds. It comes down to the basics: Bourbon is made in new charred oak barrels and aged. Scotch starts with used bourbon barrels, which means bourbon has a much better flavor to start with. Indeed, one is likely to find used Buffalo Trace barrels all over the world — and with good reason. The Sazerac Company hand-selects each of its barrels, down to the particular part of the tree that will be used in the barrel’s construction. Moreover, scotch makers
are the result of hard work and human hands. “Our master distillers over the past 200 years are all iconic,” he says. And their legacies continue to drive the company forward, from one success to the next. “Edwin Edwards once said that if you sit by the river long enough, all of your enemies will pass by,” Goldring says. “If you hang around long enough and you’ve got integrity, quality and craftsman- ship, you will get recognized for who you are. And nothing is more important than word of mouth, which I believe we have achieved with the consumer and our industry.” TOWARD THE FUTURE When the Sazerac Company bought what would become Buffalo Trace Distillery, Goldring and Mark Brown, the company’s president & CEO, had no way of knowing that the distillery would one day grow to 2,500 employees, its 130 acres expanded to 450. The buildings on the facility span three centuries — the most recent such structures include the addition of one new warehouse every four months. “Many years ago, we built an experimental warehouse in trying to achieve what we call the Holy Grail of whiskey,” says Goldring. They’ve taken different types of barrels made from woods from different parts of trees. They’ve used different types of grains and continually work at making better whiskeys. But what does it mean to be the “Holy Grail” of whiskey? How would you know it if you found it? Goldring compares it to making a gumbo. “Every day a chef adds a little bit more sugar or a little bit more flour to his recipe in working to get the shape better. You don’t make any dramatic changes, but when you get there you’ll know it.” You’ve got to tinker with it, he says, and you’ve got to keep tinkering with it. Here,
can add flavoring like caramel and coloring. With bourbon, what you see is what you get. Whatever comes out of the barrel is the end product. Such shortcuts versus the integrity of bourbon lead to huge differences in flavor profiles. But scotch isn’t the only player on the market that a successful bourbon distillery must overcome. Although there seem to be hundreds of bourbons hitting store shelves, hoping to capitalize on the liquor’s popularity, there are only about 12 real bourbon distilleries in the United States. This is, in part, because it’s so difficult up-front to start a true such distillery. (For comparison, there are about 12,000 wineries in the United States and 7,000 breweries.) Government regulations are a hindrance, but it’s also a question of time: Unlike vodka, which can be distilled today and bottled tomorrow, it takes six to seven years to make great bourbon. The first four years of that, you lose 25 percent of the bourbon to evaporation. For a 20-year bourbon, the evaporation rate goes as high as 75 percent. “If you wonder why a Pappy Van Winkle is so expensive,” says Goldring, “it’s because there ain’t much left when you get to 20 years old.” It is one thing when you own the company to say that you make the best whiskey in America, but whiskey writers the world over are in almost unanimous agreement. The bourbons of Buffalo Trace Distillery are lauded annually with every award yet conceived. Among its most celebrated bottles are Buffalo Trace, W.L. Weller, Benchmark, Eagle Rare, Pappy Van Winkle, E.H. Taylor, Zachariah Harris, Blanton's and Elmer T. Lee. All
Buffalo Trace Distillery has a towering advantage over its rivals. They have dozens of different whiskeys, each slightly different: different proofs, different ages, different barrels, all in climate-controlled warehouses. They have laboratories with machines that analyze the DNA of what is in the barrel. The company, he explains, has a keen interest in agricul- ture, even growing their own corn on their property using non-genetically modified crops. “Because we have so many different whiskeys, if you take a look at 90 percent of all the small distillers — and I mean small,” he emphasizes, “they start off making one whiskey and they really don’t know how it’s going to taste in six years, much less if the consumer is going to like the taste of what they have produced.” The question then is, what does a small distiller do in six years if they’ve produced something the consumer doesn’t want? The answer: not much. This allows the Sazerac Company to take chances that others cannot. Still, one thing Buffalo Trace has struggled with for a decade is demand outpacing supply. “What other people have done is reduced the age and reduced the proof, and we have refused to do that, nor have we gone out to buy whiskey on the open market. Every crop comes directly from Buffalo Trace.” Maintaining the integrity of their product is first and foremost in Goldring’s mind. Indeed, when considering the care that goes into making any bottle bearing the Sazerac Company name, the word that comes to mind is not factory, but rather, art studio. From the care and cleaning of the facility to
the use of organic corn to making sure the terroir of their soil is well- cultivated…artistry is the only correct word. Sazerac is truly in the culinary arts business. But considering the sheer number of labels in the Sazerac Company portfolio — everything from George T. Stagg to Chi-Chi’s — I askedGoldringwhether they were, to him, products…or something more? Does he have favorites? Is there a division between art and commerce? No, he answered immediately. “Every one is better than the next,” he says. Because of the overwhelming demand placed on their product, everything that the Buffalo Trace Distillery releases is on what is called “allocation.” Everything they make is a limited release. Goldring hopes to change that. “That’s why we are building those warehouses,” he says. “Business is up, and we’re selling every drop.” Because bourbon needs to age for seven years, they tried eight years ago to determine where they would be today and move away from allocation. They had no way of knowing just how profoundly the bourbon market would explode in popularity. “We think that, four or five years from now, we’ll have it figured out. You can’t put this stuff in the microwave,” he says. Consumer tastes change over time, and if there is one truism about the Sazerac Company, it is that they are obsessive about exploring new ways of distilling spirits while remaining steadfast in their commitment to the heritage of their bourbon forebearers. But they keep a close eye on the market, and Goldring was quick to walk me through the state of affairs in liquor today. “I hear a lot of people talk about growth in gin,” he says. “There’s no growth in gin. As far as scotch whiskey is concerned — it accounts for about four and a half percent of the market, and it’s not increasing.” Straight malt scotches are increasing, he adds, but blended scotches are decreasing. Rum is decreasing, he says, explaining: “Bourbon is picking that up, and tequila is increasing dramatically.” He suspects the rise in tequila is coming at the expense of vodka. One of his own products, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, whose flavor evokes the spicy candy of the same name, has taken the market by storm, becoming the top-selling whisky in the United States. They knew they had a winner on their hands almost immediately, Goldring says. “Fireball started in Nashville. Country & western singers were drinking it, and it spread from Tennessee to Texas and all of a THE MARKET AND SUCCESSES, EXPECTED AND NOT
sudden, it’s everywhere,” he explained. “I use the expression: When the tom-toms are beating, they’re heard all over.” When millenials are drinking it in Texas, they’re also drinking it in Michigan. Still, he doesn’t think people quite understand the Fireball success story. “The fallacy is, people think it’s a young person’s drink. Fireball is now consumed throughout the universe of ages. If you go to a home for grandmothers, it’ll be the number one brand there — just as it will be in a college bar. It has a great taste.” He compares it to Coca-Cola; no one has been able to imitate it — and oh how they have tried. “Competitors have come and gone,” he says. Another astounding success for the company is Sazerac Rye 18. “There’s nothing to tell you about it,” he tells me with a laugh. “There’s about this much of it in the world,” and he holds his thumb and index fingers close together. The price reflects this; you would be hard-pressed to find a bottle of it for less than a thousand dollars. Every October, the Sazerac Company releases an antique collec- tion of spirits in limited quantities. “Eighteen years ago we didn’t even know we were going to have an antique collection,” he says. George T. Stagg has been another 18-year-old success story for the company, rated as highly as the peerless Pappy Van Winkle. This year they released what they are calling Stagg Jr., which is a nine- year-old version of the same bourbon. As for how the past informs the future, Goldring is optimistic. “We’ve grown from the smallest distiller in America to the largest. In 20 years, we think if we get into enough countries we could be the largest or the second-largest distiller in the world. We’re going to have to make a lot of whiskeys to do that.” Despite the global reach, however, Goldring keeps coming back to his pride in the Sazerac Company’s local history. “Sazerac is perhaps the oldest company in New Orleans and one of the oldest companies in Louisiana. Similar to Tabasco, Sazerac is a Louisiana company that is famous around the world.” He adds: “Mark Twain said that there are three great cities in America: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans, and the rest of the world is Cleveland. New Orleans is known for its cocktail culture, and one of the most important things to me personally is to bring people into our great city and help its economy. And what we’ve done over the years through our foundation, and being a major benefactor of Tulane University, the Audubon Nature Institute, City Park, Woldenberg Park — all of those bring people into the city.” And with last month’s opening of Sazerac House on Canal at Magazine, it seems that Bill Goldring is just getting started.
PHOTO BY ROMNEY CARUSO
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: William “Bill” Goldring; Sazerac House, exterior; Sazerac House, interior; friends Bill Goldring and Donald Rouse at the opening of the Sazerac House; Sazerac Rye
On theHouse by David W. Brown
Tourists use words like “charm” and “atmosphere” when describing New Orleans, and sometimes “history,” but what they are really talking about is time .
It’s a city that somehow never left the past behind, not really. It feels right to walk down Magazine Street hand in hand with your loved one. It is a bit of a promenade, but it is not affectation. You don’t need to be from around here to know how it should be done because, three steps in, and the city entreats and intoxicates and transports you, and you find yourself suddenly living life as it should be lived — as you always knew in your marrow you were supposed to be living before something somewhere went wrong. That’s what New Orleans does to you. It’s why those horse-drawn carriage rides along Jackson Square don’t feel quaint or ridiculous. They roll along the street, the wide wheels crunching gravel slowly, the clop-clop-clop of the mules in no rush to be anywhere, these old, dignified pros — not beasts of burden but, rather, lords of the city — who even know which post is theirs at stops along the way. Meanwhile, you’re in the carriage cozied up to your partner even in the sweltering Crescent City summers, and it’s the cars that seem to be the interlopers, not these timeless old carriages. And you know you’re precisely where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be there. That matters in the context of Sazerac House, an interactive sensory experience that opened this month on the corner of Canal and Magazine, in which visitors are invited to live the story and culture of New Orleans spirits and cocktails, including the namesake Sazerac — the official cocktail of the city. It is inaccurate to call Sazerac House a museum. Rather, it is a preserva- tion not of what once was, but what remains, ongoing, today. I have been there twice now: once for a private tour, and once for its grand opening gala, and so I know what visitors can expect and how guests will respond. I can say with certainty that Sazerac House, a $50 million investment by Sazerac Company, is perhaps the city’s most ambitious project since its National World War II Museum, and will likely surpass even that in traffic and attention. Sazerac House is New Orleans, distilled. As you enter the Sazerac House lobby, the first thing to catch your eye is a great white wall, two stories high and with scores of shelves lined with liquors distilled by the Sazerac Company. There are hundreds of bottles on display, and it doesn’t feel so
on racks, with the tops of some barrels lighting into video screens that explain the hard-won journey of rum from cheap swill to celebrated, sophisticated spirit. The rum exhibit also explains the process involved in making rum, and how that process has evolved over the centuries to reflect the tastes of drinkers. The third floor takes guests to the French Quarter — then, now and always. You arrive in the city from the interior of a riverboat, complete with rivets in white walls, the windows animated as though with magic, showing the harbor ahead. NO SMOKING THIS CABIN, reads a sign. From there, guests visit the original Sazerac Coffee House, a replica of the original Merchants Exchange Coffee House on Exchange Alley, where a cocktail invented by Antoine Peychaud, a Creole immigrant, would become popularized and eventually named “the Sazerac.” Sazerac House offers a stylized re-creation of Peychaud’s apothecary — the perfect setting to explain what bitters are, exactly (a liquor infused with herbs, fruits and other botanicals, and used, of course, when making the famed Sazerac cocktail), how they are made, what they are used for — and because the Sazerac Company cut no corners when building its monument to the cocktails and spirits that make New Orleans great, Peychaud’s Bitters will be produced and bottled right there for guests to watch and learn about. All of this eventually gives way to a walk through the city’s cocktail culture (and then, the doleful years of Prohibition), but this then leads to a particularly stunning arrange- ment of tables arranged as you might find in a bar. Standing around any one of the tables, guests can set out a coaster, and the table will come to life, presenting an interactive menu and classic bon mots from bartending guides: “Be Discreet,” reads one. “The sensible clerk will not appear to listen to what the patrons are saying, and if he hears anything should find an eternal grave in his heart.” As guests flip through the bartending guides, they can order food (or a digital approximation of it, anyway) that is projected with unnerving clarity and realism on the table — things like shrimp gumbo or
much like the mirrored back of a barroom (minus the neon) as it does the stark glass cases of the Musée d’Orsay. You feel as though you see the “truth” of the spirits; that what has been bottled is not a product, but an art form: the result of crops tended, yields harvested, the chemistry of fermenta- tion, the balance of flavor profiles and the slow movement of time during distillation. Quality spirits aren’t something you simply buy at the grocery store and shove in a cabinet. They’re living things made by living people, and given the same care a painter uses when easing a brushstroke across the canvas. Admission is free, but Sazerac House still uses an electronic ticketing system for entry. It’s an environmentally friendly move, but also a practical one: It keeps minors from drinking (illegally) before their time, and helps control the flow of traffic through what can be an almost meditative experi- ence. Over 250,000 people are expected to visit in the first year alone. Tours are self-guided — an intentional touch by the curators of Sazerac House. Exquisite liquors aren’t something you pound back, or drink at the forced clip of others. They’re something to be savored patiently, reflected upon and enjoyed at your own pace. That doesn’t mean Sazerac House leaves you entirely to your own devices. “Experience ambassadors” are stationed throughout the three exhibition floors to give context to displays, and to help neophytes and experienced drinkers alike understand the profiles, complexities and tasting notes of the complimentary samples offered. Each floor takes guests through some moment in time, some part of New Orleans. There is the “Rum Room” on the second floor, which is just what it sounds like: an interac- tive exhibit featuring Myers’s, Cane Run and Jung &Wulff — Sazerac Company rums, all. Countless genuine rum barrels are mounted
Made with FlippingBook flipbook maker