Bars & Pubs

This Spirit Is Making A Come Back, But What Is It?

By Anna Franklyn
1st Jul 2016

Guys, we need to talk about bourbon. In case you weren’t aware, it’s back and it’s back in a big way. So much so that the whole world was a bit worried we were going to run out. Seriously. Google It.

And while we can probably thank Don Draper for the return of this delightful drop, let’s all take a minute to drill this in to our brains: bourbon is not just for the gents, ladies you can (and you should) get involved too.

But do you think bourbon is scary and intimidating and well, you don’t know how to drink it? We hear you! That’s why we’ve teamed up with the good folks at Wild Turkey to show you that bourbon ain’t that scary.

We chatted to Jamie Passmore from whisky bar Varnish On King in WA who taught us how to order it like an absolute pro.

What the heck is bourbon?

Simply, it's spirit made from corn, rye and barley, then aged in brand new, charred, American white oak barrels for about half a century or more. Oh, and it has to be made in the USA.

Why should we be drinking bourbon instead of other spirits?

Bourbon is different to other whiskeys mainly for two reasons—the 'mash bill'—meaning it's made from more than just one grain (i.e. barley for Single Malts) and secondly the barrels are always brand new and charred, meaning the flavour extracted from them is much more sweet and intense. But honestly you should drink it instead of other spirits because it's f*%ken bad-ass and it's delicious!

What makes a good bourbon?

Time. Time in the barrel. The longer a whiskey ages, the more character it develops—flavour, aroma and colour. To get more complicated than that—"warehouse management" is the ability of the guy in charge of the barrels to chose which ones to empty when they are at their peak to make the tastiest juice in the bottle. Different brands might aim for different flavours (i.e. spicy, sweet, dry, rich, punchy, smooth) so in the end, it's all subjective to the drinker... And the guy in charge has to blend up to several thousand barrels to get that flavour profile right.

For the bourbon newbies, what’s the safest bourbon cocktail to go for?

The Whiskey Sour is the perfect "soft intro" cocktail. It's sweet, sour, dry and strong—everything a cocktail drinker wants, without the bourbon flavour being too strong. But what I'd really recommend is the Old Fashioned. A strong pour of bourbon, sweetened with a dash of sugar syrup, add a few dashes of bitters and stirred down over ice for a few minutes and garnished with a bit of orange oil (peel). It looks like whiskey, it tastes like whiskey, and it's delicious! Made correctly ANYONE will enjoy one.

And for the more adventurous, how do you order bourbon like a pro?

There are a few rare, old and prestigious bottlings. If you have the pallet for it (and can find them) try labels such as Wild Turkey 'Master's Keep', George T Stagg or Thomas H Handy. Some of the finest spirits man has produced—just order your water and ice on the side. If you fancy not breaking the bank but still experiencing a flavour sensation—go with Wild Turkey Rare Breed. Honestly, it's everything great Bourbon should be. 

Now that we’ve got a drink, what should we eat with it?

Bacon. If you're going to indulge you might as well do it right. Or a f*%ken epic cheeseburger, or poutine, or beef ribs... Something bold and satisfying to stand up to Bourbon's rich and powerful flavours.

Ok we’re sold, bourbon rocks, give us a recipe!

Do it Old Fashioned!

- 60ml Wild Turkey Bourbon or Rye whiskey (the Rye will be a little dryer and spicier than the Bourbon)

- 5ml sugar syrup

- 3-4 dashes Angostura bitters

- Big ice cubes

Stir all of the above down in a big old rocks glass for about 90 seconds.

Garnish with oils expressed from an orange zest strip (use a potato peeler and squeeze it over the drink)

Cocktail cherry optional.


Attention all awesome bartenders! If you reckon you’re a bit of a bourbon connoisseur, visit the Wild Turkey Facebook page for your chance to win the ultimate, money can’t buy Bourbon experience in Kentucky.

Image credit: Wild Turkey

Editor's note: This article is proudly sponsored by Wild Turkey and endorsed by The Urban List.  Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy. Drink responsibly.

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