Lee Goodner of Cambridge Wine and Spirits helped us choose a beautiful bottle of whiskey to complete our evening at Jim and Page's. After dinner, we settled into the living room where the fire had been blazing all night, and Jonathan poured generous nips into Simon Pearce Norwich beakers from a beautiful and classic hand-blown decanter. We paired the whiskey with some sweets we picked up at from Formaggio Kitchen; Bonnie's Jams Nuts in Honey and Taza Chocolate. (Read more on Taza here)
Lee offered these words on his trip to the Jack Daniels' distillery to select a barrel of whiskey to be bottled specifically for Cambridge Wine and Spirits, as well as how to properly taste the stuff.
There was so much that I experienced on my trip to Tennessee that contributed to my ever growing fascination with whiskey. My selection of the Jack Daniels' Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey. I used to have a snobby opinion against Jack Daniels. It was JD, whiskey you can get in a pint and that you see empty bottles of on the side of the road. My visit changed all that.
The whiskey's water base comes from a protected source owned by the distillery and is filtered naturally through limestone. The medium (corn, barley, and rye) comes from Tennessee farms, and after the mash is distilled the leftover filtrates are used as animal feed on local farms. Even the barrel, which I feel is the most important part of the process of making whiskey, is made at the the distillery from domestic oak. Everything about JD is American and every drop is made in Lynchburg, TN by a small group of people who mostly live locally.
During my trip, I had the pleasure to sit down with Jeff Arnet the master distiller for JD--only the 7th man to hold the title--and choose a single barrel for my store. After enjoying a delicious southern meal and tours of both Nashville and historic downtown Lynchburg (including a complete tour of the distillery with a man who has worked there since 1974). Jeff helped me find the perfect barrel with its own unique, singular character that also conveyed a sense of the quality and tradition that goes into every bottle of JD.
How to Taste Whiskey
Have a clean palate
If you have recently eaten, drank, or smoked that might mask certain flavors on your palate, so have some water crackers or simple cheeses on hand.
Use a clean glass
Preferably a double old fashioned glass or something with low sides. Avoid washing your glassware with perfumy detergents, as they'll alter aromas and flavors.
Make water available
To rinse your mouth and to soften the alcohol.
Pour no more that a half an inch of whiskey in a glass. This allows one to move the whiskey around in the glass. Not swirling, just coating the inside of the glass to maximize the aroma.
Nose the whiskey
Stick your nose into the glass and breathe deeply to capture the aroma.
Sip, don't slurp
Gulping it down will excite the alcohol. Sip slowly, and roll the whiskey to coat you mouth.
Swallow or spit
Alcohol will almost instantly fry and deaden your taste buds to the more delicate flavors of whiskey. So, if you're serious about this, you should avoid getting a buzz on. One should try and pick up as much with the nose as possible, and taste last.
See more pictures of our fireside whiskey tasting on our Flickr.