Summer for me is the season of spritzers, fizzes, sangrias and herb-heavy refreshing cocktails. To kick of this summer season right, I recently attended the private summer patio opening-party at Indian-fusion restaurant Vij‘s on June 7, 2016. This critically acclaimed restaurant, owned by celebrity chef, entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den dragon Vikram Vij has an incredible selection of dishes with my favourites of the moment being their mutton kebobs with Bengali style curry and local pork belly with apple mint chutney!
The patio opening may have been hosted by Vij’s but it was sponsored by Basil Haydens and let me say, they did not disappoint. My partner-in-crime Celine and I were treated to four different types of mint juleps, delicious appetizers and a great welcome speech by Beam Suntory Brand Ambassador (and one of the sweetest humans on this planet) Matt Jones aka the Whisky Chef.
For you ladies who are looking to ease in to bourbons, Basil Hayden is a great choice. As the lightest-bodied bourbon (at 40% ABV) in the Jim Beam family it’s a great introductory bourbon that’s made out of a mix of corn, barley and rye which gives it flavours of spice, pepper, citrus and honey. In addition, there is an ever so slight hint of peppermint with this bourbon which makes it a perfect choice to use for Mint Juleps or Kentucky Mules.
If you’re wondering about age of this bourbon, it was formerly labelled as an 8-year aged spirit, however, as of 2014 the bottles have become “artfully aged.” What does this mean exactly? Well many whiskies are moving away from age statements as there are so many variable factors that can happen in one year of whiskey that affect their flavour profiles and therefore distilleries will mingle and/or blend a selection of whiskies aged six to ten years (or whatever age is appropriate over four years*) and blend them based on flavour to ensure the continuity of taste year over year.
But what exactly does an age statement REALLY mean? Well particularly with bourbon, which technically has no minimum-aging requirements, it means that there can be a lot more variety of flavour and texture to each individual bourbon than you may have realized. Many bourbons out there are aged 2 to 4 years which doesn’t make them bad, it just means that they haven’t had the same amount of time maturing and pulling out the delicious fruity, candy, nutty and sweet notes that come from the charred oak barrel that the bourbon is aged in. The general rule of thumb is that these flavour profiles typically start to develop between 5-10 years of aging and within the first 0-5 years bourbon will take on the majority of its colour and some of the smoky/woody flavour from the barrel.
Nevertheless, it was a real treat to try a selection of traditional and contemporary mint julep options – it’s amazing what can come from a base of three ingredients (sugar, mint + bourbon) in the cocktail world. Now if you’re looking for some Mint Julep inspiration check out the recipe for my Chocolate Mint Julep fully equipped with a mint cotton candy garnish here.
*Fun Fact: “Straight Bourbons” that are aged more than four years do not require an age statement on the bottle (and must be aged a minimum of two years).