It’s opening day, folks, a good day for getting a good glass of bourbon or a fine mixed bourbon drink, and watching your favorite baseball team start a fresh new season! I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many stadiums, and as I post some write-ups about them in the coming days and weeks along with my new bourbon reviews, please tell me about your favorites – I love to hear them.
For me, my loves were always the New York Mets, and most of all, my hometown Detroit Tigers, and while hope springs eternal, let’s welcome in a new year and season with the legendary hall of fame broadcaster for the tigers, Ernie Harwell, who would bless each new season with this short poem:
It’s been a rough week over here at Baseball and Bourbon: I had my wisdom teeth out. I won’t embellish, it didn’t go as poorly – or painfully – as some people had warned me. But it wasn’t exactly fun either. Most saddening was the fact that I was advised not to drink bourbon while my jaw recovered. The one saving grace was that it gave me the perfect excuse to rest and watch the NCAA tournament all weekend. So with a congrats to the Dayton Flyers, as well as Michigan and Michigan State, this week’s review is of a new favorite of mine.
Now, I have no been lucky enough yet to get my hands (and taste buds) on a pour of George T. Stagg, try as I may. I’ve been able to hunt down glasses, if not bottles, of almost all of the other Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, but the GTS eludes me.
That said, I was fortunate enough, when in Kentucky, to get my hands on a bottle of Stagg Jr, the newer offering from the BTAC. Aged 8-9 years (unlike the 15+ GTS is bottled at), but coming from the exact same mash bill, ‘unfiltered’ and ‘uncut,’ it pours at a barrel strength. My bottle shows a 136.6 proof, or 68.3% alcohol. Potent.
What I really note about the Stagg Jr was how my opinion changed over three months, and three different tastings. I first had the Stagg Jr. in December at a bourbon event at the Wine Garden in St. Clair Shores. There I found it too brash and even harsh. Two months later I tried it again at a local whiskey bar, and found that I enjoyed it much more, and found it much more complex. Last week, for review purposes, I tried it again, and came to trust my second, rather than first impression.
The nose: Make no mistake, like any barrel proof, that first sniff will be a burn. Give it a minute to breathe, and you will note a burned-sugar-toffee, vanilla, charred oak and some spiciness. The sweet notes – vanilla and toffee – strengthen as it site, too.
The taste: Again, let’s not kid – that barrel proof is a kicker. It has a thicker mouth taste than I expected, but I could taste very strong influence of charred oak and rye spiciness. A hint of brown sugar, but the sweetness gave way to the spicier hints of cinnamon, pepper and oak. It didn’t knock me back, but I found it smoother than anticipated, without ice.
The finish: It has a burn, a good solid one. Notes of spice hold out along with the taste of wood and subtle sugar sweetness. A little dry, as though there were tannins, on the throat.
My take: Personally, I like Stagg Jr. Looking around online, it seems the biggest drawback Stagg Jr has is not being George T Stagg. Maybe I will feel that way when I’ve had the GTS, but for now, I find this to be a nice, strong drink.
Hello, and happy Pi day! Not that one needs a reason to celebrate pies, or to cook with bourbon, but just in case you are interested in doing just that, I’ve got a recipe for you. It comes from the fine website Doughmesstic, with a few changes suggested by my wife Jen.
Last year, my work celebrated Pi day with a pie-potluck of sorts, where people brought in pies of all shapes and sizes, including quiches, breakfast specialties and some desert items. That’s when Jen first made this Bourbon pie, and even included bourbon whipped topping.
I won’t lie, it was a bit of a wake up at 8 in the morning…
But that said, at the end of the day, I took home TWO empty pie tins, and regretted we had not made a third just for our own consumption.
So make the pie with the recipe below, and enjoy!
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon bourbon (I prefer Woodford Reserve for this)
Combine flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor (if possible) and combine with ‘pulse’ mode
Take the butter pieces and lay over dry ingredients. Once more, ‘pulse’ to allow butter to cut in. It will be in varied sizes – that’s ok.
Break up the yolk and stir it in, slowly, ‘pulsing’ with each small addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, whisk will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.*
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked.
Don’t be too heavy-handed–press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.*
*italicized text from Doughmesstic website
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Vanilla Sugar (or regular sugar – vanilla sugar can be difficult to find)
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Melted Butter
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup Milk Chocolate Chips
3 Tablespoons Bourbon (I prefer Elijah Craig for this)
1 Tbsp Vanilla
Combine flour and sugar, then add beaten eggs. Pour over melted butter and stir to incorporate. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Pour into frozen pie crust, and bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes, until a nice crust forms on top and appears set. Do not overbake. Also, be careful of burning crust – if it appears to be getting too brown, wrap it in foil and continue to bake the remaining time.
Jen’s Bourbon Whipped Topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp Bourbon
Now, I appreciate a good Stetson hat. Growing up with a love for country music, how couldn’t I? But a Bourbon produced for a company famous for hats and western clothes – color me skeptical.
I purchased the bottle in Kentucky, unaware that it was available here in Michigan. It’s certainly an attractive enough bottle, with it’s leather tie and old style label.
My take: On pour, this bourbon is light. Very light. Not at all the darker hues I’m used to, it has an amber clearness to it. Looking online, the belief is that it is a four-year-old bourbon, and there is much speculation as to where the juice is sourced from, before being labeled and bottled for the Stetson company.
The nose reflects this – it is light and airy at first, and slowly opens up to reveal a corn syrup smell, with a sharp alcohol bite. It’s a rye/wheat blend (in addition to the usual barley and, of course, corn), but has only the lightest spiciness (baking spices, not pepper) in the smell.
To me it tasted very much as I suspected it would: very light and almost watery with a corn sugar opening. It never really heats up too much, and while very light hints of allspice, and a trace of butterscotch are present, it tastes…young. The finish is quite smooth, but very short, and didn’t burn at all (which is fine with me).
If you gave me the choice between this and a Stetson hat, I’d probably take the hat. But it’s not a bad bourbon, just a little young and a little light for my tastes.