National Bourbon Heritage Month raises spirited debate

-A A +A
By Lorrie Kinkade

She downed the whiskey quickly, slammed the shot glass to the table and raised a rebel yell.

Okay, not really, but that was what my friend teased she might do when we recently attended our first bourbon-scotch debate in honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month, which was created by the U.S. Senate in 2007.

Although I have a multitude of favorites when it comes to adult beverages, at the debate I was given the opportunity to sample a couple of untried bourbons, as well as two unfamiliar scotches. I must admit, any scotch I sampled that evening was guaranteed to be unfamiliar, as I’ve never had occasion to taste any of the matured Scottish whiskeys.

The debate was held at Bourbon’s Bistro on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville. Presenting the merits of bourbon was the grandson of a Fall City Brewing Company founder. Dedicated to touting the virtues of true Scottish whiskey on this night was a self-described “man in a green skirt.”

But then, who better to promote the beverage than a gentleman Scot wearing a kilt in his family colors?

As we took our seats in preparation of the debate, I couldn’t help but laugh a bit as I surveyed the room. It isn’t that we didn’t know the name of the host business or what spirits we would be sampling, but here we sat, as noticeable as redheads in Sweden.

As others sipped small glasses filled with merely two inches of amber liquid, my friend and I were enjoying ice-cold 12-ounce bottles of Miller Lite. Straight from the bottle, of course.

Yee Haw!

To those who may be considering lobbying for restrictions on where my friend and I may visit, let me explain.

First, she is not particularly fond of whiskey since experiencing the aftereffects of “one two many” more than a decade ago. You may wonder why she chose to attend this event in light of that. Well, it sounded like fun. Why else?

I have to say there was no one else I would have preferred to accompany me, as it was priceless watching my friend taste the samples and make the same face small children do when you feed them pickles!

(She knew she was making faces and hopefully won’t hate me too much for joking about it here.)

My choice of Miller was based on my need for a pre-debate beverage lower in alcohol content as I was the evening’s designated driver. One beer and a few sips of the 80-140 proof samples over two hours kept me safely under the limit rather than under arrest.

So, on to the debate. There were songs and jokes – of course one was about what a Scot wears under his kilt – by the scotch fan. But he also taught the history of the classic liquor and how to find the “legs” in a glass.

The bourbon supporter taught us how to “chew” rather than swish and explained the history of bourbon barrels and the charring process they are put through. It was all quite interesting.

One of the most entertaining parts of the evening was when we were encouraged to splash a bit of Ardmore scotch on our hands, rub them together briskly and then smell them. We were told this was an ancient technique for judging the quality of the small batch beverage, but I think it may have simply been a way to get a group of adults to sit around a public establishment sniffing their hands, as outsiders watched, clearly bemused.

Equally entertaining, and purportedly for the same reason, our group was prodded to eat seeds like those that go into making Laphroaig single malt scotch.

I believe my friend put it best when she likened the taste to chewing on a piece of damp, charred wood from a riverbank campfire.

By the end of the evening, I, a fan of whiskey, and my friend who is not agreed that 80 proof Basil Hayden bourbon was our favorite sample and scotch is a drink best left to men in skirts.