Bardstown Bourbon Company has announced a very limited release of their new Collaborative Series bottling with Cleveland Whiskey. Dubbed the “Cornucopia Collaboration,” bottles will be a distillery only release, available at 10am on Friday, November 27, 2020 at both BBC and Cleveland Whiskey. Only 3,000 bottles were produced, with each distillery having 1,500 on site for Friday’s release as a kickoff to the holiday shopping season. Bourbon hunters beware, the buzz for this release is eclipsing that of most limited releases, including the recently announce Jefferson’s Ocean Spray Voyage. According to Bourbon & Banter sources on the ground, folks are already sleeping in tents outside both distilleries.
You’re always wondering what to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers and this year, there’s likely to be more than ever. With the pandemic keeping us from gathering with loved ones, there’s bound to be more turkey, stuffing, cranberries (that aren’t part of the Jefferson’s Ocean Spray Voyage), and other delicacies left after the big day than usual. The folks at BBC foresaw this and have planned according. When it became apparent that holiday gatherings would be much smaller this year, BBC was looking for a way to bring more of the holidays to everyone who couldn’t be with their family and friends. President & CEO Colonel Mark Erwin was highly familiar with massive holiday meals from his more than a quarter-century serving in the United States Army. Erwin had the idea that if the essential flavors of Thanksgiving could be combined with bourbon, the result would be a surefire win for BBC and all those who enjoy a pour around the holiday table.
In talking with head distiller Nick Smith and master distiller Steve Nally, Erwin expressed his desire to infuse their Kentucky straight bourbon with classic flavors from the Thanksgiving table. Erwin reminisced about a time when he was still in the service but on home for leave and someone had spilled bourbon over the Thanksgiving table, covering everything from the turkey and stuffing to the mashed potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. His buddies challenged each other to drink the spilled liquid and upon accepting the challenge, Erwin noticed the flavors mingled together beautifully. But to actually do that on purpose he thought was ridiculous…or was it?
"This year, we're bringing the turkey...and the stuffing, and the cranberries, and the pumpkin pie."
– BARDSTOWN BOURBON COMPANY
Conversations began in August of 2020 and BBC had the aged whiskey but didn’t have the time to infuse the flavors & turn the bourbon around in time to hit the holiday table. Enter Tom Lix, founder and CEO of Cleveland Whiskey. Lix happened to be touring the BBC facility on the day they were discussing the holiday bourbon and offered to assist in a way few distilleries can. Lix mentioned that in addition to fast-aging whiskeys, they had also devised a proprietary process to fast filter whiskeys and extract the most flavor from the filtering component. They had been working on the concept with Con Agra foods, who makes the famous Hungry-Man dinners. The same technology used to create Hungry-Man’s uniformly shaped, dry proteins allows Cleveland to take any ingredients, form them into a filtering block, and dry them out so that the whiskey that runs through reconstitutes the flavors. Dubbed the Cuyahoga Method, in tribute to the fire on the river of the same name in 1969, they’ve been perfecting the process for several years with their annual Christmas bourbon, which this year is reported to have sugar cookies, bourbon balls, and fruitcake added to the mix of holiday spices.
The BBC team flew to Cleveland, armed with a host of Thanksgiving recipes from Erwin, Nally, Smith, Patti LaBelle, the Barefoot Contessa, and The Frugal Gourmet. No Emeril Lagasse recipes were used, as the spice was too overpowering for the whiskey. Bourbon and Banter’s own Steve Coomes and Brent Joseph lent their culinary talents to preparing the food, with Brent’s smoked turkey leading the pack, followed by Coomes's take on Ina Garten’s pumpkin mousse parfait, and Erwin’s classic stuffing with roasted garlic and chives. The meal was then processed into the filtering block and BBC’s bourbon was filtered through it under intense pressure and temperature to extract the most flavor from the ingredients. Yes, I know this sounds insane, but I assure you, it’s as real as the Gobbledy Gooker from the 1990 WWE Survivor Series.
“The resulting bourbon should have been disgusting,” said Nally, whose 4 decades in the business could not have prepared him for this idea. “But it was…surprisingly good!”
The bourbon’s nose took on the sweetness of the pumpkin parfait and the tartness of the cranberries (lookout Jefferson’s, someone else is coming for the cranberry notes), while the palate yielded to the richness of the turkey and the earthiness of the stuffing. The finish brought the bite from the sharp cheddar in the mac and cheese.
“Overall, it was like tasting Thanksgiving in a glass,” said Erwin, who was immediately thrown back to his service days and that challenge one Thanksgiving night.
The resulting Collaborative Series release marks the first holiday-themed whiskey for BBC, but one that they think will continue. “I can’t believe how well this turned out,” said Erwin, with Lix adding “I’ve always been a Christmas dessert fan. Cookies, pies, fruitcake, I love them all. Since those flavors pair so well with bourbon, we’re looking to bring them together with Bardstown’s blending expertise for an updated version of our Christmas Bourbon in the future.”