Austin has a reputation for being a gastronomic hot spot. Yet, no restaurant review could prepare someone for the decadence and immense hospitality of a bourbon-themed, private lunch hosted by master distiller Chris Morris of Woodford Reserve and prepared by the Driskill’s head chef, Troy Knapp and his team. A four course meal, each course paired with a unique Woodford whiskey, is a food and spirit experience that will forever remain unrivaled.
Walking into the Driskill hotel whisks you back in time, until you are met by the very present and intoxicating aroma of exceptionally crafted bourbon. Sweet and oaky, your mouth begins to water. Placed before you are four glasses of tempting whiskey, each one unique in its own right. Mr. Morris artfully describes his recipe and methodology in crafting these fine spirits. He deliberately uses only the finest, all natural resources to ensure a farm-to-bottle creation. From fresh well-sprung water from Pepper Springs, to a specifically bred distiller’s yeast, the new information only heightens your anticipation.
This first course includes a whiskey cured and cigar-smoked salmon with house made rye crackers. One bite of the salmon and you know what they mean by cigar-smoked; it exudes a robust, smoky, and lightly fruity flavor that pairs delightfully with both the crunchy rye crackers and Woodford Reserve Rye. Similar to straight bourbon which must be at least 51% corn, a straight rye whiskey must be made from a minimum 51% rye grains. But unlike some of the newfangled 95 to 100% rye whiskeys, Mr. Morris uses a traditional recipe that includes 53% rye, 33% corn, and a sizable 14% malted barley. This classic recipe is not to be mixed into cocktails such as a Manhattan; it was designed to be consumed neat. The rye has notes of black pepper and almonds which finish in a lengthy marzipan savor. As the spirit leaves its rich nutty character lingering on your tongue, you take that last bite of smoked salmon and await the next course.
The chefs present a brunch course, an epicurean take on bacon and eggs paired with Woodford’s signature bourbon, the Distiller’s Select. Not your average crispy bacon strip, this course contains a hardy hunk of Berkshire pork belly laid next to a striking poached egg. Accompanied by an orange-honey glaze, this dish embodies the chef’s vision of a fat-washed whiskey flip. And now for a sip of the bourbon; the Distiller’s Select is remarkably balanced bourbon intended to appease every palate. Sweet and nutty, fruity and smoldering, it is steeped with passion and pride.
Course number three arrives in three oval shaped ramekins. Local red cabbage on the left, a mint and bourbon lamb shank pie in the center, and oh-so-buttery hand-crushed corn grits on the right. Your fork dives straight through the puffy crust of the pie releasing the burly smell of warm lamb. You scoop the luxurious grits in right after. The soft, elegant textures meld in your mouth and call for a refreshing drink. This time it is Woodford Reserve Double-Oaked. Double Oaked is made by taking the finished Distiller’s Reserve product and aging it even longer in another unique barrel. This second American white oak barrel is given four times the regular amount of toasting, is charred for a brief five seconds, and holds the whiskey for an average of ten months. Every barrel results in a distinct whiskey, leaving Mr. Morris the difficult task of blending different barrels to create a consistent product. The ultra-premium straight bourbon you lift to your lips emanates flavors of butterscotch, maple, honeycomb, and more. Its scent is sweet and enticing. One taste isn’t enough. You daydream about having a glass after dinner tonight. Another bite of creamy grits layered with the syrupy whiskey makes you think of a whiskey filled Sunday brunch. You look back down and all four vessels are empty.
Dessert comes in the form of spiced cheesecake delicately crafted into the shape of a sphere and a scoop of sweet potato gelato. Your spoon glides effortlessly through both; the gelato is sweet and tangy, the cheesecake is the texture of softened cream cheese and saturated with fresh vanilla bean flavor. As you reach for the last taste of whiskey you start to feel a sense of loss, for two reasons. One, lunch is almost over. And two, Mr. Morris explains that production of this whiskey has already ended. The Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Single Barrel chosen for Twin Liquors, the last whiskey of the day, has all been produced. This product is bottled directly from a single barrel chosen by Mr. Morris. Rather than being blended for consistency, as the previous tasting saw, this whiskey comes from a particular barrel that aged brilliantly all by its self. The Twin Liquors Single Barrel starts with more pronounced fruit flavors; notes of cherry and mild berries arrive first, quickly followed by fresh honeycomb and toasted nuts.
Twin Liquors extends many humble thanks to Brown-Forman, Woodford Reserve, and Mr. Chris Morris for their selection and naming of our Single Barrel and for their hospitality in organizing such a remarkable event! We would like to extend special thanks to the Driskill and the efforts of their immeasurably talented chefs! We would also like to invite customers to come and purchase all four of these phenomenal whiskeys, and particularly our Single Barrel while supplies last!
James Boone Pilkington, Twin Liquors Retail Associate