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Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History's Oldest Drink by Fred Minnick

Posted on by Eric Burke

Disclaimer: Fred Minnick is a friend of mine and in my statement of ethics I promised to disclose when I am reviewing one of my friend’s products and to only review them when it was truly something I really liked. This is one of those times.

I first became aware of mead as a drink in my mid-twenties. I was reading American Gods, the new book by my soon-to-be favorite fiction author Neil Gaiman. In the book, there is an early scene where the characters seal a contract by drinking mead. The characters are not impressed with the quality of the drink describing it as "evil, vile fucking mead" and as tasting of pickled honey. 

Needless to say, as my first real exposure to the concept of mead, I wasn't in a real big hurry to try it. That's even if I could have found any in the small Western Wisconsin college town, that unbeknownst to me, I shared with the author of the book.

It wasn't until I happened upon a meadery on my way to a family reunion in extreme Northern Wisconsin many years later that I once again considered mead as a drink. At the time I favored dry white wines and craft beers as my libations of choice. I was ready to expand the range of my palate though and picked up a bottle of the dry mead they were producing. I found it a delicious addition to the family festivities. 

And sadly, that was where my mead drinking experiment ended for the time being. I knew of it, knew I could find it, but soon moved on to spirits, found bourbon, and forgot to pick it up again. 

Until right now. Bourbon legend, my friend, and Wall Street Journal-Bestselling Author, Fred Minnick had released his seventh book. And it just so happens to be about Mead. Reading it, inspired me to go to the liquor store and finally pick up another bottle of Mead. This one is a sweet Mead, but I will be keeping my eye out for a dryer version as I am not really a fan of sweet wines, ciders, or apparently Meads. 

If you are at all interested in Mead (or just like Fred's writing style) I highly recommend you pick up Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History's Oldest Drink. As the subtitle suggests, it goes into the history and legends about the drink's origins. But it also gives you information on bees and honey, the brewing of mead, and some cocktail recipes where you might want to use some of that home-brewed mead.

You can pick up Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History's Oldest Drink at your local bookseller or on Amazon for somewhere around $25.


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Stubbees Bourbon Infused Honey

Posted on by Eric Burke

Unless you just stumbled onto the site, and this is your first time reading one of my posts, it is safe to assume that you know I have a fondness for bourbon. What you may not know is that I also have a fondness for honey. I love honey. It is by far my favorite sweetener. 

I've preferred honey to sugar my entire life. I used to love to put honey on my Cheerios and corn flakes as a child. When I was old enough to understand that it was acceptable to put honey into tea, I became a tea drinker at an age when most of my friends were chugging Mountain Dew. 

As I grew up and learned that much of the honey that was available for purchase in grocery stores had been adulterated in some way, mostly by adding additional sweeteners to the honey, I became a bit more choosy in my honey purchasing. These days I only purchase honey from producers I trust. Both locally and online. 

So when you combine my love of bourbon with my love of honey, it is no wonder that my interest was piqued when a press release for a bourbon-infused honey came across my desk from Stubbees Honey in Jacksonville Florida. Now I've often seen honey-flavored bourbon announcements come across my desk—many of them with little or no actual bourbon or honey in them—but I had never seen a boubon-infused honey before. So I did a little digging. 

Stubbees sources US-produced, organic, raw honey "only from hives located at nature preserves and farms that are free of pesticides." This is great as it supports both US beekeepers as well as keeping the hives healthier since the bees aren't ingesting pesticides. Based on the research, I decided to order a bottle from their website. It was $22 for a 12-ounce bottle. More than I normally pay for honey, but what the heck. If it really tasted of bourbon, it would be something fun to try.

When I first opened the bottle I was amazed at the boozy note coming from within. It was like a big, boozy barrel-aged beer. Sweet, but with a definite vinous note underneath. That note carried over to the mouth but transitioned into something much more in-line with bourbon notes. It has a good honey flavor that pairs really well with the bourbon notes. I really like this. 

And while I could probably just sit and eat honey by the spoonfuls, I decided to give this a little bit more of a thorough taste test. In the label, it claims that it is great in meat glaze or cocktails. So of course, the first thing I put it in was a cocktail or two. My wife loves the occasional Mint Julep so I surprised her with one sweetened with this honey. It received rave reviews. It did similarly well in other cocktails I tried it in. Where it blew my mind though was in a breakfast sandwich. I cooked some home-cured and smoked bacon that I had received from a family friend, placed that on a freshly baked biscuit along with this honey and a little cheese. Wooohhh momma! Was that ever good! that sandwich was worth the purchase price right there.

If you get a chance, and you are as big of a honey fan as I am, consider picking up a bottle.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Posted on by Eric Burke

When I was first getting into cocktails, I read everything I could on how to "up my cocktail game." There was no shortage of listicles telling me what 10 things to try and what 10 things to avoid.

And on almost every list were cherries. List makers of the late aughts and early teens were terrified that someone might use a grocery store Maraschino Cherry in their cocktail. And at the time, the fear was probably well founded. There were not a lot of pre-made cocktail cherries on the market that weren't Glowing Red Neon Balls of Dye and Sugar™. Of those that were suitable for grown-up cocktails, Luxardo was the brand that was recommended the most. 

Unfortunately, Luxardo Maraschino Cherries run almost twenty dollars a jar so, for the longest time, I just omitted the cherry garnish. But my reading led me to believe that the syrup surrounding the cherry made more difference to the drink than the cherry itself and that by omitting it, I was actually losing flavor.

So being a DIY sort of guy who loves to cook, I devised my own recipe for cocktail cherries. Sure, they probably ended up costing more than the store-bought, but I had much more than $20 worth of fun making them. And I got a lot more than a 16-ounce jar for my effort. I made a lot of versions. Two of them were good enough to write about: Chocolate-Bourbon Cocktail Cherries and Orange-Spiced Cocktail Cherries. The latter being my personal favorite and our current go-to cherry for whiskey cocktails. 

But last year, I couldn't find the materials to make any homemade cherries. So I've been buying them this year. I previously reviewed the Woodford Reserve Cherries from Bourbon Barrel Foods and found them to be a good, if lesser, substitute for my own cherries. This time around I thought I might finally give the original a try. See what all those listicles were talking about.

Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

Purchase Info: $16.99 for a 400 Gram Jar at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

 Image: hand-drawn Neutral face

Thoughts: The syrup these cherries are packed in is pretty damn good for adding a delightful cherry note to your cocktails. But, the cherries themselves are very disappointing. They are certainly a step up from Glowing Red Neon Balls of Dye and Sugar™ but they are the possibly the worst of the cocktail cherries I've tried if you are a grown-up and want to actually eat the cherry in your drink. The skins are tough and sticky and the insides are mush. 

If I were to recommend a cherry for your cocktail, I'd recommend making your own. If you'd rather buy them, go with the Woodford ones from Bourbon Barrel Foods. I'd give these a pass. In fact, I'm actually considering tossing the cherries and just keeping the syrup. 


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

My Wandering Eye: Copper & Kings Phoenix Barrel (Ace Spirits pick)

Posted on by Eric Burke

My wandering eye is a series reacting to the crazy rising prices in the bourbon world. We’ve reached a place where even average products have hit the range where they compete price-wise with other types of aged spirits. If I’m going be asked to drop $40 to $70 on a mid-range bourbon, I might as well see what else I can get for that money. See if another spirits category offers something that is downright tasty in that price range. The goal isn’t to find cheap spirits, but to maximize the quality, I’m getting at a particular price point.

As I've mentioned before, my father is a brandy drinker. His favorite way to drink his brandy is on the rocks in a glass full of ice cubes. Since the brandy he drinks is almost always 80 proof, I never understood why he liked it that way. But heck, if one drinker doesn't like the way another drinker drinks spirits, they are both right.

But I have to say, I've finally found a couple of brandies that beg to be served with ice. And tonight's is one of them. This particular brandy comes out of the bottle at 128 proof. And boy, oh boy, does it pack a punch!

I picked up this particular version of Copper & Kings brandy solely because I really liked the last cask-strength brandy of theirs that I had from Ace Spirits. When I got it, I realized that this wasn't the same style as the previous bottle I had from the two of them. This one was something called the Phoenix Barrel. And it was described as "Oloroso Sherry Wood Fired New American Oak Cask." My first thought was "that is a lot of words strung together." 

Now, I know I am not the smartest man on the planet but, I did pretty well back in the day when I studied Astrophysics and Literature, and I can usually figure these things out. But not this time. So I did just what any consumer would do: went to their website. 

What I found there, made that string of words make perfect sense. (Isn't it funny how when you are given the answer, it often seems pretty obvious?) This project involved charing barrels on a fire that was burning broken staves that had previously been used in Oloroso Sherry casks. Did it do anything? No idea, but it makes a good story none-the-less.  

But most importantly: how does it taste?

Copper & Kings Phoenix Barrel (Ace Spirits pick)

Purchase info: $64.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: 64% ABV, Aged in a barrel charred on a fire burning Oloroso Sherry casks staves.

Nose: Brown sugar, caramel, red fruits, apple, and baking spice.

Mouth: Very warm, but not as hot as I'd have expected it to be at almost 130 proof. Caramel, red fruits, and baking spices show up after you get past the heat.

Finish: Hot and lasts for days. Lingering caramel, ripe fruits, and a little mint. 

 Image: a hand drawn smiley face

Thoughts: I like this but it is certainly a bourbon drinker's brandy. Maybe too much so? I'm not getting a lot of "brandy character" out of this. My wife agrees. She likes it too. And this might be the first brandy that dedicated bourbon-drinker has liked. 


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

My Wandering Eye: Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum

Posted on by Eric Burke

My wandering eye is a series reacting to the crazy rising prices in the bourbon world. We’ve reached a place where even average products have hit the range where they compete price-wise with other types of aged spirits. If I’m going be asked to drop $40 to $70 on a mid-range bourbon, I might as well see what else I can get for that money. See if another spirits category offers something that is downright tasty in that price range. The goal isn’t to find cheap spirits, but to maximize the quality, I’m getting at a particular price point.

Tonight's rum will be the last rum I'll be doing for a while. Not because I've grown tired of rum, but instead because I think I've found enough of them to keep me busy for a while. I found a sweet rum, a sipping rum, a complex rum, and even a cognac-finished rum. I've found rums of 2-, 5-, 9- and 12-years-old as well as rums containing some combination of them.

Tonight, however, I'm going to review a bottle of rum that covers two firsts for me. This will be both my first navy-strength and my first funky* rum.

Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum

Purchase Info: $26.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 57% ABV. 

Nose: Molasses and light ginger (I'm thinking the soft molasses-ginger cookies your local supermarket bakery makes) along with a light hint of campfire smoke.

Mouth: Hot with lots of spice upon entry. After you get past the heat, there is a lovely molasses and funk combination.

Finish: Spicy yet not too hot, especially considering the proof. The flavors last forever. Lingering molasses cookie flavors of ginger and molasses mix with a fun fruity funk.

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Thoughts: I know my wife would disagree, but I'd drink this neat all night long. But then, she is more of a "bourbon-only" person than I am. She even finds a glass of rye whiskey less exciting than I do. So yes, I'm really enjoying this rum. It might be my favorite of the ones I've bought for drinking neat. I think there is a lot herefor a bourbon lover to enjoy. 

And hey, it's pretty good in a cocktail too. 

*I believe the rum experts might use the word "hogo," but since I am not exactly clear on what that is, I'll stick to funky since that is what I personally taste. 


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!