On Tuesady evening, The Bourbon Society had a "order off the menu" bourbon dinner at the Bourbon's Bistro and Wes Henderson and his lovely wife Julie were our guests. It was a great dinner - in fact one of the best I have ever attended. Wes was very open and since it was a small group of only twenty people or so, very informal. Wes answered any question we asked and spent some good quality time with the members. He also brought sample bottles of finished product for the members and two barrel proof unfiltered bottles - the first was the bourbon before it was conditioned in the port wine casks and the other after it was aged 6 months in the port wine casks. Here are some of the things I found interesting from the night:
About the product.
1) The product is not chill filtered and only some carbon filtering is done to clean it up and prevent flocking since the low proof in the bottle does have chill flocking problems (flocking is condensing of vegetable oils when it gets cold).
2) The bourbon was picked for maturity, not age (Lincoln's influence here) and is from 4 to 6 years old.
3) It is a 40%/60% marriage of the port wine aged for 6 months and port wine conditioned for less than a minute. The 60% is bourbon that has only toched the port wine cask briefly. They sawed a cask in half and drilled holes in the head, placed it over the dump trough and emptied the barrels into the cask. This meets the government regulation for it to be finished in a port wine cask without taking the bourbon flavor away from the whiskey. This is why the port is so subtle in flavor and the bourbon is still the dominate flavor.
4) They are experimenting with other cask finishes. He mentioned some, but I am not sure he wants them mentioned on the public forums, so let me just say they sound interesting and as he said, some of them are bourbon barrels coming back to their source.
About the distillery.
1) They are going to have a small column still - 24" diameter - with a pot still doubler with a 3 to 4 barrel a day capacity. This is similar to what Wyoming Whiskey has been using.
2) They have a chance to get the old Paul Jones office building on East Main near Brook - an excellent location if they get it. The building is very art deco in style and I can see a sign with an art deco look with the angel wings in front of the distillery. Lets wish them luck at getting the building. It will be great to have a distillery on Main Street.
3) A tour is part of the business plan, but so is trying to bring bourbon back to its roots with low distillation and barrel proof and other old time methods.
4) They will rent warehouse space since it is not a good idea to have a whiskey warehouse in such a congested area downtown.
5) Lincoln is to be the distiller, but Wes' son Kyle is a bio chemistry major and will be working with him. I have met Kyle and I was impressed with his knowledge of distilling already so a few years working with his grandfather will make him an excellent distiller when Lincoln retires.
There was so much more discussed that evening. Wes and Julie have six sons and several of them are already jealous of Kyle working with their grandfather, so I think the future is strong for the Henderson family as distillers. Finally, Wes would like to start putting barrels of product in the warehouse by the end of the year. Here is to hoping that he meets that schedule.
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873