On March 16th T and I headed over to Hawksmoor Seven Dials for their second Bourbon and Burgers night co-hosted by the lovely Four Roses brand ambassador Dan Priseman (who, by the way, also writes a great drinks blog: Bitters & Twisted). The Bourbon and Burgers night coincides with the introduction of Hawksmoor’s monthly rotating ‘Third Burger’, which has previously been the AMAZING Piggy Burger and for February was the Chili Cheese Burger – topped with mixed jalapenos and Oglesfield cheese.
T and I ran through the evening a bit out of order and started off with our welcome cocktail, (The (lethal) Rocky Rose: Four Roses Bourbon, Maraschino, sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca) along with our Chili Cheese burgers and triple cooked chips. The chili cheese burger was a bit too hot for my liking, but T was brave and pushed on through the mountain of jalapenos – and later succumbed to dousing his mouth with ice water. Always opting for the steak at Hawksmoor, I forgot how great the burgers can be with the intensely rich meat and toasted brioche bun – made only better by the addition of bone marrow to the mixture. The best burger I’ve had in London.
After cleaning our plates, we slipped into the private dining room and joined Dan and the others for our tasting. Dan started off the tasting by giving us a bit of background on the production of Bourbon in the US. It’s no surprise that Kentucky is the Bourbon centre of the US – it’s responsible for an astonishing 97.5% of all Bourbon production (thank you Dan for such a precise figure). Kentucky’s climate, water and plentiful sources of corn provide the perfect conditions for making Bourbon, with the climate providing a great setting for barrel ageing the Bourbon. Made with at least 51% corn, barley is added to the Bourbon recipe to help its fermentation and with rye and wheat added to adjust flavouring.
Before adding the Bourbon to the new oak barrels, Four Roses char the wood to mellow out the Bourbon and give it its distinctive color (unlike other American Whiskys, whose color is often not 100% natural). Dan tells us that a minimum of 4 years ageing is needed to make a good Bourbon and 6 years needed to really polish the finish of it.
After the history spiel had concluded, (T and I agreed that we could’ve sat there all night and listened to Dan talk about Bourbon) we started sampling the Bourbons, starting off with Four Roses Yellow. The Yellow was incredibly mellow with light tastes of honey and apple and as I’m not the biggest Bourbon drinker, (this is soon to be remedied) this was the perfect introductory Bourbon before moving on to the more complex flavors of the others. Next up was the Four Roses Small Batch, for which Dan offered up an interesting history tidbit: there is no legal definition of how ‘small’ a small batch Bourbon or Whisky must be, but the industry standard comes from the former master distiller at Jim Beam, whose definition of the term stood at fewer than 1,000 barrels. Perhaps more interesting is Four Roses use only 18 barrels for each small batch, which really gave us a bit of perspective on how unique this Bourbon was. Lastly, we tried the Single Barrel Four Roses, which at 50% ABV was the strongest and most complex Bourbon of the evening and one of our favorites (we’re still working our way through the bottle my brother gave us for Christmas last year!).
Another great evening at Hawksmoor. And, at 20 quid it was quite the affordable treat. Keep an eye out on Twitter for upcoming Bourbon and Burgers evenings.