A mixed bag
Aged in decanted Willett Bourbon barrels, this Lexington, KY coffee shop offers our first foray into the bourbon-coffee world. For me, this one had a funky taste – not quite bourbon, not quite coffee – a somewhat metallic, medicinal taste. I’ll try this one again to be sure I didn’t get a skunky batch.
We discovered this as we toured the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. While it was better than our first selection, it still left us searching. This one definitely had solid coffee flavor and oaky char, but left us wanting that warm, vanilla and caramel flavor we sought.
Compliments of John Waugh, a friend of mine in the financial services industry, I looked forward to savoring this one on the weekends. The website indicated “flavors of rich vanilla, sweet caramel, and just a hint of charred oak.” So far, this was the best of the bunch! While we caught some notes of vanilla, there were also fruity notes – like berries – raspberries, perhaps. This was fine coffee – don’t get me wrong – just like Four Roses offers some of the best bourbons out there with unique, floral and fruit essences. This was a break from what we expected, and my wife and I both enjoyed this pour. A solid reserve champion here!
And the winner goes to our friends in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin – Door County Coffee. Over the last few holiday seasons, we’ve enjoyed massive bags of their Candy Cane blend, layering sweet cream with vanilla and peppermint.
There are three varieties I’d recommend in the following order:
Highlander Grogg – Ok, so it’s not officially a bourbon coffee – but it comes with an Irish whiskey flair. This lives up to its label description: Irish crème and caramel collide in this medium roast coffee for the ultimate treat, featuring a smooth bodied coffee with low acidity. This makes for a delicious weekend pour.
Bourbon Vanilla Cream – A strong second love from Door County. Fresh whipped cream infused with sweet vanilla bean and laced with Bourbon flavoring. Lovely notes of vanilla and cream with gentle woody notes.
Bourbon Barrel Pound Cake – Sweet, buttery taste of a rich, dense homemade pound cake hot out of the oven, drizzled with barrel-aged bourbon flavoring. Masterfully roasted Specialty Class 1 Arabica coffee beans with just the perfect hint of bourbon flavors and sweet pound cake in every sip. The butter and vanilla definitely were on the forefront of this pour, with bourbon taking a back seat.
Overall, this was a tasting we enjoyed over weekends. While most of these were solid contenders, the best of show may still go to the one coffee that isn’t a coffee. What’s that, you say? Adding splash of Buffalo Trace’s Bourbon Cream to your favorite coffee brand – Kroger, McDonalds, Starbucks, you name it. We enjoyed this special cordial for the first time on a tour of Buffalo Trace led by tour guide Freddy Johnson. Bottled at 30 proof, this may be the quintessential marriage of sweet cream and smooth, Kentucky bourbon to add to your favorite morning beverage.