How could I miss it? Well, I was moving a home of 19 years, two offices, and a second business… Maybe next year will be “Third Time’s a Bourbon Charm!”

I’ve just done a revisit and know that Bourbon lovers want to think about this one for the holidays coming up, now that we’re headed straight toward “the season” to be merry and bright.

Meanwhile, speaking of spirits, this is the season of “spirits,” with all Halloween, or All Saints Eve, spirits abounding.

Bourbon Curious, by Fred Minnick

A Simple Guide for the Savvy Drinker

If you don’t know anything at all, it’s best to start with the best person to explain the mysterious. In this case, a spirit… I was exposed to Bourbon as a kid, because it was my mom and dad’s favorite spirit. Then, it got revisited via the culture of Mad Men’s exploits. Now, thanks to Fred Minnick, I understand so much more about bourbon and whiskey, and am looking forward to that moment when I order my next spirit, but it won’t be a Manhattan.

My last experience with Manhattans was my first wedding. It was my dad’s beverage of choice, so that’s all anyone was served. What a mess, and I write this with all due respect. Let’s just say, my mother was in the middle of a busy main street, as we drove off to our honeymoon. She was directing traffic in the middle of the street. Oh dear…

So, I want to enjoy this next experience in a more thoughtful way. And Fred Minnick has lead me to the altar, once more, for a better view.

According to Fred, bourbon, like wine, has its own culture. If you love bourbon, this isn’t news to you. Minnick calls it the most misunderstood spirit on liquor store shelves. I’m betting that he’s right.

I’m going to give you my 10 takeaways from Fred’s book. Test yourself. See if you’re a bourbon aficionado; or like me, just learning for real…

  1. Flavors of bourbon: vanilla and caramel, with cinnamon and nutmeg notes.
  2. “All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.”
    • Whiskey = distilled beer aged in barrels.
    • Bourbon = made in USA and the grain is corn.
    • Scotch = Made in Scotland and the grain is barley.
  3. From the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s guidebook, types of bourbon:
    • Bourbon whiskey
    • Straight bourbon whiskey
    • Blended bourbon whiskey
    • Blended straight bourbon whiskey
    • Bottled-in-Bond bourbon whiskey
  4. Whiskey versus Whisky
    • With the “e” = American and Irish
    • Without the “e” = Scotch, Canadian, Japanese
  5. What you can TRUST on a whiskey label… the rest is marketing jargon
    • Proof
    • Age of whiskey
    • Type of whiskey
  6. Presidents and whiskey
  7. Tricks to getting used to bourbon
    • Hot sauce on your tongue as a training, when NOT tasting bourbon (Yeah, it burns like that.)
    • Bourbon is 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol, so you need to learn about its “hotness,” first
  8. Sources of flavor
    • Pre-fermentation
    • Yeast
    • Distillation
    • Wood
  9. In order for whiskey to be called bourbon, it must be stored in new charred oak
  10. Forward flavors
    • Grain
    • Nutmeg
    • Caramel
    • Cinnamon

There you go. How did you do? Are you a bourbon fan and knew all of this? (If you are, you must have a book, too, right?)

I’m going to put this book into my annual wine and spirits books for the year, come December. If you’ve got a family member or friend who loves bourbon, this book is “must have” in a wine and spirits library. I’ve only ever-so-briefly touched on Bourbon Curious. There’s still much to explore. This link gives you the skinny, you’ll have to read the rest. It’s also a “must have” book for anyone studying for her of his Master Sommelier’s test.