An Introduction to Bourbon; Tasting a New Love at In Good Company

By Rebecca Calkins, 10/14/15

Michigan not only makes delicious wine and beer but we’ve also gotten into the craft distillery movement. Our local watering hole Jackson’s Grand River Brewery has started to make their own vodka, rum, gin and whiskey, which means I need to expand my palate beyond the vodka drinking days of my youth.

Before a planned trip to Nashville a few years ago, I had decided that I needed to learn to like whiskey. However, I never fully committed to the dark liquor upon my return, until I saw a posting for bourbon tasting at In Good Company Restaurant in Clarklake, Mich. I knew I had found the perfect opportunity for my reintroduction.

Now there is a difference between whiskey and bourbon. As it is said all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. Kate Manville-Schwartz, the bourbon expert at the tasting, did a great job explaining the difference. Bourbons are held to a higher standard than whiskey. They must be made in the United States, contain 51 percent corn, aged in freshly charred oak barrels and not contain any added flavors.  

With over 50 different bourbons available, In Good Company has the ""largest collection from here to Kentucky, that anyone's talking about."" They even have a Bourbon Club which includes a punch card with discounts and once you have tried all the bourbons you ""pretty much get treated like royalty"". They are also known for their classic cocktails. No blender here! Their Bourbon Manhattan, I was told, is a heavy double pour.  Next time! I ordered my favorite Mac & Cheese and began my tasting. Here is a list of my tastings with my tidbits and thoughts:

  • Bulleit, 6 year, 90 proof
    Spicy and sweet
  • Evan Williams, 10 year, Single Barrel, 86.6 proof
    Initially spicy but smoother on the finish
    Second only to Jim Beam in popularity
  • Old Grand Dad, 3+ year, 80 proof
    Spiciness of the first, with the mellowness of the second
    In top ten most popular bourbons
  • Jim Beam Black, 8 year, 86 proof
    Smoothest so far
    Regular Jim Beam is 4 years
  • Eagle Rare, 10 year, Single Barrel, 90 proof
    Smooth sweet dessert (went well with my pumpkin pie!)

The restaurant also encourages you to walk around with your drink and enjoy the art on display. The local art is usually on a 3 week rotation. However the current show is on for six months with artists replacing the ones they sell. That’s right the art is for sale and they sell about 2-3 a week! This piece is by Ardis J Studio

On my way home I picked up a bottle of my favorite of the night, Eagle Rare. As the famous movie said “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”!

Learn more about the Saturday Bourbon Tastings at In Good Company, Click here to check out the event on Facebook.

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