Whiskeyfest 2010 highlights, part two - Page 2

Meet Your Maker... hanging out with whisk(e)y's master distillers

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Maker's Mark master distiller Kevin Smith let's 'em know about his malts
All photos by Virginia Miller

10/10 BACON BRUNCH WITH KEITH KERKHOFF OF TEMPLETON RYE – Setting: Reza Esmaili's Long Bar. Food: delectable spread from chef Erik Hopfinger. Heaping bacon piles of Eden Farms Berkshire Pork -- And don't forget the rye. Templeton Rye from Templeton, Iowa, to be exact. The brunch was in celebration of this delightful rye -- previously restricted for sale to Illinois and Iowa -- finally becoming available in San Francisco.

Templeton is so small batch that you won't find it in any Bay Area shops outside of SF, where our usual suspects, like Cask, Jug Shop, and K&L all stock the brand. Assistant master-distiller Keith Kerkhoff (I wrote about a Whiskies of the World seminar with their president, Scott Bush earlier this year) and brand manager Michael Killmer hosted us for a relaxed, festive brunch where the coffees were spiked with the rye and topped with Fernet whipped cream. Welcome to SF, Templeton.

Waxing poetic with Maker's Mark at The Alembic

10/10 DIPPING WAX WITH KEVIN SMITH OF MAKER'S MARK -- At The Alembic, Kevin Smith, the master distiller of Maker's Mark, spent a couple hours with a small group, tasting through various ages of the bourbon from white dog to pours that were years older than the finished Maker's product, so that we could get an idea of when a spirit is ready. From a somewhat neutral base cut down to 90 proof, the bourbon gained most of its flavor from barrel aging, and we sampled a woody 12-year version that came off astringent and tannic, though not unpleasant. Smith used the two to highlight their choice of the smoother, rounder balance of the fully matured final product which is aged roughly years.

We finished with Maker's 46, their first new product in 50 years. I've had it a few times and it makes sense Kevin said the inspiration was rye whiskey with advanced spicing, toasty oak and that "cinnamon bite." It's certainly my preferred Makers. Thanks to The Alembic for serving us a gorgeous, bright Maker's 46 cocktail: sweet vermouth, absinthe, maraschino and a mint garnish. But the session wasn't over until we had hand-dipped glasses in Maker's signature red wax, a tradition established from the chemist wife of Bill Samuels, Sr. (Maker's original owner). She loved brandy and wanted the bottle shape and wax to imbue Maker's with a brandy elegance.

Interestingly, California just surpassed Kentucky as Maker's number one-selling US market. Raise a glass, shall we, to the pioneers and tastemakers who brought love of spirits to share during this past whirlwind week of whisky.

--Subscribe to Virgina's twice monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot

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