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Jan 22, 201408:53 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Bourbon: A Whiskey by Any Other Name

A brief history of Bourbon and New Orleans

CathyK, stock.xchng, 2005

Aren’t there places that are so aptly named to even think of calling them something else makes no sense whatsoever?

Toys "R" Us is such a place. Jiffy Lube is another. The destination name around here that really works for me is Bourbon House.

Dickie Brennan’s aptly named dining and drink emporium is in the 100 block of Bourbon Street. And then they went ahead and took it to the next level. They specialize in Bourbons. Whoa! A theme on top of an address. Excellent!

Take that, The Container Store!

Bourbon House is a complete service location. Good beers, excellent oysters, casual dining, decent and honest mixed drinks, nice wine list, interesting views onto the craziest street in America, fun staff and transparency in its core ingredients. Not many places post the region of origin about the oysters.

But the Bourbon Whiskey program is at the heart of the matter. It’s not just about having a bunch of Bourbons on hand and encouraging patrons to stay with their usual call. Bourbon House wants you to know what else is out there, how it all tastes, and why there are aromatic and taste differences from one label to another.

The New Orleans Bourbon Society (NOBS) is based here. Membership is free. Now that should pique your interest. And New Orleans long-time association with Bourbon should also move you to want to learn more, even if it weren’t for the tastings, socials, and the dinners. Register for membership here.

First of all, Bourbon, both the whiskey and the county in Kentucky, owes its very name to New Orleans. We were such a great market for their product, and so much of the product was consumed on Bourbon Street, that the name of the product took on the name of the spot where sales were higher than anywhere else.

The people of Bourbon County, Kentucky better appreciate the story that their place and their product was an homage to the ruling families of France and Spain during those colonization days. But that part of the New World had no ties to those old countries, and likely doing homage to European royalty, who were actually sworn enemies of Great Britain, from a bunch of Scotch distillers is a far stretch of history. However, since our street was indeed named after the Royal Family of Spain and France, we have never quibbled with the good people of Kentucky about their naming source.

The other grand contribution that New Orleans, indirectly, made to the establishment of Bourbon as a quality adult beverage is the color and the maturing process. While the color of Bourbon in Kentucky at the end of distillation is quite clear, by the time it arrived at its greatest market after a five-month journey, it was brown, maybe even reddish. The trip down the Mississippi River in oak barrels was the cause of the color change. But what else changed was the harsh, hot, inelegant flavor of the Bourbon. The cruise smoothed those hard edges and provided the alcohol “bite” with more elegance.

On arrival here, Bourbon was more refined, more pleasurable. The movement of the whiskey in the barrels while on the water was a wonderful last step in the manufacturing process. Okay, so it was not a planned step, but soon it would be.

That’s the sort of history revered by the NOBS. There are usually at least 120 Bourbons available at any given time, with a core group alongside a rotating stock, all with their own stories.

Recently entering the stockpile is the Angels Envy, Stagg, Jr., Michter’s 10-year, Hirsch Small Batch, Buffalo Trace Single Oak and Elmer T. Lee also from Buffalo Trace, and all from Kentucky. A single barrel whiskey, Breckenridge, is from that spot in Colorado, where I thought they were now distracted by other substances.

What is fascinating is that each Bourbon, like wines, beers and every other adult beverage, brings its own unique characteristics to the nose and the palate. The entire vocabulary of Bourbon is quite reminiscent of those other beverages when we spend far too long rhapsodizing over and not enough time drinking. Okay so that’s not true; we do both.

But I love the language of Bourbon, with resin not being a bad thing and vanilla bean meant as a complement. Toss in some references to sweet caramel and maybe a comment about nuts, figs, spice, cherries, dried fruit and plum. Then you will sound like a true Bourbon aficionado, assuming you use the descriptors with the proper voice of authority.

And you don’t ask for a Bourbon and Coke.




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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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