On the nose it’s the Dr. Scholl’s insole for a cigar store Indian kept in the humidor for decades. Thick, syrupy, and just laden. I’d swirl it in my glass more vigorously if I didn’t think it would carve channels and grooves into the sides of the glass, or produce enough centrifugal force to dislocate my shoulder. This is a weighty whiskey for thinking serious thoughts. Which is why I’m certain the nose also includes hints of a pair of unicycle inner tubes (front and rear) packaged in a saltine tin to fool the customs officials. In total, the nose recalls the moment at the Thanksgiving table when your head is bowed, a prayer intoned, and you open your eyes to the plate full of delicious food that is just an “Amen” away from being enjoyed.
The mouth is bourbon-brilliant bouquet. All of my umami receptors cry out in their simultaneous delight. Pickled tubers packaged for disaster relief, with cherry syrup instead of vinegar. It’s a refined cherry—a really excellent Gatorade® for alcoholic athletes. Pour it into a guava halved by a ceremonial sword, and you’ve got the perfect libation for making a very serious toast at a very unusual wedding. The finish has heat but it is modulated with mint, caramel, and a touch of celery salt. All of which is to say you’re in the Cotton Club at its heyday and the Duke Ellington Orchestra is just cooking and you cannot imagine it ever ending and when you close your eyes for a moment you sense that is hasn’t ended at all and the band is still playing and the dancers still dancing and a conductor’s baton still slicing the air, scratching this very moment permanently into spacetime.
–On the scale of Duke Ellington songs–
The Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon is Caravan–What other hopping jazz standard has the gravitas, intestinal fortitude, and genius structure to be played in a nearly avant-garde style by Charlie Mingus, Max Roach, and the Duke himself, but still remain easily recognizable? That’s right: just this one.
Our thanks to Danielle Katz and Russell’s Reserve for the sample!