Stephen and I prepped for my voyage by comparing some Pappy Van Winkle 20 and 23, of which I am happy to report:
1. Both are *excellent*.
2. Astonishingly, I liked the cheaper one better! (Well, it was “relatively cheaper,” at any rate.)
The 23 is marvelously complex, with a finish that rings resonantly the changes for a really long time, alternately numbing and stimulating various mandibular and maxillofacial regions, [John: Bill! That’s redundant!] [Stephen: Bill! Put your thesaurus away and stop repeating yourself!] as well as, of course, crooning love songs to my soft palate, pharynx, and esophagus. But this report is not about PVW 20 nor PVW 23; rather it’s about a snippet of an afternoon in Louisville; a stop before embarking on the Bourbon Trail.
The 21c Hotel is justly famous: A 2-time winner of the Condé Nast Traveller’s Magazine “Best Hotel in the United States,” as selected by readers. The lobby of the hotel encompasses a museum with nifty contemporary art, a restaurant, and a bar, Proof on Main Street. (Also, the coolest urinal I’ve ever used. It’s a trough at the feet watered by a continuous waterfall flowing down mirrored one way glass. And so, as you disburse your filtered bourbon, you watch, through the waterfall, people strolling by, and the occasional woman adjusting her make-up in the mirror. It’s disconcerting, deconstructive, and disarming all at the same time. It’s a novel experience where I expect only a quotidian event.)
In the bar, I asked the genial tender, Mike Padgett, to recommend a flight of less common bourbons to try, a sample to prime the pump, as it were. He obliged by picking out three of his favorites. It was disconcerting to drink without John there to take the notes and bring the snark, and without Stephen there to pour the drinks and say, “Helllllooo Ladies,” to the many Southern Belles percolating about, so forgive the brevity of my impressions.
First up, the Johnny Drum Private Reserve. A very pleasant smooth drinking dram–am I allowed to call a bourbon a dram? A very pleasant smooth drinking dollop? snort? lady slipper? that went down waaaaay too easily. Next, the Elijah Craig 12, which struck me (and confirmed by Mike P.) as a typical bourbon, brimming with notes of caramel, toffee, vanilla, and candy corn: A whole high-class confection shop in a glass. The last dollop downed was the Rowan’s Creek, in which I thought I detected minimal corn and maximal rye. It made for a kaleidoscopic mouth and a balanced eddy swirling down my gullet.
Thank you, Mike, for your choices.
Happy Fourth of July and slàinte!