When I first got the email, asking if I would be interested in reviewing this new Whiskey from William Wolf, I reflexively said “Yes”. I always say yes because The Pour Fool is about beverages and you just never know when you’ll find some obscure thing you never even heard of that slaps you sideways.
Then, I read further down in the press release: “Pecan Flavored Kentucky Bourbon”.
I have very little use for infused liquors. The memory of the greasy, adhesive-like bacon-infused thing I received two years ago is still, like a childhood dream of being chased by a scaly lizard-monster, very much with me. I wake up some nights tasting the stuff and am convinced that some residue of it is still stuck to the walls of my bladder. Yes, it was that nasty. No, I am not kidding. But what’s even worse, to me, is an infusion done badly…and most of the whiskeys, vodkas, rums, and gins I taste are, uh, sorta lame and insipid.
But, hey…pecans? I’m a Southerner. Pecans are in my blood. (Well, lower tract, at least) Before Black Raven Brewing opened and they invited suggestions for beer styles, I asked for a Pecan Porter. They came up with Possum Claws, in my little book, one of the best Strong Ales ever made in the state of Washington. Pecan pie, bourbon-pecan bread pudding, butter pecan ice cream…you name it, if there’s pecans in it, I’m at least going to try it.
So, the box shows up at FedEx. I drop by at almost midnight to pick it up. I take it home, open the box, see the bottle, and get ready for bed. I’m IN the bed, Kindle on, reading, when those pecans in that bottle start to…speak to me. “Try us!” they whisper, “You know you want to.”
I got up, tip-toed into the kitchen, poured a half-ounce into a Seahawks shot glass, and sipped…
My stars…pecans. No, let me rephrase that: PECANS!!! The thing I dislike most, in drinking any infused beer or spirits is having to search around my palate to detect the infusion. I’ve had about forty smoked ales, so far, and exactly four were smoky enough for me. In Scotches, I don’t want an intimation of peat smoke. I want to be smacked silly with it.
In Wiliam Wolf Pecan Kentucky Bourbon, there is no pussy-footing around. This is a pretty nice, if really mild, base Bourbon that gets a whoppin’ addition of soft, fragrant, very assertive pecans. The mildness places it squarely in the wheelhouse of those folks who prefer liqueur-ish products like Jim Beam Honey Bourbon, Red Stag, Captain Morgan, Sailor Jerry, the multitude of Honey Vodkas and Raspberry Vodkas and Green Pea ‘n’ Ham Vodkas and whatever else is currently being done to render powerful forms of alcohol palatable for those who don’t appreciate the fine burn of a full-strength liquor. This one, however, hits a button that none of the other flavored spirits have, at least for me: it’s just flat-out, compulsively delicious.
William Wolf is rich, like a liquefied praline stirred into a 60 Proof Bourbon. It’s not even one molecule cloying and over-sweet; riding the palate lightly but firmly, coating the tongue with nutty Presence and finishing with an unmistakable layer of purest Bourbon goodness: caramel, oak, vanilla, figs, and burnt sugar. This is a completely bewitching bottle of Bourbon but…Not Bourbon. Whiskey Purists will take two to three days revving up the mounmental sneer they’ll throw at this stuff…which is sad because, I confess, I almost missed it for the same reason. Whiskey Weenie that I usually am, I came very close to telling the folks at Wolf’s PR firm that I don’t do liqueurs because normally I don’t.
It would have been totally my loss. Since I say often and with perverse pride that I don’t know anything about cocktails – which is absolutely true, give or take a Bloody Mary or Salty Dog or two – I’m not going to lay out blending options here. (Although, as a former chef, I’m asked occasionally to create a cocktail recipe, which I always do.) What I will say is that, based on my 30+ years as a chef, I can see this flavor profile paired with all manner of different tastes. What I’m most looking forward to is that first cold morning in the Fall, when I crank out a big mug of strong coffee, dump in some milk, and lace it with a liberal shot of William Wolf. In the South, this is known as “Kentucky Coffee” which, while not layered with the mystique and lore of Irish Coffee, has rescued more mediocre Bourbons from oblivion than all the dive bars in Tennessee combined. The mere thought of adding something like this, with actual intensity of flavor and more than a little muscle, to the morning’s java is very nearly orgasmic.
William Wolf is the brainchild of Jimmy Goldstein, president of Wingard, Inc., a major importer of spirits, which is how the inspired marriage of Kentucky Bourbon and Dutch pecan distillate came to pass. The Dutch, who for 500 years have specialized in extracting nearly every imaginable flavor found in nature, brought to this stuff a flawless, fresh, hyper-authentic infusion that, I believe, could have been done by no one in the US. Goldstein, whose thang is sussing out the hot buttons of young, party-hearty slackers, was responsible for the questionable Hypnotiq Vodka, a sky-blue concoction that’s mainly distinctive for a gorgeous package and the way it looks behind a bar. William Wolf, according to Goldstein, is a match made in heaven for cola, an idea which I would dispute with great vigor. In a cola, that lovely knife’s edge of not-quite-sweet tips over the edge into Major Ickiness. Stick to the coffee and maybe pair it with a nice bag of pecan sandies, a plate of rich cheeses like Manchego or Rogue’s fabulous Oregonzola or Brie with grilled bread. My own suggestion for a cocktail based on The Wolf appears below.
Whatever you decide to do with it after, DO at least TRY this hedonistic stuff. It may not be your everyday quaffer but, as a treat when you want something absolutely Outside The Box – and especially as a tailgating sipper! – you’ll have a major job of it trying to find anything better.
The Fool’s Pecan Tailgator
3 oz. William Wolf Pecan
1 oz. Kahlua
1 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Fresh cream
2 oz. Black Coffee
1/2 oz. Briottet Creme de Figue
Cinnamon Stick or Vanilla Bean to garnish
Serve in tall glass with ice