The thought of bourbon leads my mind straight down the bourbon trail in Kentucky. "America's official native spirit" has a history there dating as far back as the 1700's and with some of the greats like Willett, Woodford Reserve, Pappy Van Winkle and Four Roses calling the Bluegrass State home, it is easy to understand why. Whiskey, in general, also has a strong historical association with skiing and après ski. This winter warmer is the perfect libation for your trusty flask or as the base of your Old Fashioned during après. All that being said, not all great bourbon today comes from Kentucky. In fact, the number of distilleries making bourbon outside of Kentucky has grown exponentially in the last decade and now there are plenty of distilleries in other states producing really good bourbon. One such distillery is Wyoming Whiskey and having recently attended a BBQ and Bourbon pairing dinner with them, I have found their bourbon worthy of your consideration.
Bourbon from a Ski State?
Wyoming is a state less known for their whiskey and more for their skiing. Home to two of our country's most notable ski resorts, Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee, it is hard to argue that the skiing their is top shelf. However, so is the small batch bourbon being produced in Kirby Wyoming by Wyoming Whiskey. Using locally sourced ingredients that includes hand selected corn as well as water sourced from an ancient limestone aquifer, Wyoming Whiskey is producing a lineup of some seriously good bourbon. The best part? It pairs really well with tasty barbecue like what was served up to us at our tasting dinner at Surf BBQ in Rumson and can stand alone or mixed in to your après ski drink of choice.
Pairing Wyoming Whiskey With Surf BBQ
When I first saw the invite for the Wyoming Whiskey pairing dinner at Surf BBQ I was stoked. It was on a day that I could actually go, a surprise, and how could I possibly turn down the opportunity to eat bbq while drinking whiskey? So I jumped on it and signed up. If I am speaking honestly, I had tasted Wyoming Whiskey prior to attending the pairing dinner last Thursday. In fact, their small batch bourbon spent the winter warming my heart from my flask all ski season long. However, I had not tried the Single Barrel Bourbon or the Outryder yet and I had certainly not had it paired with barbecue. So I welcomed the opportunity to tantalize my taste buds with this delectable pairing.
A Full Range of Bourbon and BBQ
Surf BBQ does an impeccable job with their events. Having gone to their paring dinners in the past, I have always found them informative, fun and a great value. They truly over-deliver and that is the sign of a well run business that keeps people coming back for more. This dinner was no exception as there were three shots of Wyoming Whiskey and an Old Fashioned waiting for us when we sat down. All meant to be specifically paired with food, of course, an idea that seemed totally lost on my one friend who drank them all within minutes of sitting down (thank God there were a few more at the table next to us thanks to those people not showing up). Nonetheless, I saved mine to drink specifically with the course is was meant for.
First up on the list was Wyoming Whiskey's flagship, Small Batch Bourbon paired with a duo of Smoked Whole Wings, one Vietnamese mild and the other Buffalo Hot. As I mentioned, I've been drinking this all winter on the slopes and I really enjoy it. The bourbon is subtle and not overwhelming, so much so that I immediately thought that it would be the perfect option to have my wife, whom I've been trying to get into drinking whiskey, try. The soft palate of vanilla and caramel flavors proved to be the perfect compliment to the stronger, yet not overwhelming sauces, on the smoked wings. The second course included Surf BBQ's Crash Burger Slider, which was so damn good I wish it was full sized, paired with Wyoming Whiskey's Single Barrel Bourbon. Using the same recipe as the small batch, one barrel is chosen for its unique character and taste. Yielding about 220 bottles, their single barrel bourbon is the cream of the crop and can vary slightly year to year based on how the elements affect the barrel aging process. I found it to be quite good, with almost a scotch-like element to it. It had a much darker color than the Small Batch and the taste was a combination of dark chocolate and dried dark fruits with hints of citrus. This worked really well with the smoked burger, with the citrus notes cutting the fat and create a harmonious blending of flavors. The final pairing was Wyoming Whiskey's Outryder and the Surf BBQ Sampler which included, a pork spare rib, pulled pork, and brisket with some slaw and corn bread. Although it is tough to say, this may have been my favorite combination of the night. When you put a plate of smoked animal in front of me like this one, you can pretty much guarantee that it won't last long, and it didn't. The ribs and pulled pork were done to perfection but the brisket was my favorite. With an excellent bark thanks to the tasty rub and solid smoke flavors it really had me craving for more. The Outryder proved once again to be an ideal pairing. It is distilled with a higher rye content than their small batch bourbon but falls short of being true rye whiskey. The rye gives it a spicier flavor which balances well with the bourbon's sweet taste of honey. This spicy sweet combination is something that I truly enjoyed and stood up to the smoked meat laden dish that I had just devoured.
Whiskey From Wyoming is Worth Your While
Any good event must come to an end and so did this one, but not without a dessert course of whiskey soaked lemon cake (I had two) and a few more beers (as if we hadn't had enough). Nonetheless, I found this was well worth the price of admission for not only the tasty food but the education on received on Wyoming Whiskey. Turns out good bourbon does exist outside the state of Kentucky and your taste buds deserve some from the Cowboy State.