Charlotte-area bourbon lovers are in for a unique treat Saturday as The Ballantyne Hotel’s Gallery Restaurant hosts a special tasting and dinner.

Taking the starring role is their custom created Personal Select Whisky crafted with noted Kentucky distiller Maker’s Mark.

The one-of-a-kind bourbon is a product of a custom finishing process applied to the legendary Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Ballantyne’s culinary and beverage team travelled to Lorreto, Kentucky, to partner with master distillers at Maker’s. There they selected a specific combination of five types of wood staves – each highlighting different flavor notes found in the Maker’s taste profile, placed into their own barrel of fully matured Maker’s for an additional nine weeks of flavor development.

While all bourbons are whisky, not all whiskies are bourbon.

Whisky, by definition, is a spirit distilled from a fermented grain mash and aged in wooden barrels. Grains most often used are rye, wheat, barley and corn. Bourbon, by U.S. law (Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits) must be made from a mash that is at least 51 percent corn and aged in charred oak barrels.

Comparing bourbons is like evaluating sports cars.

Some are flashy out of the gate and brash at the finish, others sultry and smoky with character, strength and style and still others smooth to the senses, nuanced with depth, body and soul.

Maker’s Mark is unique in the bourbon world as they use soft red winter wheat as part of their mash, delivering a smoother rounder finish.

For the Ballantyne Hotel, the ability to offer unique spirits is part of the guest experience they look to create. This is the second custom barrel the hotel has crafted with Maker’s. General Manager Peter Grills made sure the hotel was one of the very first partners Maker’s had when they launched the program in 2015.

“We had more than 200 reservations in less than one week when we hosted our first bourbon dinner last year,” said Grills, who noted only 20 of 240 bottles from the first custom barrel remain. “Bourbon is incredibly popular with our guests due in part to the resurging interest in cocktails and the intrigue with a variety of specially crafted spirits. …

“With our initial barrel, the profile we wanted was that of a classic sipping bourbon,” Grills added. “The one you want to sit around the fire and enjoy with long lingering caramel-chocolate notes. For this latest barrel we wanted spicier, slightly bitter notes, great for blending cocktails.”

Ballantyne Hotel General Manager Peter Grills

Saturday’s launch event begins with specialty bourbon-based cocktails and snacks. The dinner, created by executive chef, Garrett Merck, features bourbon BBQ braised short ribs with smoked cheddar grits, fried goat cheese and celery blueberry salad. Small plates offered after the entrée include braised pork cheek sliders with kimchi and bok choy and pulled rotisserie chicken salad with grilled peaches and arugula.

A slider and an Old Fashioned

“It is important to understand the background and history of the spirit in creating a menu to showcase its subtleties and nuances,” said Merck. “What I smell, taste and experience in the bourbon inspire me to play along in developing complimentary tastes.”

Capping off the evening are bourbon-infused desserts accompanied by live music and additional bourbon samples. Maker’s Mark Ambassador Jane Conner, will be on hand to discuss the process and answer questions.

Care for a cigar with your whisky? Cigars will be available for purchase and can be enjoyed on the back porch.

Want to go?

What: The Ballantyne Hotel/Gallery Restaurant Personal Select Whisky Event.
When: Saturday, Aug. 12: 6:30 p.m. cocktails; 7:30 p.m., dinner.
Where: 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy.
Cost: $89 per person plus tax and gratuity.
Reservations required: 704-248-4100 or theballantynehotel.com. 

Photos: Michael J. Solender, Ballantyne Hotel, Maker’s Mark

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