To create my vanilla extract I will eventually be steeping vanilla beans in a type of alcohol. Many bottles of extract that I’ve looked at in the store, as well as many recipes online, recommend using Vodka as the carrier alcohol but I want more. Don’t get me wrong, I love absolute vanilla flavor but I don’t necessarily want to simply “use” the alcohol to get the vanilla flavor and then burn off every bit of the alcohol. What if I used something that, even after the alcohol itself has cooked off, enhanced the flavor of the vanilla and brought it to an even richer, deeper level? Bourbon Whiskey immediately came to mind. Now, I know the general flavor profile of Bourbon in my head but it’s not often that I drink bourbon straight so I needed to find help.
My search brought me to a local liquor store to talk with someone who would know more than me. The sales associate was great to work with. I was able to pick her brain on the differences between the major distilleries and what they’re known for. By telling her what I wanted to do, which flavors I was looking for, and roughly how much I wanted to spend, she was able to direct me to 2 or 3 options which she would recommend as being the best for my purposes. We discussed that I didn’t want a sour mash but rather a straight bourbon and generally one that would impart long, low, warm tones of oak, vanilla, possibly light fruits, almond, etc. I saw so many types I would love to try but I have to start somewhere.
The bourbon I chose to use for this experiment is by the Four Roses Distillery out of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The distillery-provided tasting notes claim that this bourbon contains flavors such as caramel, vanilla, spice, cocoa, and maple, with hints of wood, ripe plum & cherries. A Wine Enthusiast write-up near the bottles claimed the taster also found notes of almond paste and cereal in addition to many flavors recognized by the distillery itself. This all sounded good.
When I got home I was excited to open the bottle and discover what I had purchased. Upon initial sniff I can certainly smell the vanilla, maple, and slight almond. These flavors will pair nicely with vanilla bean for my purposes!