Custom Bourbon at John Howie Steak

As part of the “Barrel Select” program, chef John Howie, in conjunction with Kentucky bourbon producer Maker’s Mark, created a unique barrel of custom bourbon just for John Howie Steak. Participants in the program spend a day at the distillery first tasting how the five different barrel staves with names like “mocha” and “spice” flavor the bourbon, then choose the combination of 10 staves that they think will produce the desired flavor effect. The 10 staves are suspended in a barrel of cask-strength aged bourbon during the finishing process. With more than 1,000 possible combinations, it is easy to create a one-of-a-kind barrel. Howie wanted a Maker’s Mark style of bourbon showcasing brown sugar, cherry, light vanilla, and caramel, but with his own stamp of complexity. He prefers bourbon to other types of whiskey for the subtle sweetness that comes from using corn in the mash. The John Howie Steak Barrel #1 is 111 proof with spicy mocha toffee notes and a weighty viscosity reminiscent of sticky toffee pudding, perfect for fall and winter weather in the Northwest. “It will make a great Manhattan,” says Howie, “but if you were to drink it straight, pair it with the tempura bacon.”

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