About six months after moving to Seattle, I decided I to make steak with a bourbon marinade. I wandered around QFC for at least 20 minutes trying to find the liquor section. I found beer and wine, but no liquor. It turns out the issue is that, in Washington state, we must purchase our liquor from state run liquor stores. Four years and two failed propositions in last week’s election later, this is still the state of affairs. Liquor stores are few and far between and not especially easy to find. The prices are high, the selection of bottle sizes is minimal. We visit about twice a year, most often to restock B’s bourbon supply.
Seattle is a transplant city. It’s far more common to come across someone in the city who moved here for school or work than it is to find people who are Seatle born and raised. No matter where people come from, though, there are traditions binding them to their original home. I’ve written a lot about what those ties are for me. For B, it’s bourbon. He is a Kentucky boy through and through when it comes to two things: bourbon and UK basketball. There will be plenty of time over the coming months for me to share the intensity and passion of B and UK basketball (and amazingly how it’s come to include food traditions). Tonight, though, it’s all about his bourbon shelf and the evolution of his taste for this distinctly Kentuckian export.
When I met B, his drink of choice was Maker’s Mark and Coke. Eventually this switched to Maker’s and Diet Coke. Then, one night about four years ago, while sharing an amazing meal at Joe Forte’s in Vancouver, B.C., the server delivered the bad news that they did not have any Maker’s. He suggested B try Woodford Reserve. This was the beginning of his true love affair with bourbon. Though he still loves his Maker’s, he started to get comfortable branching out to try some of the different amazing bourbons that Kentucky produces.
Over the years, he’s taken the Coke out of his drinks and now typically has it on the rocks with a splash of soda water. He’s learning to identify some of the unique smells and flavors and has discovered brands he likes including Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig, Old Forester and Knob Creek. He isn’t partial to the strong bite of Booker’s or Pappy van Winkle.
His newest love is for Maker’s 46, Maker’s Mark’s newest creation. It’s a little hard to come by yet, but we’ve managed to get our hands on two bottles. We don’t visit Kentucky often, but we know for certain the next trip will include a trip along the Bourbon Trail to see how and where some of his favorites are made.
As B’s taste for bourbon has grown, so has his bourbon shelf of collectibles. The prized item in his collection is his Coach Calipari bottle of Maker’s Mark.
This bottle is truly special because there are only 24,000 bottles in existence and, of course, because of his love of UK basketball. You can learn more about the worthwhile program the bottles’ proceeds benefit here. B’s mom had to do some serious leg work to make this one happen, but the sheer look of joy on his face when he opened the box made it worth it for both of us.
The rest of B’s small (but ever growing) collection includes an Old Forester Prohibition commemorative glass, a special WA state specific Knob Creek Package, a limited edition Kentucky Derby Woodford Reserve bottle and tonight’s liquor store find… The Maker’s Mark Picnic Pack inlcuding one bottle of Maker’s Mark and two bourbon glasses dipped in Maker’s signature red wax. He’s enjoying a glass of Maker’s 46 from one of the glasses as I type this.
Sense memories are some of the strongest a person can have. Whether it’s a song on the radio that takes you back to a specific special moment, a smell that reminds you of Christmas as a child (for me that smell is Jack Daniels… don’t judge) or a flavor. Green chile is both the smell and taste that binds me to New Mexico. For B, that flavor is bourbon. In a city of transplants, we never lose sight of what binds us to our roots.