The day finally came yesterday when the great people from UPS delivered what my friend Dave Brown (from Coastal Cigars) and I have been waiting for. Thanks to Chris Morris, the master distiller of Woodford Reserve, and the great company of Woodford Reserve we now have our barrel to start our cigar project.
So after talking with Chris he explained to me some of the different flavors that he looks for from the barrel itself. The list includes the obvious flavors of vanilla (no doubt one of my favorites), caramel, chocolate, clove, toasted oak, and smoke. The two that shocked me were marshmallow and mint. How these flavors come together from the aging amazes me and I will certainly being speaking with Chris more about them. But how they will affect the tobacco is the most interesting thing. Dave and I were already talking about how to infuse mint into the mix. And to clear up the weird questions coming to everyone’s mind, we were thinking about the official drink of The Kentucky Derby, The Mint Julep. We are not looking for the horrible mint smell and flavor of the average menthol cigarette (we are actually not looking for any qualities of a cigarette in our finished product). I also brought up chocolate as a flavor to try to infuse. Derby pie is the best dessert to eat at Derby time (or any time really) and contains no more than sugar, flour, butter, eggs, bourbon (Woodford Reserve of course), and finally chocolate. And with the knowledge of the barrel possibly imparting flavors of marshmallow into the tobacco the chocolate idea sounds all the more better.
Step one will be to fill the barrel with a couple of gallons of water and allow it to sit in the sun and wonderful weather hear in Charleston. The Weather Channel said the heat index today may top 106 F. Outstanding, considering it is only June.
The barrel came with a convenient plastic bung instead of the tight fitting wood ones. And heaven lies just beneath this little piece of plastic. Removal of this bung has allowed me to experience bourbon in a whole new way. The aroma is brilliant. You can almost feel the viscocity and weight of the drink simply by the smell. It is of fresh bread being baked, like a pastry shop in France, one that uses the best eggs and freshest yeast. It is strong yet not over powering, sweet, fresh, clean, inviting, warming, and wonderful. The water will then be removed and used to in combination with various other flavors (i.e. chocolate, mint, possibly even butter) to help infuse the tobacco with flavor as it ages.
I am very excited about this as you may well be able to see. One of the most exciting aspects is that the end is uncertain. Dave and I both know what we would like to see in the end, but vaguely at best. Neither of us can imagine how this aging will flavor the tobacco, or even change the color of the leaf. So much has to be left to time, kind of like the vinegar. Patience once again is needed, and will no doubt reword those with it in many ways. For all of those of you out there who are drinking the fine spirit crafted by Chris Morris at Woodford Reserve please enjoy. The barrel we received was filled on 3/29/01 and drained just recently, so there is a chance that you may be sipping on the spirit that came from the barrel that is now being transformed to a tobacco aging vessel.