One of the many delightful things about living South of the Mason Dixon line can be conjured up with one word: Bourbon. This vibrant amber liquid serves as a representation of all things that epitomize a southern lifestyle: A porch, a few rocking chairs, good conversation, and a glass of bourbon create an ambiance that is difficult to duplicate.
Bourbon was born in Kentucky. Coincidentally, I just happened to be up there a few weeks ago for a little thing called the Kentucky Derby, you may have heard of it. The day after Derby proved to be a beautiful one and as we drove pass road signs directing us towards various distilleries on the way home, little encouraging was needed for us to pull off the highway. When in Kentucky, do as the Kentukians(?) do – continue to drink bourbon until your julep hangover blissfully subsides.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail marks 6 distilleries tucked away on gorgeous back country roads within a 70 mile radius. Wild Turkey happened to be the closest one off the interstate so it was there that we headed. Upon arriving, we received our passports – small booklets that you stamp at each distillery to mark your visit. Upon obtaining all 6 stamps, you mail that sucker in and get a free t-shirt, and there’s not much I won’t do for a free t-shirt.
Personally, my favorite part of the trip was going into the buildings where the barrels are held. If you’ve ever taken a big whiff of some rubbing alcohol or other similarly strong liquor, that’s the effect that ravages your nostrils upon entering. You can feel the alcohol in the air, on your skin, sinking into your pores. It’s advisable not to light a match within a 500 foot radius of these highly flammable structures.
These barrel abodes were reminiscent of run down prison buildings from the outside, but to me, the inside was evocative of the Old South: Row upon endless row of charred oak barrels stacked several stories high, progressively aging for years, utilizing a century old technique of waiting, tasting, waiting, testing, and so on until the ideal balance is reached.
J’s favorite part was, of course, the tasting room – not that I can blame him. Our guide displayed a vast assortment of all their products including my personal favorite of the bunch, American Honey, which tasted surprisingly refreshing with the lemonade they had set out for the hungover Derby stragglers who couldn’t handle any additional booze.
The whole shebang lasted about an hour and a half, so if you find yourself driving through Kentucky on a lazy day, I highly suggest heading off the highway for a bit. Culture and bourbon – Brilliant!
As an equal opportunity bourbon taster, not only will I sip it, I’ll eat it as well (Mint Julep Cupcakes anyone?) As I am now extraordinarily knowledgable about Wild Turkey, I used it to whip up a tasty marinade for some salmon. Bottoms up!
Grilled Bourbon Salmon
Yields: 2 Servings
- 1/3 cup bourbon (I used Wild Turkey)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp freshly chopped ginger
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1/4 tsp dried mustard
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 salmon filets (1/4 lb each)
- 2 scallions cut at an angle
- Sesame seeds
- Whisk first 7 ingredients in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.
- Place the salmon filets in a Ziploc bag and pour the marinade on top.
- Let the fishies swim in the marinade for about an hour or up to 3, turning occasionally
- Preheat the grill to on high.
- Spray a foil-covered cookie sheet with non-stick spray and place the marinated salmon on top, shaking off excess marinade
- Place the salmon on the grill and leave covered , for about 10-12 minutes – or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
- Serve over a bed of brown rice or quinoa, sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions and include a fresh veggie like green beans for a healthy meal.
…or maybe use your extra calories for a bourbon and lemonade while you watch your salmon grill…Either way, enjoy!