Doc Porter’s Bourbon Whiskey

When we think of bourbon whiskey, Kentucky distilleries and well-known brands like Buffalo Trace and Pappy Van Winkle are often top of mind. However, unlike Tennessee whiskey, any distillery in the United States can make bourbon.

The federal requirements for bourbon distillation are:

  • Produced in the United States
  • Must contain a minimum of 51 percent corn
  • Aged in new, charred oak containers (barrels)
  • Distilled to no more than 160 proof (80 percent alcohol by volume)
  • Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5 percent alcohol by volume)
  • Bottled at 80 proof or more (40 percent alcohol by volume)

As an inherently American spirit and long popular in the South, bourbon is one of the hottest categories of spirits. Many craft distilleries have begun to release their own, including some in North Carolina. Bourbon is in the barrel at several distilleries across the state, and several others are planning to make the spirit.

One of the most promising N.C. offerings is Doc Porter’s Bourbon Whiskey from Charlotte. Doc Porter’s is a grain-to-glass distillery started by Andrew and Liz Porter. With grains sourced from North Carolina, the distillery is producing vodka, gin, bourbon and rye whiskey. Their bourbon whiskey uses a “high wheat” blend of 60 percent corn, 30 percent wheat and 10 percent malted barley. It is milled, mashed, fermented and distilled on site and aged in new, charred American white oak barrels for a minimum of eight months. The bourbon ages in various-sized barrels — 15, 20 and 25 gallons — which the Porters say “allows for a more intimate interaction with the oak.”

The bourbon is a deep, dark amber color, no doubt due to the variety of oak barrels used in the resting process. On the nose, you get notes of toasted marshmallows, vanilla and fresh oak. A hint of fruity sweetness starts the sip, likely because of the higher wheat content, and is followed by caramel with some light spice. The woody notes come through nicely on the palate. The finish is smooth, bringing more lingering oak notes, and fades quickly. It’s a good sipper after dinner and fantastic in cocktails.

Mint Julep Snow Cones

What could make a mint julep even better? Turning them into adult-only snow cones. This recipe may not be traditional, but it’s sure to please at your Kentucky Derby party. And you’ll be proud to say that it’s made with a North Carolina bourbon.

2 cups turbinado sugar
1 cup fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
5 cups water
2 cups Doc Porter’s Bourbon
8 mint julep cups, optional but highly recommended

Prepare mint simple syrup by boiling sugar, fresh mint leaves and water. Make sure sugar is fully dissolved. Cool to room temperature, and strain into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer. Add bourbon and stir. Divide evenly between two 9-by-13-inch baking pans and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure your freezer has room for these to lay flat, and freeze overnight.

In the morning, remove from freezer and let rest for about 10 minutes. Using metal forks, scrape the tops to create the “snow,” making sure to soften any clumps. Scoop the snow into the mint julep cups, and place back in the freezer for a minimum of 30 minutes. To serve, place on tray and add a fresh mint garnish.

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