For some unfathomable reason, Business Insider is covering alcoholic drinks in their finance section these days. Maybe it’s because finance isn’t a great traffic driver, or maybe they’ve run out of things to talk about in the world of finance. This oddity did, however, birth something I found interesting.
In one particular post, the author describes how a bartender in New York’s Edition Hotel goes about infusing bottles of Bulleit bourbon with coffee. It’s a pretty simple process that involves putting 1/2 a cup of espresso beans into a container, dumping a 750ml bottle of bourbon in with it and then letting it sit for 6 hours. It sounded intriguing, but I didn’t want to waste a whole bottle of whiskey if it didn’t turn out. I did some math.
750ml = 25.3605 ounces and there’s 8 ounces in a cup which means we have a ratio of about 6.25:1 whiskey to espresso beans. Scaled down to a more testable size that’s 1.5 ounces of whiskey for every .25 ounces of coffee beans. After I figured out the scale, I had to figure out the whiskey.
I didn’t want to just duplicate the effort with some Bulleit so I opted for running 6 separate experiments with the following whiskies to see how different whiskies would react to the espresso beans.
• Finlaggan - A smoky "bastard malt" from Islay which tastes like young Caol Ila to me.
• Glenfarclas 12 - Fun and fruity entry point to the Glenfarclas line which is known for its sherried whiskies.
• Dickel Rye - 95/5 MGP rye that gets the George Dickel charcoal mellowing treatment.
• Weller 107 - A fantastic wheated bourbon that’s soft, sweet and packs a punch.
• Evan Williams Black Label - About as basic of a bourbon as you can get yet still palatable.
• Four Roses - One of the best bourbons around and is what used to be in Bulleit so it’s a great comparison here
In the article it states that Mr. Hernandez lets the beans seep in the whiskey for six hours before straining and either drinking straight or using the coffee infused whiskey to make a cocktail. So I did the same thing. I measured out the beans, added the whiskey and let it sit while I ran some important errands like going out to breakfast followed by a leisurely stint of increasing my caffeine to blood ratio at a small Larchment coffee shop while re-reading The Old Man and the Sea and then some grocery shopping. Oh the hard life of a single guy in Los Angeles.
After 5 half hours away I came home, put away the groceries, finished The Old Man and the Sea and then got the Glencairns setup for straining and tasting. At 6 hours on the nose I strained them out one glass at a time, rinsing the screen between each, and then laid out the beans to dry. Coffee infused whiskey also means you have whiskey infused coffee beans and there’s no way I was letting those go to waste - but that’s a post for later.
After cleaning everything up and taking some more photos I set about the arduous task of tasting each one. Here’s how it all shook out.
Nose: Peat, oily coffee, brine and fruit.
Palate: Smoke, coffee, black tea, iodine and ripe fruit.
Finish: Dark chocolate, peat, coffee and ash.
Overall: I put this as fourth in the overall line up. The combination wasn’t unpleasant but the smoke and the coffee clashed a bit and after a few sips I couldn’t drink any more.
Nose: Coffee candy, buttery fruit and cocoa.
Palate: Glenfarclas! The scotch unexpectedly shone through nicely. Coffee and fruity notes follow through.
Finish: Coffee with sweet fruity notes that fade to ash.
Overall: Completely took me by surprise and end dup being my 2nd favorite of the lineup.
Nose: Coffee, burnt sugar, caramel and a touch of fruit.
Palate: Sweet coffee, touch of spice, and dark chocolate.
Finish: Dark chocolate, coffee, sweetness and a hint of spice.
Overall: This ended up being my favorite of the 6. I was expecting this to be the worse, but the coffee and rye kinda worked.
Nose: Sour oiliness, coffee, fruit and astringency.
Palate: 99.9% coffee, only the most meager of whiskey notes limping through.
Finish: Dry as a bone and heavy with ashy coffee notes.
Overall: The coffee completely killed this one. It was awful, the worst one of the group.
Nose: Buttery oily coffee and fruity notes.
Palate: Coffee, buttered corn, vanilla and spice.
Finish: Dried dark fruit and coffee that fades to a nutty ash.
Overall: This ended up being my 3rd favorite of the six as nothing in it was fighting anything else. It was a harmonious combination.
Nose: Buttery oily coffee, tobacco and mild sweet notes. The coffee dominates.
Palate: Buttery oily coffee, rye spice, caramel and tobacco. Not a pleasant combo and again the coffee dominates.
Finish: 99% espresso with barest hint of bourbon.
Overall: Awful. It was hard to sip this. Way too strong.
To be brutally honest though, it was a bust. I didn’t really enjoy any of these. I would never voluntarily drink any of them and I should probably change “favorite” to “the least terrible". Maybe in the smaller scale experiment the surface area to whiskey ratio is off so they actually only need to seep for 3 hours instead of 6. Maybe I need to try other whiskies like a good corn whiskey, Irish whiskey or a blended scotch. Maybe the author of the Business Insider article has bum taste buds. I don’t know why this turned out so miserably, but this isn’t over.
I’m going to try a couple more iterations of this experiment and see what shakes out. Though if you read this and figure out a better small scale ratio and / or soaking duration before me I’d love to know. I’ve posted the ratios above along with my methodology so if you want to give this a try and post your results I’d love to see how yours turns out. Or you can just follow my future misadventures in coffee and whiskey either here or on The Whiskey Jug. Till next time.