American Whiskey Meets Scottish Blending Know-How In Exclusive Texas Launch
Scottish, family-owned distillery William Grant & Sons has entered a traditionally American aspect of the spirits world with a Fistful of Bourbon. It’s sourcing five straight bourbons from unnamed distilleries in the United States (five fingers equals a “handful,” get it?) then putting its experienced Scottish blenders to work on the flavor profile. Fistful is available in retail liquor stores beginning September 1 and the initial release is only in Texas. We were invited to Bosscat Kitchen & Libations for an early taste.
William Grant & Sons is not necessarily a household name, but they have multiple well-known brands. The company has been in business since 1887 and owns Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, Monkey Shoulder and Tullamore D.E.W. whiskeys plus Hendricks Gin. It also owns Drambuie, a staple liqueur comprised of whiskey, honey, herbs and spices. Even though this is William Grant & Sons’ first blended American product, its successful track record bodes well.
Although William Grant & Sons is calling Fistful of Bourbon a “100-percent straight American whiskey” blend, it’s made in the United States with domestically produced bourbons. The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits state that bourbon made for U.S. Consumption must be produced in the United States. So, it just as well could be called a blended straight bourbon whiskey, a point which a William Grant & Sons representative verified.
Fistful of Bourbon was created by distillers with over 100 years of combined blending experience. Blender Kelsey McKenchie said that the group “sourced every bourbon we could get our hands on” to ensure they crafted the perfect taste. The name is derived from the number of whiskeys used to create the bourbon. The distillers chose five straight whiskeys, each a minimum of two years in age, with distinct flavors: balanced and sweet; green, leafy floral notes; soft spices and nutmeg; buttery toffee; cinnamon and licorice. In other words, the goal was to create a fistful of flavor.
Bourbon is traditionally known as a high-octane spirit. Bottled at 90 proof, Fistful is on par with plenty of other bourbons for alcohol content, such as Elmer T. Lee and Four Roses Small Batch, but it is incredibly smooth on both the nose and palate. When we nosed the bourbon, we picked up notes of almond and cinnamon, but our palate was overwhelmed by caramel and toffee in the best possible way.
At Bosscat, William Grant & Sons’ Director of Advocacy, Charlotte Voisey, created a handful of cocktails to showcase the bourbon. The Fistful Smash combined bourbon, grapefruit oleo-saccharum (sugared grapefruit oil), lemon juice and fresh mint leaves. There was also a Fistful Old Fashioned which stuck to the traditional “spirit/sweet/bitter” recipe and worked perfectly.
Our favorite cocktail of the evening was the Espresso Tonic which combined bourbon, cold brew coffee, simple syrup and tonic water. The recipe is provided at the end of this article.
Fistful is only being released in Texas at this time and is expected to expand to other markets in early 2019. William Grant & Sons expects the bourbon to be so popular that some may choose to double fist it.
2 parts Fistful of Bourbon
¾ part Cold Brew Coffee
½ part Simple Syrup
2 parts Tonic Water
Combine ingredients (except tonic) and shake well. Strain over ice in a rocks glass. Top with tonic. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Josh Armendariz is Houston Food Finder’s lead freelance beer and cocktail writer. He can often be found on a stool at your favorite bar, sipping a hoppy craft beer and talking about the Astros with anyone who’ll lend an ear. Follow him on Instagram at @drinkwithjosh.
9/4/18, 3:01 p.m.: Editor’s note — this article was updated to clarify that Fistful of Bourbon can be called a “blended bourbon,” not just a blended whiskey.