Pick Your Own: Fielding’s Local Kitchen Features Three Exclusive Bourbons
It’s not uncommon these days for a bar or restaurant to have one bottling of a bourbon or whiskey that owners pick themselves. It is, however, unusual to have three from the same label. That is the case right now at Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar at 26400 Kuykendahl in Tomball (just outside the boundaries of The Woodlands).
“Woodford Reserve came to me and asked if I’d like to pick my own barrel,” says owner Cary Attar. Instead, he ended up choosing three and says Fielding’s Local Kitchen is currently the only restaurant in the United States to have that many private barrels of Woodford Reserve.
“I flew up to Kentucky with the master distiller and another gentleman. They had about 10 different barrels of bourbon and you narrow it down to three barrels that you want,” Attar explained. “You’re blending, blending and blending. So, I came up with these three and they asked, ‘Which one do you like the best?” Everyone in the group had a favorite, so Attar bought all three.
Ultimately, the selection process came down to what Attar liked. “I’d be lying to you if I said it was all that sophisticated. I worked with the cellar masters and would say, ‘It’s too sharp’ or ‘I want it sweeter’ and they’d use a different barrel and add. A barrel higher up in the house is higher in alcohol and one that’s lower in the house is lower in alcohol and sweeter. They knew, and after three days of that—you’re supposed to spit [while tasting], but you’re drinking,” said Attar with a grin.
Tasting through a flight with Attar, the distinct flavor profile of each was easy to detect. Fielding’s #1 has citrus notes with balancing sweetness (described as “dark fruit” in the menu’s tasting notes) and spiciness on the back end. Fielding’s #2 sports much more of the bracing character of the barrel, with aromatics reminiscent of Angostura bitters and baking spices. “I think this barrel came from higher up [from the aging racks] so I think this bourbon extracted more of the wood flavors. That’s why I like it,” said Attar.
Flights are served with a setup that includes Fiji brand water and a dropper. It’s customary to add just a bit of water to bourbon to allow it to “open up.” A scant amount of dilution—just one or two drops of water—release nuances in aroma and flavor that might otherwise be obscured by the alcohol—and from the bourbon being cramped up in barrels and bottles for so long without fresh air. Fielding’s #3, especially, benefited from the water, going from nutty and malty to suddenly revealing spice and cherry notes that weren’t present before.
“We also serve our bourbons with ice because Americans drink ice with their bourbon. I certainly do!” said Attar. Fieldings #1 and #3 have been top sellers. Fielding’s #2 is sippable enough, but it would likely be exquisite in an Old Fashioned.
Each bourbon barrel holds about 50 gallons. Attar kept the barrels. He’s not sure what he’s going to do with them yet, but they might end up adorning the entrance of Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar as décor.
“Before this, I was a Scotch drinker,” said Attar. “I hadn’t drank that much straight-up bourbon and now I’m in this bourbon phase.”
It’s a good phase to be in. A flight of one-ounce pours of all three Fielding’s Woodford Reserve selections is $34; a flight of half-ounce pours is $18.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.