Isn’t it cool when an accidental food and drink pairing occurs? We all might know that port and blue cheese or Chablis and oysters go hand in hand, but one of the joys of food and drink is finding a surprisingly good fit that you didn’t expect.

Let me introduce you to the match between bourbon and toasted marshmallows. A friend of mine shared this happy accident last summer, and I’ve only recently tried it myself, and I can honestly tell you… it was worth the wait!

With long summer evenings and backyard fire pits or campfires upon us, why not have a little “adult” indulgence?

“All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon” (insert southern drawl). Ask any producer of Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and he or she will likely quote you that. Even though it has Kentucky Straight on the label, it is a product of the United States and can be made anywhere in the USA. Kentucky is known for its fresh water on a limestone base, which is why so much of American bourbon is made in Kentucky. It makes it taste better.

So what makes bourbon… bourbon?

There are five basic requirements separating bourbon from whiskey:

  • The “mash bill” or blend must be at least 51 per cent corn
  • The barrels must be new, charred American oak, used only once
  • The whiskey must be aged for a minimum of two years in the barrel (to be labeled straight)
  • The “white dog” (clear distilled spirit) cannot be distilled higher than 160º proof and cannot go into the barrel any higher than 125º proof (divide the proof in half to get your alcohol by volume)
  •  No additional colour or flavour may be added

All the good stuff happens in the barrel. American oak tends to be intensely flavoured with sweet vanilla overtones known as lactones. Char the inside of the barrel and these flavours intensify further, not to mention this is where the spirit’s colour comes from. Finished bourbon has vanilla, smoky butterscotch, caramel, and a really nice sweetness about it.

Marshmallows, the other part of this “happy accident” are sugar, water, and gelatin, and are one of the earliest confections known to mankind. Most kids love them – in hot chocolate, Rice Krispie squares and s’mores, or toasted over a fire with all that gooey goodness. What’s not to like?

The toasty sweet caramel and burnt sugar, with a hint of smoke on the marshmallow, blends perfectly with the smoky vanilla and butterscotch flavours of the bourbon. Try Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey (about $40 CSPC +734590) or kick it up a notch with Woodford Reserve (around $75 CSPC +480624). Don’t cheap out on the marshmallows either, if you don’t make your own, a premium brand will do just fine, or a store brand as long as they are nice and fluffy!

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