Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Wild Turkey Associate Distiller and Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame member Eddie Russell at The Drake Hotel over (what else?) bourbon cocktails to discuss the debut of Wild Turkey 81 in Canada.

Bourbon has been experiencing popularity as of late – something Russell contributes both to mixologists showcasing the spirit and a changing demographic. “In our industry it seemed like we only promoted to 40-year-old males and older, and it was like ‘Why aren’t we promoting to women?’ ‘Well this is a man’s drink,’” he said of the attitudes that once surrounded bourbon.

Being a relatively inexperienced bourbon drinker, I asked Russell what makes bourbon different from other brown spirits like scotch whiskey and Irish whiskey. The differences, he said, are just as much geographical as they are taste. Bourbon must be made in the United States (generally Kentucky) while Scotch is made in Scotland and Irish whiskey in Ireland. Interestingly, Jack Daniels is often placed in the same category as bourbon but is actually in a class of its own as it must be produced in Tennessee and is always filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Unlike the other brown spirits, bourbon must be aged in new charred oak barrels, aged for no less than two years, and have no added colouring or flavour in order to create an all-natural spirit.

When it comes to flavour pairings, Russell is more of a on-ice kind of man but told me that lemonade, vanilla, nuts, honey, citrus, and maple work well because they highlight bourbon’s natural flavours. With that in mind, The Drake Hotel has created two cocktails perfect for the colder months using Wild Turkey’s 81 bourbon (which was created with mixing in mind), and were kind enough to provide the recipes below. Sip and enjoy!

Brown Butter Old Fashioned
Brown butter infused Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon
Maple Syrup
Cigar + chocolate tincture 

Cedar infused Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon
Apple brandy
Fernet Branca
Apple liqueur
Maple syrup 

~ Caitlyn Holroyd