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Bourbon House (NOLA)

As a fan of Reece and the work she does with her Flavour Camp session, I could not walk away from New Orleans without trying Bourbon House; to test what I have learned. Although we aren’t in Kentucky, there is a close relationship with New Orleans and Bourbon, as America’s only native spirit.

Kentucky may be the birthplace of bourbon, but New Orleans played a key role in developing the aging process that has since propelled bourbon to what we know it to be.

The story goes that this was an unplanned happenstance. Made in Kentucky and transported to New Orleans downriver, the stored bourbon was set to drift in barrels for transport. Each charred on the inside to prevent contamination, as the barrels once stored items the likes of fish or nails. The travel was 5 months and the results were a hit. Kentucky distillers did not clue in to what was happened until New Orleans liquor purveyors asked for more “red liquor”, instead of the “white liquor” they were shipping. They would learn that not only did the journey colour the bourbon, but it also affected the taste. And thus we have rise of aging bourbon.

Bourbon House offers over 250 American Whiskeys, and are home to the city’s most extensive collection. Many of which are limited edition and rare releases.

A homage shown in the wrap around glass shelf that greets you at the revolving door entrance with pouring options lining the entire length of their self-seating bar.

With so many bottles I have never seen and many more to choose from, from their wood bound menu it can be overwhelming. So I relied on the ease of ordering one of their flights. As a tourist I went for their Regional Flight, three one ounce pours, where they bring the bottle in front of you and pour it into a jigger to measure.

In the order of recommended drinking, I started with the Sugarfield from Baton Rouge. A Straight Bourbon Whiskey at 104 proof. Honey on the nose with warm baked notes of cake and pecan. A sweeter drink reminiscent of its name.

Atelier Vie, New Orleans was a Louisiana rice whiskey at 90 proof. It had a heavier caramel on the nose, as a more viscous spirit. Less sweet, more baked with floral syrupy notes. It drank and left the palate clean.

The Left Bank was also from New Orleans, the strongest of the 3 offerings. Distilled in Kentucky and bottled in Louisiana. Nutty on the nose and a lot more medicinal on the palate.

To be honest I came in hungry so actually started with food, with the intention to drink. Knowing, my stomach would be empty and the drinks potent.

Naturally I had to get a dish with bourbon in it, considering my surroundings. This was the Bourbon Glazed Shrimp with bourbon cane syrup glazed Gulf shrimp and New Orleans-style BBQ sauce over garlic toast. At this point, this was the fanciest restaurant I have been to in New Orleans so far and the plates spoke to this. The toast was unfortunately at the bottom of the dish and acted more like a sponge that soaked up all the excess gravy. This blended sauce was satisfying tasty on the first bite, like a lobster bisque but it grew salty and heavy and far too much too fast. It drowned the shrimp and consumed the bread with an excessive amount of richness. Once cooled it congealed and became more like a dip.

Looking for relief, the Asian in me wanted rice, but seeing as we were in the French Quarter, I asked for some bread instead. Served as a whole loaf in a branded bag, this was your regular half baguette. Dry, crusty, would have been nicer warm and toasted.

Overall this was a steep price at $16 a plate for 4 shrimp, not all of which were large. However, familiar and very Vancouver, BC Canada adjacent (where I am from).

And still on the look out for more meaningful vegetable options I went for the appetizer of Crispy Brussel Sprout, as my usual go to and a vegetable I enjoy and always gravitate towards on any menu. Served in a cast iron dish for $12 a plate, this not only was priced like Vancouver, but tasted like something the city would come up with. The top sprouts were crispy and light, the ones at the bottom heavy and dense from the overflow of crystallized hot sauce honey. I found myself pricking each bud to avoid excess dressing. Once again this was much too much sauce and it drown out any natural flavours. I did like the toppings of Creole pecans and goat cheese, which felt very southern and timely of the space. And once again the first bites were the best where the crunchy vegetable was sweet, salty, and spicy all rolled into one. This was a nice side and breath of fresh air from the heavy shrimp.

In short this was a lovely property, with a nice draw and a great way to showcase some of Louisiana’s extensive history. Come for the drinks, but I would pass on the would-be fine dining pricing.

Bourbon House
144 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States
+1 504-522-0111

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