By Tim Akimoff
Channel 2 News
2:49 PM AKDT, August 26, 2011
I first learned about bourbon during a camping trip to Fish Creek, just west of Missoula, Montana. Turns out that Montanans like their whiskey quite a bit, and an Oregon boy like me was far more familiar with high-potency, ulta-hopped craft beers from the Pacific Northwest.
Something about the smokey, sweet, maple-syrupy nature of good bourbon appealed to me there in the shadow of the rocky mountains, and I've been on a quest to try them all.
Bourbon is an American whiskey that hails, most generally, from Bourbon County in Kentucky. Though it doesn't have to come from within the county to bear the great name of bourbon. It's made with corn, for the most part, though bourbons can be made from a mixture of grains such as rye and wheat or malted barley.
Unlike some other American whiskeys, bourbon tends to feature a smokey and smooth texture from the charred barrels the liquor is aged in. But it can feature everything from bright, floral accents to dark fruit and spicy characteristics, depending on the distiller's preferences.
Bourbon is a great introduction to the world of whiskey, though it can be every bit as complex and tantalizing as Scotch.
When we first moved to Anchorage, we had three kids and no washing machine. This meant that Thursday nights were laundry nights at a little laundromat off of Fireweed Lane. Somewhere in between washing the whites and folding socks, we decided to head down the street and check out this Spenard Roadhouse we kept hearing about.
We began our trip around the bourbon world that night.
Spenard Roadhouse isn't your typical roadhouse. It's not uptight, upscale, but you're probably not going to find a Patrick Swayze/Dalton character at the door either.
What it does have is a really nice long bar with an assortment of drinks and something very, very special - Alaska's largest small-batch bourbon collection.
Most bars will have your standard assortment of popular bourbons, including Wild Turkey, Maker's Mark or Jim Beam. You can sip one of these or have a fine cocktail, but it's the same from bar to bar.
At Spenard Roadhouse, you can work your way through a list of more than 30 small-batch bourbons that line the shelf like a whose who of the whiskey world.
Ol' Pappy Van Winkle is there, along with Bookers, Blanton's, Russels Reserve and Hancock's President Reserve, along with many others that you may or may not have heard of.
If you're sitting at the bar, you may notice a plaque on the wall featuring gold-plated names of those who've achieved the great feat of drinking their way through the bourbon passport. The reward, aside from having your name along side others, like Sarah Palin, (not sure if it's the real one) on the plaque is a Spenard Roadhouse T-shirt and the satisfaction of having tried a few of the world's finest whiskeys.
If you were to plow through the bourbon passport in a single night, which they wouldn't let you do, you wouldn't really enjoy the experience of truly tasting bourbons.
You can try several bourbons per visit and string your visit out over several years, or you can take advantage of the bar's ever-changing bourbon flights to work your way through the passport, which you ask your server to retrieve at the beginning of every visit.
The bourbon flights feature three small pours of a themed bourbon grouping for the price of a regular pour. This allows you to get three stamps each time you visit and helps you make your way through the 30, or so, on the passport.
The current list is Kentucky on a Shoestring, which features Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks and the newly released Kirkland Brand. Think Costco. Or you can get the more high-octane Talking Turkey flight, which features Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Kentucky Spirit or American Honey.
That's six down in just two visits.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of pursuing the bourbon passport at Spenard Roadhouse is the ability to sit and talk to the knowledgeable staff about each whiskey and its unique features.
If you take your time and enjoy your trip around the bourbon world, your palate will be rewarded with a rich education, and you'll find yourself very knowledgeable next time you're faced with a huge choice of whiskeys to sip or mix into a cocktail.
So next time you find yourself in Spenard looking for something to do, belly up to the bar at the Spenard Roadhouse, ask for a bourbon passport, and tell them Anchorage After 5 sent you.
Copyright © 2013, KTUU-TV