When it comes to bourbon in Kentucky, Edward Lee knows his brown water. Chef and owner of Louisville’s 610 Magnolia and Milkwood Restaurant, he features a healthy roster of America’s native spirit on his menus, holds an impressive personal collection of rare and vintage bourbons, and even plans to open a downtown whiskey bar in the near future. For him, there’s nothing better than a glass of bourbon neat (or on the rocks) to cap off a night. “People always pair desserts with something sweet like ice wine, which I’ve never understood,” he says. “The last thing I want with something sweet is something more sweet.” For his twist on classic bread pudding, Sweet Potato Cornbread Pudding, he looks to bourbons that are less aggressive, food-friendly, and whose tamped down sweetness play off the savory aspects of the dish. “With dessert, I want a bourbon that’s smoother, rounder, more balanced, and more elegantly finished,” he says. Hear, hear! And make ours a double.
We asked the Louisville chef to share his picks for the best bourbons to pair with dessert.
1. Michter’s US*1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon
“This relatively new bourbon tends to be more accessible with food, unlike the more aggressive classic bourbons. It’s a little sweet, balanced, and soft on the palate.”
2. Angel’s Envy
“Smooth as velvet, with soft edges, hints of maple and vanilla, and with caramel red and tawny notes from aging in port barrels.”
3. Noah’s Mill
“Bottled barrel strength, it tends to be very high in alcohol, but is nicely balanced with leather and coffee notes, so it doesn’t taste hot. I like to finish a meal with a high-proof bourbon to battle the food coma.”
4. Jefferson’s Chef’s Collaboration
“A collaboration I worked on with the distiller that’s a mix of bourbon and rye with a smooth finish that pairs well with more savory desserts.”
5. W.L. Weller 12 year
“It’s kind of an insider secret that if you can’t get Pappy Van Winkle 12 year, you get Weller 12 year. This is a wheated bourbon that’s really elegant. It starts out tantalizingly sweet with flavors of butterscotch and then drifts off to a nice hay, leather taste.”