Weller Tasting Event: J. Michael’s PRIME

I had the opportunity to attend a Weller tasting event hosted by a local restaurant in partnership with Sazerac.  A local whiskey Facebook group posted a link to the event and asked if anyone was going.  I typically don’t get to go to many of these things because they’re at odd times or are over an hour away from me.  I was surprised to see that not only was it occurring on my day off, but it was also at a restaurant only 12 minutes from my house!  I had to go.

I had never heard of this restaurant and probably never would have had it not been mentioned in the Atlanta Bourbon & Whiskey Society’s Facebook group.  The event cost $100 plus tax and gratuity and this got you a five course meal, hand crafted for the event with items not even on their menu, what appeared to be 1.5oz of Weller Special Reserve, Weller Antique, Weller 12, Weller CYPB and William Larue Weller.  Ho-ly balls.  Now, I’m not sure what you’re accustomed to paying for any of these pours, but around here, IF you can find a bar with them, you’re going to be paying a premium.  I know a local restaurant that has BTAC for $65+ PER POUR.  Just the bourbon was worth the entry fee AND you got a five course dinner.  This was a win-win for sure.

So let’s talk about the restaurant a bit.  The location was easy to get to with ample parking.  The interior had a very upscale yet rustic charm.  The owner was very active, going from table to table to chat with the guests and seemed very appreciative of everyone that attended.  There was a back patio overlooking the Spring foliage with tables if you wished to dine outside or possibly have an after dinner cigar with your drink (not sure if smoking was permitted outside, but one would assume so).  The bar area had an amazing selection for very reasonable prices.  In fact, I took the plunge and tried my very first taste of Pappy Van Winkle 15 year.  They had almost the full range of PVW, missing only the Rye and 23 year.  The 15 year set me back $50, but considering I will probably never find it for retail, I have no interest in paying the $950 secondary value and that I’ve only ever seen it for double the price at any place that even had it, I felt it was worth it to see what all the hubbub was about.  (Spoiler Alert:  While very good, I’d rather have had two or three pours of something else for the same price, but I needed to find out for myself.)

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Not only was there a great selection, they actually had it all in stock.

The Dinner and Drinks

We were sat down in a private area of the restaurant where they had all sorts of cheeses, nuts and smoked meats to snack on while we waited for dinner to start.  I sat down with a few people I had met in the bar prior to the event and we chatted about bourbon (duh), the event and where everyone was from, etc…

The first course was a sweet potato bourbon bisque with cinnamon and sugar croutons.  It was an excellent soup, smooth and creamy, almost dessert-like.  It was served alongside Weller Special Reserve, which I believe paired very well with the natural sweetness of the sweet potato.

The second course was a Bacon Wrapped Scallop with Bourbon Glaze on top of Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits and a Bourbon Cello Charred Pineapple that came with a Bourbon Pineapple Cello shot.  This was by far my favorite course of the night.  The sweet scallop with just a hint of bourbon, paired with the smokey cheese grits was heavenly.  The pineapple provided just the bit of acid that was needed to balance out the dish.  The shot of pineapple cello was fine, but not my cup of tea.  This dish was accompanied by Weller Antique 107.  This was the first time that I had the opportunity to try this (and everything following for that matter) and it was fantastic.  It had that wonderful Weller taste, with the higher proof to back it all up.  Being a fan of higher proof spirits, this was right up my alley and I would consider this a candidate for daily drinker if it weren’t so hard to find.

The third course was a Fried Chicken Cutlet on top of a a Scratch-Made Biscuit with “Drunken”-Mushrooms and a Spiced Honey.  Another fantastic course.  Who doesn’t like fried chicken?  The mushrooms were creamy and wonderful and the honey provided the perfect amount of sweetness to round out the dish.  Weller 12 came out with this round of food.  What I discovered here was that I had been chasing a bottle of Weller 12 since I first got into whiskey and now after having it, I can honestly say that for my palate, I’d rather have the Antique.  The lower proof of the Weller 12 just didn’t cut it for me and while it was a tasty pour, I was still wanting more of the Antique.  

The fourth course was a beautiful Skirt Steak over a bed of Fried Potatoes and Bourbon Peach Chutney, sprinkled with a bit of Fried Thyme.  This was another excellent plate.  Each bite of steak with a forkful of the potatoes and chutney made the perfect bite.  The flavors were well balanced and the steak was masterfully cooked.  With this course, we were served with Weller CYPB (Craft Your Perfect Bourbon).  It was probably our table’s second favorite of the night.  Even though it was only 90 proof, the flavor was fantastic.  I wish I had more time to sit down with this bottle and examine some if its intricacies.  For those unfamiliar, CYPB was a “crowd-sourced” bourbon where participants could vote on a website to determine how the bourbon was made.  This particular bottle was a wheated bourbon, aged 8 years at the top of the rick house and was supposed to be between 90 and 99 proof.  It was excellent and if you ever see one in the wild, pounce on it.

The fifth and final course was a Salted Caramel Pecan Bourbon Brownie with a Bourbon-Spiced Whip Cream served with a Bourbon Old Fashioned and Candied Orange Ice Cream.  The brownie was rich and indulgent with the salted caramel and pecan playing nicely together to form a fantastic bite.  The brownie was chewy with just the right amount of crisp on the crumb to make it quite delectable.  Dessert was served with the coveted William Larue Weller.  This was an amazing pour and my favorite of the night.  Everything great about Weller magnified into this one amazing bottle.  Spice with cherries and dark fruit made for a wonderful symphony of flavors that was not overly harsh, even at 125.7 proof.  If only I could get my hands on a bottle.

Bonus Round

After dinner, the owner came by to thank us all for coming and one of our table mates inquired about a bottle of Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel that was sitting on the top shelf of the bar unopened.  The owner said that they had someone visit Europe and brought it back for the restaurant.  After much back and forth and negotiating, we convinced him to open it for us and we all got to sample it.  While 128 proof, it drank much lower.  Personally, I thought this was better than the Pappy 15 I had earlier in the evening.  The flavors just sort of exploded in your mouth and then faded into sweet nothingness.  The nose was oak forward with orange and raisins.  The taste was similar to the nose with a very dry finish.  Overall a fantastic pour.

This was an amazing evening with new friends and great food.  The bourbon was fantastic, the setting was exceptional and it was minutes from home.  What more could I ask for?  I’ll be sure to head back to sample some more pours at the bar as well as attend any future whiskey events.  If you’re ever in the Canton, GA area looking for a fine dining experience with an amazing bourbon selection, J. Michael’s PRIME is the place to be.

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