Sit Down with @BeautyandtheBourbon

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It’s no secret that wine is kind of my thang. I love sharing my journey as I continue digging into the endless world of wine, but with that, I want my little blog space to be a place where we “meet” a lot of really cool people, with expertise that I don’t have. So, Elsewhere, meet Laura. Also a sign language interpreter, and yes, we have the same name…not confusing at all. Laura Reidy, aka @BeautyandtheBourbon, was actually my best friend in my sign language interpreting program. We had similar stories, and have always shared a love of introducing people to quality drinks and knowledge. Laura R. is based out of Los Angeles, where she displays her many talents as an actress, interpreter, and bartender, the latter at APL Restaurant (go visit her!). She loves knowing the stories behind the bottle, developing original cocktails, and sharing her knowledge to empower the everyday consumer- whether they be on the other side of her bar, or the screen.

I reached out to Laura R. as someone who really does not know much at all about whiskey. Much like wine, I find it to be a world of nuanced and vast information, which let’s face it, can be really intimidating. Add on the layer that it’s often seen more as a “man’s drink,” and it’s easy to just pass and go with what you know. But we like to get out of our comfort zone here at Elsewhere, especially when we have badass ladies leading us. So without further ado, let’s get schooled by Laura Reidy.

Can you explain how Bourbon differs from Whiskey?

Whiskey is the general spirit category. This is broken down into sub-categories that each have their own rules and regulations. For example, Scotch must be made from malted barley, rye whiskey must be made from at least 51% rye, and other whiskeys can be made from a combination of multiple grains. There are certain Federal regulations that make Bourbon different from whiskey. As Bourbon is America’s spirit, the government put some regulations on it many years ago. First off, Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. It does NOT need to be made in the state of Kentucky. Bourbon needs to be made with at least 51% corn. It needs to be aged in brand new charred American oak barrels.

What’s a good starter bourbon/whiskey for someone who doesn’t normally drink it?

This question gets a little tricky since it’s all based around palate preferences. I typically would answer Basil Hayden as a good starter bourbon for those who aren’t as familiar with whiskey. It’s lighter in color, bottled at 80 proof which is closer to other spirits’ strength, and has a more open flavor profile of vanilla and caramel with a very subdued “whiskey burn,” or that feeling in your throat where you can feel the whiskey go all the way to your stomach. In Kentucky, they like to call that feeling a “Kentucky Hug” because the bourbon is hugging you from the inside out. Although if someone is used to drinking more Mezcal, for example, I might start them out with an Islay Scotch, which shares the smokiness quality because of it’s peating process when the scotch is being made. At the end of the day it’s all about your palate. Whether you prefer fruity, smoky, oak-y, brown sugar, really almost anything, you can find a whiskey that matches that flavor profile. It’s what tastes good to you. There’s a whiskey out there for everyone.

What is your personal go-to cocktail?

I love a good Old Fashioned. The problem is that not everyone makes them the way I like, so unless I know the bar is great (and won’t add fake/dyed maraschino cherries to my drink) I stick to making them at home. I do also enjoy a great whiskey smash, especially during the hot summer months. The smash is a very classic cocktail that utilizes mint, sugar, and a little bit of lemon to balance the whiskey. It’s delicious and refreshing. If you add some fresh fruit as well, whatever is in season at the time, it’s easy to keep coming back for more and play with new flavor throughout the year.

What was your inspiration for BeautyandtheBourbon?

I have always enjoyed drinking whiskey although I didn’t have the same appreciation for it as I do now. There is a vast and deep history to the delicious aged liquid I’ve come to know and love. A Jack and Coke still has its time and place, but I’m thankful this experience has expanded my palate and shown me new worlds. I set out with BeautyandtheBourbon on Instagram as a way for me to put myself out there and try new things. Since I still work as a bartender in California, it’s helpful for me to know what’s on the shelves behind me, and these past couple of years have given me quite an education to be able to pass along to my guests. I love sharing the information and stories I’ve collected over the many years of learning about whiskey, often from the source. Not everyone will have had the opportunity to speak directly with master distillers or travel to where the barrels are being made and charred. I’m happy to pass along anything that is going to make someone a more educated consumer.

 The thing I’ve always found fascinating about spirits and alcohol in general is the idea that it’s someone’s life work that you get to share in. For whiskey, there are farmers out there growing the grains that then get transported and milled. There are people who have dedicated their lives to making barrels. There are a multitude of people who watch and make sure everything is going smoothly from the kernel to the bottle and then the bottle to whatever shelf you picked it up from. Hundreds of people come together to make something that we get to enjoy with friends and family. That’s pretty incredible. I’m just lucky to have the small part in it that I do.

…Cheers to THAT, my name-twin friend! I could not agree more about the history, work, and stories involved in each bottle of whatever we may drink. I’m so glad that we got to touch on something new, and I for one am inspired to wade into the world of whiskey. Maybe with a whiskey flight somewhere, to explore the nuances of different bottles, or that whiskey smash that sounds so fantastic. I hope you feel the same way, now go get you a Kentucky Hug!

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As a Scout & Cellar Wine Consultant and full time Sign Language Interpreter, Laura believes in truly loving what you do every day. After leaving the actress life in LA, she moved to Nashville four years ago, and continues to find more that she loves about the city. Community is key to Laura, so don’t be surprised if she cooks you a meal, pours you a glass, and dives into deep conversation; you'll be friends in no time.