Tasting Video #17

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When it comes to cocktails, no place loves Benedictine so much as New Orleans. Which made legendary New Orleans bartender Chris Hannah the perfect person to meet up with to taste three tiny bottles – Benedictine from the 1960s, B&B from the 1970s, and B&B from the 1980s. After we were done tasting, Chris mixed up a Vieux Carre with the rest of the bottle – watch that here!

Prefer to read than watch? Check out the transcript under the video.

TRANSCRIPT

Teaser

Chris: Mmm, this is really really awesome. Do you have any more of those? Is that the only one?

After Opening

Tammy: Hello and welcome to my Tiny Bottles, the project I’m exploring my grandmother’s legacy of miniature liquor bottles, one tiny bottle at a time. I’m your host, Tammy Coxen, and I’m here in New Orleans with the legendary New Orleans bartender Chris Hannah.

Tammy: Chris, can you introduce yourself, tell us a little about yourself?

Chris: Yeah, I’m Chris Hannah, New Orleans bartender. I’m a head barter and partner at Jewel of the South and a partner at Manolito as well.

Tammy: And Manolito, what kind of bar is that?

Chris: Manoliti is our Cuban bar.

Tammy: That sounds fun. I got to go to Cuba two months ago and it was great. So I look forward to that. I’ve had your drinks at Jewel of the South and they are fantastic.

Chris: Thank you.

Tammy: So I reached out to you because you reached out to me. So when I started my tiny bottles, I was following people on Instagram and I followed you and you sent me a message saying “oh tiny bottles are those for sale?” So what was your interest? Are you a collector yourself?

Chris: I’m a slight collector, but I also saw specific bottles and so when you see something like Benedictine when you’re a bartender in New Orleans you’re obviously gonna gravitate to that. So I’m actually happy you brought these three bottles here today.

Tammy: Yeah, that’s awesome. That was what I was thinking. As I talked about in the episode that is played just before this one will play, Benedictine is liqueur that has a long history specific to New Orleans in terms of use in cocktails.

Chris: Very true.

Tammy: And so it really seemed like this was the place to come and taste it and that you would be a great person to taste it with.

Chris: Sounds excellent.

Tammy: Have you tasted many vintage liqueurs and spirits? Do you have background with this?

Chris: No, I wouldn’t say that many. Mostly straight spirits like whiskies.

Tammy: Yeah.

Chris: And Cognac.

Tammy: Which definitely tend to stand up a little bit better. Well, I think this bottle…

Chris (pointing at bottle closure): This top is amazing.

Tammy: Isn’t it really cool the way it’s got these little flanges? I have a bottle of Cointreau that’s like the same size has the same top and I think probably comes from the same era.

Tammy: So I am guessing this comes from the 1960s. It’s got the British proof, so it says 73 proof.

Chris: That’s awesome.

Tammy: Which is the British equivalent of 86 proof, which was the proof of Benedictine before 1978.

Chris: Nice.

Tammy: And then I did a bunch of looking online to try to match it up with old examples of bottles. And so I’m saying 60s, it could be 70s. Definitely before 78. What do you think?

Chris: I think it’s before the seventys.

Tammy: Yeah, that’s what I think.

Chris: Because look at that top.

Tammy: Yeah, it’s so cute!

Tammy: Well, I have really no idea how to open it so we’re just gonna try. (Tammy pulls up one of the metal tabs, Chris leans in to look) Okay, so it is kind of what you would expect. Got a little tab. Uh-oh. And now that just looks like a little paper flap in there. Do you think we’re supposed to turn this? Yeah? No. I think we have to peel it off.

(top pops off suddenly)

Chris: Okay, nice. Is that like a little cork?

Tammy: It’s like just a little piece of cardboard.

Chris: Yeah.

Tammy: It had a very satisfying little pop when it came off. It’s a little corkish, yeah. Alright. So, let’s go ahead. I’m going to pour just a little. You told me you want to make a Vieux Carre, so…

Chris: Oh, yeah, I don’t want to be stingy, though.

Tammy: Well, you know, we can always come back to it.

Tammy: So, we do the modern one to compare it to, but let’s go ahead and kind of try this one on its own. Do you want to pour some of the modern one into another glass now so they’re kind of the same?

Chris: Sure.

Tammy: Got to make sure we know which is which though. Alright.

(Tammy pours modern Benedictine from a wine glass into tasting glasses)

Chris: Ooh, nice.

Tammy: Alright, so this is the modern one. Darker color. Pretty thin. I’m just kind of looking at the texture because I think you did the same thing I did. When we poured the old one it seemed much more viscous.

Chris: The old one has almost more of a bouquet. I can smell it better as well.

Tammy: It does smell really good.

Chris: Yeah, a little honey and baking spices. The new one’s nice, but I’m loving that this is still holding up.

Tammy: It’s funny because the new one is only 80 proof and this is 86 but I get more raw alcohol off the new sample, I get more volatiles. And often with these old bottles it feels like the volatiles blow off and when we take our first whiff doesn’t smell like anything. But this one has a lot going on right out of the gate.

Chris: So are we tasting the new one first or the old one?

Tammy: Old one. Taste the old one. I was just curious about the viscosity, so I wanted to get that going.

(They taste and ponder)

Chris: Oh, that’s lovely.

Tammy: I kind of wonder if we should have tasted the new one first to have a benchmark.

Chris: This is really… so I’m just thinking that how much better Vieux Carres were back in the 60s.

Tammy: Right, it’s funny because you think about that…

Chris: Mmm, this is really, really awesome. Do you have any more of those, or is that only one?

Tammy: It’s the only one I’ve found so far. I don’t know what’s in the collection, right?

Chris: This is excellent. This is definitely gonna make a difference in a Vieux Carre, in a La Louisianne.

Tammy: Yeah. And the Vieux Carre is just like a bar spoon worth, right? Just a little bit.

Chris: I do like, go up to a half. Short half.

Tammy: All right, so I’m gonna compare it to the modern one so we really know what’s going on.

Tammy (still tasting the old one): So… I’m getting like a sharpness here that I guess I wasn’t expecting, I don’t know, like almost like a little acid bite.

Tammy: You can pour a little more. I’m still on the old one. You just finished yours. You’re like, I know what this is, I’m not going to waste any time.

Tammy: It’s definitely got this real thick viscosity this mouth feel. A little bit of the dusty bottle taste that people who’ve been following the project will know I find in these bottles a lot.

Chris: I think this is held up 100%. This is really lovely.

Tammy: Okay. going to compare it.

(They taste the modern Benedictine samples)

Chris: It’s a little software. It’s always a lovely spirit, but the older one, it’s hanging on more on the tongue after each sip.

Tammy: Yeah, it’s really punchy. Like, you know it’s there. One of the things that I like about Benedictine in cocktails is that it adds a ton of complexity but it doesn’t fight. Like Chartreuse will add a ton of complexity but you know it’s there. Where Benedictine just kind of like blends in with the other ingredients and accents them and makes them better. I think the old one could still do that, but it definitely is going to make itself known a little more.

Chris: Yeah. I mean, it’s just like a little more velvety.

Tammy: Yeah that mouth feel especially

Chris: That would mean B&B back in the day was would be a little different as well, right?

Tammy: I guess so! And we don’t have a modern example of B&B, but we do have two old examples.

Chris: Awesome.

Tammy: So this was actually the first bottle in this line that I opened, so this is Bottle #17. And it is, B&B from, I think, the 70s. So definitely pre-78 because again that’s when the proof changed. But it’s like totally archaic. It’s labeled as 1/16th of a pint. You can tell a lot about the date based on the tax strip. And this one… it’s annoying with minis because in full-size bottles if it has a less than half a pint, like if it has a size measure on the end of the tax strip then that means it’s from before 1960. But with the minis they just kept the same tax strips from 1940 to 1977.

Tammy: So for sure we know it’s 1940 to 1977 but beyond that I don’t know, my guess is 70s.

Chris: yeah for sure I do think (pointing to Benedictine bottle) I do think that one’s older. Just look at the top, you know?

Tammy: Yeah, I mean, the labels change too, right? So that definitely implies older on that one. But yeah, it, so it should have something a lot the old Benedictine mixed in with some brandy. And probably the brandy that they’re using has changed.

Chris: Yeah, it actually says the brandy on that label. Fecamp?

Tammy: Well, Fecamp is where the Palais is.

Chris: Oh yeah, yeah, that’s right. I’ve actually been there.

Tammy: You have?

Chris: Yeah, it’s beautiful.

Tammy: I have not, but is on my list of places to go.

(Chris and Tammy sort out their glasses so samples don’t get mixed up)

Tammy: Okay going in. (Tammy opens and pours from the 1970s B&B bottle) Also a very satisfying noise on that one. Alright. So this should be not as sweet. Because it’s been mixed down, you know, it’s added some Brandy to it so it’s not a full-on liqueur anymore.

Chris: Bottled cocktail.

Tammy: Bottled cocktail! And that is actually what I talk about when I talked about this bottle on the show. I talked about it as one of the original cocktails, although Heublein was doing things with bottled cocktails well before B&B came out.

Tammy: You get the brandy nose on this one.

Chris: Yeah.

Tammy: But if there’s baking spice or any other stuff we picked up on the first one, it’s hiding. What do you think?

Chris: Yeah, you’re right. Maybe we’ll find it on the palate.

Tammy: Maybe.

Chris: Yeah, little bit. Yeah, definitely.

Tammy: I almost get a little more of the Benedictine flavor that I was expecting from the first one, from the oldest one, that I kind of missed. What I associate with modern Benedictine. There are other things going on there, but it missed that and this has a little more of that herbal note that I kind of associate with it.

Tammy: That’s good. I don’t drink much B&B out of a bottle, so I don’t know how to compare it to the modern packaged stuff. But I think the really interesting thing here is going to be to see how did it change between that one and this one (Tammy holds up second bottle of B&B). So let’s get this going.

Tammy: This is great. I have a lot of bottles. There’s probably 300 to 400 bottles.

Chris: That’s awesome.

Tammy: So it’s a lot of things to open and write about and talk about and taste. So the fact that I get to go through three in one tasting, that’s a good day.

Chris: That is a good day. Salut. So, on the nose, what do you think?

(Tammy opens and pours Bottle #51)

Tammy: Different nose.

Chris: Different, yeah it is different.

Tammy: And is that like, that’s the difference on the proof? So lower proof, so maybe not as many volatiles blowing off, not as much alcohol right there.

Tammy: This is the newer one. Before, 1995 because the label changed in 95, and that’s about what I got on that one. But yeah, I feel like I smelled the brandy in the older B+B a lot. And this one… it’s just not as aromatic a brandy. I’m sure it changed. I’m sure what they were using changed.

Chris: It’s still just really great that they’re both holding up, since you only have one, so you can have this taste.

(Tammy & Chris take a sip of the newer B&B)

Tammy: Huh! That one’s got some pepper.

Chris. Yeah. And it’s a little lighter. For me. But that’s funny about the pepper.

Tammy: Yeah, it’s super peppery! That’s not a flavor I associate with Benedictine at all.

Chris: Yeah, that’s funny though. Yeah. I wonder what baking spices they were doing during that decade?

Tammy: Right, I mean they say of course the recipe goes back to the 1500s and it’s got one of those totally fake back stories. But you know, we know, 28 ingredients and they will say, you know, this has been the recipe forever, but was it really? We don’t know.

Chris; The Palais is amazing. I even got in the water as well. It’s a funny rocky beach. It’s all rocks.

Tammy: Nice!

Chris: And I was like, I’ve got to get in the water.

Chris: I want to taste that older one just one more time.

Tammy: The older B&B or…

Chris: Yeah, that one.

Tammy: there’s the older B&B for you. (picking up Benedictine bottle) Yeah, I mean we have to finish drinking this one today because we can’t reseal.

Chris: I know, look at that.

Tammy: Look at this, like there was no keeping anything with these little foil pull-offs. But I think there could be enough there for a Vieux Carre.

Chris: Oh definitely. But Neil definitely has to taste them.

Tammy: Yeah, definitely. So, I should say that we are in an office above Cure, one of the great New Orleans cocktail bars, and so thank you to Neil Bodenheimer for giving us a space to record the tasting today. And Neil will also be appearing on a tasting soon.

Chris: My good friend Neil Bodie.

Tammy: Yes. All right, well, Chris, this was fantastic.

Chris: This is amazing.

Tammy: I’m so glad I could share these with you.

Chris: Thank you.

Tammy: So you asked originally about wanting the bottles themselves. And I don’t know if you like them for the fact that they’re bottles or for what’s in them. But in fact, I don’t need to own 300 to 400 bottles. So I actually do gift the bottles to the person I tasted them with.

Chris: Oh, that’s amazing. Oh, that’s the best.

Tammy: So these are now yours to add to your collection.

Chris: I had no idea that was coming. Thank you so much.

Tammy: You’re welcome. You’re welcome. So if people want to find you online, where should they look for you?

Chris: Instagram @count_hannah. I don’t do Facebook that much but Chris Hannah on Facebook.

Tammy: And then Jewel of the South?

Chris: jewelnola.com and then manolitonola.com

Tammy: All right, so we will put those in the show notes so you can find those. And of course, if you want to find me, you can do that at mytinybottles.com or you can follow me on all your social media at @mytinybottles. Definitely go back and read or listen or watch the episodes about these individual bottles and kind of hear what their story was. And then we bring them all together here, so you can do that there.

Tammy: Well, cheers.

Chris: Salut! This was awesome. Thank you.

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