The Pourhouse, Gastown, Vancouver with Brenna & Devin

IMG_20150515_105924On Wednesday I flew in to Vancouver for work, and last night I met up with my sister and brother-in-law who live out here. I haven’t had a chance to visit in two years, so a bit of a fest was in order.

I had been to The Pourhouse my last visit to Vancouver, but we’d done it as sort of a crawl. This time I wanted to really enjoy the experience of their expertise. And their expertise is cocktails.

Longtime readers know I’m not a huge fan of flavoured whiskies: the flavourings taste fake and the whiskey is of a quality you’d want to add fake apple or maple or pumpkin chemicals to. But cocktails aren’t just flavourings added to booze, at least not when they’re done properly. There’s a balancing act. There’s genuine food science in balancing sweet notes to bitter, smoke to sour, alcohol to other esters and flavours. You can read recipes on making drinks and maybe get the gist, but there’s a finesse and quality that comes from knowing what you’re doing.

And The Pourhouse knows what they’re doing.

IMG_20150514_195300Without further ado, Round 1: Bourbon Cocktails. For this round we each ordered a drink we thought would be good from their ingredients, the description in the menu and suggestions from Elle, who made sure we were looked after. (left to right – Seelbach, Silver Spur, Brown Derby) We took notes on our own drinks but shared them afterwards for more cocktail enjoyment,

Brenna – Brown Derby (bourbon, honey syrup, grapefruit juice)
colour – cantaloupe in a rock glass
nose – citrus upfront but with strong caramel undertones
taste – grapefruit campfire, citrus at the front but all bourbon in the throat

Devin – Silver Spur (bourbon, line, elderflower, grapefruit bitters)
colour – light amber in a coupe glass
nose – sweet & citrus with warm bourbon undertones
IMG_20150514_212507taste – well poised and balanced, warm bourbon start, sweet elderflower mids, finish with slight sour bitter lemon

Simon – Seelbach (bourbon, cointreau, aromatic & creole bitters, sparkling wine, citrus rind)
colour – bright salmon, lemon rind a nice contrast
nose – very bright, citrus takes a lot of space but there’s something new to my nose in here
taste – bitters evident, wine mellows but bourbon sweet is there

Next up, we wanted to take advantage of one of The Pourhouse’s strengths – their barstaff’s knowledge. Billy, our excellent server, sent over Rhett, the bar manager and fantastic bartender. He talked a bit about how he sources some of the rarer booze they have available (hint: it involves dead people, seriously). We figured, since Rhett knows his shit, we’d tell him a few things we like and a few we don’t like and see if he could come up with some interesting drinks for us.

IMG_20150514_203241So Round 2: Bartender’s Choice. (left rear: Brenna’s personal invention, right rear: Devin’s Boulevardier, front: Simon’s Bobby Burns). Very excited to try some somewhat personalized cocktails!

Brenna – apricot liqueur, Evan Williams single barrel bourbon & bitters
colour – fleshy blood oranges
nose – subtle, slight smoke
taste – sweet & slightly floral on the lips, warm & hot & smoky as it mellows, perfectly balanced

Devin – Boulevardier (bourbon, sweet vermouth, campari (Negroni w/ bourbon instead of gin)
colour – wine gum
nose – pure citrus, expressed orange, classic negroni-ish
taste – classic Boulevardier – slightly bitter with herbal notes and classy clean citrus finish

Simon – Bobby Burns (Ardbeg scotch whisky, red vermouth, Bénédictine liqueur)
colour – very light plum
nose – surprising smoke, earth, herbs
taste – so light & smoky! perfect bitter back end

So thanks for that, Rhett! Great choices.

IMG_20150514_211034For Round 3: Straight Bourbons, Neat. I picked three of the Jim Beam small batch line, (front left: Simon’s Booker’s, front right: Devin’s Baker’s, rear: Brenna’s Basil Hayden), based on what I know about their preferences and my own wanting to try Booker.

Brenna – Basil Hayden 8y
colour – golden caramel
nose – sweet & buttery – straight up, i would wear this as perfume
neat – if butter & brown sugar were on fire, in a good way, brassy
splash – smokier but mellower, more vanilla

Devin – Baker’s 7y
colour – Jurassic Park amber (dinos anyone?)
nose – strong alcohol at the start, finishes with hints of vanilla & cinnamon
neat – high front, leather, light smoke

Simon – Booker’s
colour – lovely deep brass
nose – maple, brown sugar, smoke, wood
neat – tingle burn, high proof, wood remains, tongue numbing – full on POW!
finish – tactile, lemony

All in all, a lovely evening, although I would recommend having slightly more than a couple of tacos before pitting yourself against The Pourhouse’s powerful drinks. They can take care of you there too – last time we visited we put a good dent in their snacks menu too.

I highly recommend you stop in at The Pourhouse if you’re in Vancouver. They’ll look after you.

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