On a sunny Saturday a few weeks ago I joined 70 other curious souls at a bourbon tasting and

barbecue cohosted by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Liquor Corporation.

Seventeen different fine and rare bourbons were set up at three tasting stations in Waterfront Station, while a long table of crispy chicken wings, delicious cornbread, and creamy coleslaw provided sustenance for the masses. Robbyn’s Grill supplied the food and their own signature barbecue sauce, while Klondike Rib & Salmon, Antoinette’s, and Earl’s also put forward their best sauce for our benefit.

We tasters circled, savoured, compared and contrasted, noted how the bourbon’s fl avour changed when taken with barbecue, and then repaired to the temporary liquor store to purchase our favourites. It was hard work, sipping bourbons on a hot afternoon, but we managed, with the help of gulps of water and repeat visits to the barbecue table.

My favourite offering was the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked — rich, smoky, and deep-fl avoured; it’s a great winter’s drink. We learned that bourbons are made from 50 to 70 per cent corn mash, with the remaining content consisting of wheat or rye. Those made with wheat tend to be lighter, and better for summer consumption, while those with rye are deeper and more robust.

Soon most, if not all, of the bourbons we sampled that afternoon will be available at the Whitehorse Liquor Store, in addition to the current stock of Basil Haydens, Booker’s Bourbon Small Batch, Bulleit Frontier, George Dickel Tennessee Whisky, Jim Beam, Knob Creek 9 Year Old Bourbon, and Wild Turkey 81 Proof.

We were lucky enough to have advice from bourbon specialist David Michiels, who flew in from Calgary for the event. He gave a couple of brief talks, and then circulated amongst us, dispensing bon mots and profound insights. Here are some: “Have one serving, and then don’t open the bottle for a few months. You drink better, you drink less.” “Sharing it with people is the best part of bourbon.” “At my house I only pour half an ounce. One ounce is Hollywood.” “Drink for the weather, not for what you want. If you don’t like a bourbon, you’re drinking it at the wrong time of year.”

I asked him what bourbon would be best in a cocktail, and he said, “Whatever you like. Experiment.”

So I did, with Maker’s Mark, a lighter-style corn and wheat bourbon, which a friend in Seattle just happened to have in her cabinet when I visited recently. I added Pineau des Charentes, Prosecco, and a dash of homemade rhubarb bitters to celebrate the first fruit showing up in Yukon gardens. (If you can’t fi nd Pineau des Charentes, substitute white vermouth, ice wine, or an Oloroso sherry.) Here’s to a long hot summer!

Watch for more tasting events co-hosted by Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Liquor Corporation this summer.