5 Pecan Pie-Perfect Bourbons

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon Courtesy of Buffalo Trace Distillery
By Megan Krigbaum Posted November 20, 2014

No other liquid goes better with pecan pie than bourbon, as verified by five whiskey geniuses from top whiskey bars across the country. Here, their top picks for a great way to round out the Thanksgiving feast.

Pecan pie is a life’s passion of mine and for more years than I can remember, I’ve been making this obscene chocolate bourbon one, a recipe from the brilliant David Lebovitz. It’s pretty darn rich, but hits all the right notes. Nothing, nothing goes better with pecan pie than bourbon. And truly, after the big Thanksgiving meal, you really need some whiskey to finish off the night. We asked five whiskey geniuses from some of the greatest whiskey bars in the country for their pecan pie bourbon picks. Remarkably, three of them suggested bottles from the terrific Buffalo Trace distillery. Here’s the lowdown:

Sean Josephs, owner of Maysville and Char No. 4 in NYC
Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon ($35)
“When it comes to pairing there’s the contrast approach and the complement approach. This falls into the latter category. Elmer T. Lee has the quintessential sweetness that is the essence of bourbon: lots of rich toffee and caramel balanced by notes of baking spices and citrus. The bourbon is also, in a word: smooth. In the case of pairing with a truly sweet dessert like pecan pie, that’s a good thing. I don't think you want too much of the bite that comes from rye, or the heat that comes from a higher proof bourbon, or the leathery, earthy notes that come from long aging as you tuck into your post-Thanksgiving dessert.”

Related: Chocolate Pecan Pie with Bourbon

Susie Hoyt, beverage director at The Silver Dollar in Louisville, Kentucky
W. L. Weller Special Reserve Bourbon ($18)
“The most important thing to do when pairing whiskey with food is choose a spirit that's a little lower in alcohol. In general, I gravitate towards bourbons that are bonded or higher for sipping on and make cocktails with, but when food is involved, you want to look for something that will allow the dish to be the main focus while still complementing it-and possibly even bring out nuances that would not have been there otherwise.  This little gem of a wheated bourbon is aged for roughly 7 years at the renowned Buffalo Trace Distillery. The slightly lower proof (90) and wheat in the mashbill create delicate, softer flavors of caramel and vanilla, which give way to a unique savory note that ends with a hint of spice.  The sweeter, softer notes pair quite nicely with the sweet, nutty notes of the pie, and the pie is enhanced by the refined spice notes of this bourbon.”

Phil Olson, bar manager at Longman & Eagle in Chicago
Belle Meade 9 Year-Old Sherry Cask Finish Bourbon ($80)
“I wasn't sure if I wanted to go with something sweet or a little more spicy like a good rye to offer some contrast. I decided to go with sweet – that’s what we love about bourbon in the first place, and I also have a helluva a sweet tooth myself. The first bourbon that popped in my head is a relatively new product. Belle Meade is the bourbon produced by Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Tennessee, a distillery that was revived by two brothers, Charles and Andy Nelson, after discovering that their triple great-grandfather operated a distillery before Prohibition. It is a sourced whiskey, meaning they bought aged whiskey from a larger producer and blended it and bottled themselves. They had some older whiskey that wasn't right for the signature blend, but was delicious nonetheless. They took this 9 year-old bourbon and finished it in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks for a rich, nutty finish that will complement the pecan pie perfectly.”

Alan Davis, owner of Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, Oregon
E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon ($40)
“I would default to Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon, from Buffalo Trace Distillery, given the seamless confluence, in nose and palate expressions, of cinnamon, rich corn, chocolate, vanilla and subtle tannins in both the bourbon and the pie.”

Justin Vann, Public Services in Houston, Texas
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Small Batch Bourbon ($40)
"This whiskey's super intense, and the pie can balance it out. For best results, consume both as breakfast."

Related: Pecan Pies for Thanksgiving
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