[gentle music] - Whiskey, bourbon, moonshine, Scotch... Is all this stuff the same thing?
I know it does the same thing.
But what makes bourbon bourbon?
♪ ♪ - One, two, three, four.
- I'm Vivian, and I'm a chef.
My husband, Ben, and I were working for some of the best chefs in New York City, when my parents offered to help us open our own restaurant.
Of course, there was a catch.
We had to open this restaurant in eastern North Carolina where I grew up and said I would never return.
["Will You Return" by the Avett Brothers] - ♪ I wish you'd see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ all: ♪ Why can't you see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ - So this is my life.
Raising twins, living on my parents' farm and exploring the South one ingredient at a time.
Previously on "A Chef's Life"...
So today is pub day for my book, and then our tour will begin.
I've just learned that the generator broke.
It's fixed, but this is only our first stop.
- Thank you so much for waiting.
- Thank you.
How are you?
- I'm good.
How are you?
I know that it was really rocky today, but I think that everybody did great.
[birds singing] - I don't know all that much about Kentucky.
I know it's hilly.
I know they have the Kentucky Derby.
I know, like eastern North Carolina, Kentucky was once a tobacco economy.
And I know that they hang their hat on bourbon.
[shop bell rings] - Welcome.
How are you?
- I'm doing great.
- I'm Vivian.
- Vivian, Trey.
Good to see you.
- Nice to meet you.
- Hey, give me a hug.
We're gonna spend the day together, right?
- Well, take me where I need to go.
- You got it.
This is the most fun room because it's the tasting room.
- Oh, wow.
- So this is where we stage a lot of our experiments.
[gentle guitar music] - The bourbon obsession runs deep in the southern restaurant world.
I mean, some restaurants have menus that literally have 30 different bourbons on them.
But when a product has maybe two ingredients, how do you differentiate it from bottle to bottle or brand to brand?
- What we're trying to do is take a lot of the barrel science that has gone into aging wine and bring it over to the bourbon world.
We've got a barrel right over there that used to be a Tabasco barrel.
- So it held Tabasco for about 50 years.
You can open it up, and it's just so, so pungent.
I kind of try to push the boundaries of what bourbon is without bastardizing it.
- What makes whiskey bourbon, and what makes whiskey Scotch?
- They're all whiskeys, so bourbon-- - Okay, so what makes whiskey whiskey?
- Well, it's just distillation of grains.
And typically, it's aged in barrels.
Not all the time.
You've got white whiskey.
- Which, if you're-- - White whiskey, what's the name of it?
- Moonshine, white dog.
- Something you don't want to drink, but you probably have... - I have.
- If you're from eastern North Carolina.
But whiskey really gets its life once it hits the wood.
So 75% to 80% of what bourbon is comes from the barrel.
And to answer your question, "What's bourbon, and how is it different than whiskey?"
It's just a subset.
All bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons.
So there's six laws that are in place that basically keep up the integrity of what bourbon is.
There's nothing added to it.
It's got to have at least 51% corn.
It, uh, has to be aged in a new-charred, white oak barrel, so we use our barrels one time.
- If it's less than four years, it's got to state it on the bottle.
It's got to be distilled and no higher than 160 proof.
Put it into the barrel at no higher than 125 proof.
Bottled at at least 80 proof.
I typically work with bourbon that's eight years old and up.
- And that's one of the reasons it's so expensive... - Exactly.
- Is because it-- it's taking up a lot of space for a period of time.
- Yeah, it's a lot of time, value, and money.
So you've got that investment that you put down for so many years that you've got to recoup at some point.
- Why do we have to use new barrels?
- Well, because we feel like after we've used them one, we've stripped, you know, what's-- the goodness out of it.
When it gets cold, the molecules--contrast, and when it gets big, they expand and push into the wood, and as they go in and out of the wood, it's picking up color, flavor, and the barrel acts as a filter and takes out the astringency of the alcohol.
So we're trying to get all of our flavor out of the wood.
That's why we use new barrels.
- So do you have any in this Tabasco barrel?
- These are 40-year-old barrels.
- You can smell the Tabasco in there.
- [laughs] Yeah, you can.
So it didn't hold the first time; it leaked out, so we grabbed some, you know, at the bottom of that, and, I mean... [snaps] Just that quick pass-through would blow your head off.
- I'm sure, I'm sure.
- So we've cut it down, and we do eight parts regular bourbon to one part bourbon that came from a Tabasco barrel, and it's beautiful.
It's got a lot of-- you know, a little spice on your tongue and your lips, kind of burns them, and that flavor--you just crave it.
- Can we go in here?
- Sure, let's go.
♪ ♪ - Oh, cool.
♪ ♪ So you do a fair number of collaborations, and we've been talking about doing something that speaks to me.
Kentucky and eastern North Carolina share this tobacco culture.
- And so, um, we had the idea to take some old wood from a tobacco barn that has absorbed the flavors of flue-cured tobacco over the years.
- You had a great idea with this.
Something--two flavors that go naturally together.
♪ ♪ - Oh, wow.
- That's some good old Kentucky tobacco right there.
- Is this how they still do it here?
- Oh, yeah.
- Yeah, I thought it was a good idea.
- I think it's a hell of an idea.
I don't know if it's gonna work, but we're gonna give it a shot.
Ideas are my specialty.
Not necessarily... - The execution?
[laughs] - Well... - I get people to help me with those.
- We're gonna go ahead and steam out some of these-- of these tobacco sticks.
So we'll get the last 20 years of dirt off of them without stripping away some of the flavor that's been imparted into it.
[upbeat bluegrass music] ♪ ♪ - All right, we can go ahead and, uh, start getting it into a barrel.
- If this works, it will be cool.
- This is an eight-year-old barrel right here.
- I'm gonna start it... And, Vivian, you can get this out of here.
- I can?
- You just got to pound this up and down.
- And pull up while you're doing it.
[laughs] - Look at that.
There you go.
Do you want to pull this out of here?
- Yeah, show me how to-- - Just like a straw at McDonald's.
Stick it in there.
Put your thumb over there.
You just put a whiskey thief in the bunghole.
- Oh, my gosh.
- So your dominant flavors in bourbon are always gonna be vanilla and caramel.
What I like is secondary flavors that you can pick up.
So I get a lot of vanilla up front, kind of some leathery, tobacco, mid-palate, and then a little bit of that fruit flavor on the back end.
- Yeah, I definitely get the back end fruit.
- Not bad for 10:00, right?
- This is my breakfast.
That's why I gotta get that fruit in there.
- You doing all right?
[soft guitar music] Let's see.
♪ ♪ Oh.
- Yeah, I smell it.
Just... - Yeah, just drop 'em right on in there.
- Why couldn't we just put the tobacco in there?
- To be called a bourbon, we can't add anything to it.
- We can't add any-- Right.
I got you.
- So that would be considered adding something to it.
♪ ♪ Perfect.
All right, now we'll grab a bung and a bung hammer.
It's all you.
- A bung... - And a bung hammer.
- And a bung hammer.
It just-- [both laugh] It's hard to say it without laughing.
- You made that up.
Pound the hell out of it.
Want to taste some whiskey?
- Yes, I would like to.
- All right.
- I have to go to a, um, book signing after this.
- Oh, well, you'll be very talkative.
- I'll be smiling.
[laughs] Well, we'll--we'll try to get you out of here.
- So this is the Tabasco.
- This is the Tabasco.
Okay, so... Now, again, this is straight out of the barrel.
How we're gonna bottle it up is, take eight barrels of bourbon that are aged in typical bourbon barrels and add one barrel of the Tabasco.
♪ ♪ - Holy-- [laughter] - I told you.
- Oh, my gosh.
- I told you.
- When you cut it and you bottle it, they'll-- somebody will make a-- what's the Bloody Mary with bourbon?
- A Kentucky Mary.
- A Kentucky Mary.
- It's different.
- It is.
Thank you so much... - No, thank you.
- For your time this morning and for trying this out.
- I hope it works.
- I hope so too.
♪ ♪ [guitar chord strums] [indistinct conversation] - Hey, y'all.
- Hey, how are you?
- I'm good.
How are y'all?
- How are you?
How are you?
- How's it going?
- What can I do?
Is there a hand I can lend?
- Everything-- everything just takes, like, longer than I anticipated.
I knew it was gonna take longer, but my-- even just, like, the driving and stuff, it's, like, we're getting everywhere, like, two hours later than I thought.
- Than you wanted?
- I don't know if there's anything we can do about that besides leave earlier.
♪ ♪ - This is our third stop.
The truck has broken down twice so far, that I know of.
Personalities are clashing.
And for me, the book signing process is far more draining than I thought it would be.
You know, I try to give every person a little piece of myself and have a special moment with everybody.
All of that is very draining, but it's also overwhelming to see how connected people feel to me.
It's really humbling.
I guess all my, uh... my whining has paid off.
♪ ♪ - God, this is the first nice fall day.
- Yeah, this is gorgeous.
- Look at that barn.
I think we should build a barn on our property just to have one.
- Wow, this is so pretty.
- That's what I mean.
'Cause of the barn.
[laughs] - The whole reason the book tour even came to Kentucky is because I'm getting a TasteMaker's Award.
Now, I don't know what that exactly means, but I think it's good.
[door creaks] Hey.
How are y'all?
- So how's it going?
- We think it's going great.
- This is the first time this has ever happened, where someone else is taking my recipes from the book and scaling them up, and... - Yes.
- I hope that they're working.
And we're-- they're working perfectly.
We also know to sort of adjust it.
- You know, that it doesn't just follow, that as you get bigger and bigger... - It just gets bigger.
- Everything gets bigger and bigger, because we've made that mistake already.
[laughter] But not with your things.
- There aren't many people in the world of cookbook publishing more well-regarded than Christopher and Melissa of Canal House Cooks, so to be honored by them is... honoring, but to have them cooking my food from my cookbook is a little bit of a nail-biter.
Anyway, thank you all very much.
- Oh, it's our pleasure.
We don't want you to lift a manicured finger.
- Well, I won't, because I don't have any.
- They're not manicured.
[laughter] ♪ ♪ - Hi.
I'm Vivian Howard.
- Hi, Vivian.
How are you?
- I'm great.
How are you?
- Welcome, glad to have you.
- This is my husband, Ben Knight.
- Hi, Ben.
- Mr. Samuels, how are you?
Good to see you.
- Good to see you.
- Thanks for having us.
- You not only live in eastern North Carolina, you're from there, aren't you?
- Oh, yeah.
- Yeah, I can tell.
[laughter] Took me a while, but I got that.
- You said your family... Did they live here, or did they just make whiskey here?
- No, we're-- we're from Bardstown, which is, uh, 17 or 18 miles away, and when Dad wanted to un-retire, back in the early '50s, so he said, "I'll buy this little place and have fun."
- And this is your father we're talking about?
- My mom did every bit as much of it as he did.
♪ ♪ - Who are these folks behind here?
- Uh, these are some of the great distillers in Kentucky, and they were so helpful to Dad.
Ed Shapira--oh, Ed founded Heaven Hill.
And Mr. Van Winkle, Pappy Van Winkle.
- Jim Beam?
- Jim Beam's son.
Jim Beam's here.
He was my godfather.
- Oh, really?
- And this was really my mentor: Hap Motlow, who descends from the Jack Daniels family.
And he's really the one that taught me the business.
All these were competitors.
But we all got along, always have.
That's Mom when she was in college.
And that is the first bottle of Maker's Mark.
She designed the--the bottle.
She didn't have a glass company to work with, so she just made it herself.
She was a calligrapher, and that led to the Marker's Mark typestyle, which is an internationally recognized typestyle.
She came up with the idea of the wax.
She named the product Maker's Mark.
Cost about $8 for materials for the sample bottle, and here we are in 2016, and for that $8, in two months, she created the two most valuable trademarks in the entire bourbon business.
It's the mark of the maker.
If you're proud of what you do, you put your mark.
That's so beautiful.
If you're proud of what you do, you put your mark on it.
That's what you do.
- Yeah, or you wouldn't be doing it.
- So what's-- can we go see-- - Sure.
You want to go to the distillery?
- Yes, I'd love to.
[guitar chords strum] [industrial machinery whirring] What happens in here?
- Well, these are the grains, we mill them down.
- And this is where the water comes in?
- No, no, that's whiskey.
- Yeah, we bring in the grain, grind it, and then drop it into the cooker, and then we add the spring water and some of the spent beer from the previous day's distillation; that's the beginning of the sour mash process.
But this is the stage where it becomes beer, essentially.
- This is beer; the 9,000 gallons has been dropped in, with about 8 1/2 vertical inches of yeast that we propagate here on site, and the yeast is feeding on the sugars and making beer.
Put your finger in there.
- The yeast have kind of finished up doing their work... - See how sweet it is?
- Oh, yeah.
- It's so wild to look at something that's so alive.
- Look at that bubble.
- I know.
- On the second day, you can really start to see it spin.
If it's in the Southern Hemisphere, it would spin the other way.
- Oh, wow.
That's so wild.
♪ ♪ In there, you're making beer... - Making beer, and then we're-- back in here, we're making whiskey.
- Because the first still, the beer goes in the top, steam comes up from the bottom, vaporizes the alcohol, and it comes down here at 120 proof.
We have a pot still in the basement, where this goes, and it's redistilled, comes down here at 130 proof.
- That's clear.
- Would that be similar to what we call moonshine at this point?
- It's a lot-- here, come back here, you can taste it.
♪ ♪ - Wow.
- It's all the corn.
All that sweetness in the front, that's all corn.
And then when you put it in the barrel, you start to get the caramelized-- wood sugars start to act, and then as that whiskey gets into the barrel, you start to bring out the tannin and all the caramel and vanillin.
- I feel like a cowboy with this thing.
- It looks like a, uh... - Well, it's a little-- you don't drink it all!
[laughs] ♪ ♪ Now, this is one of the original houses down here, from the 1880s.
- The barrels stay in here for seven years?
- Well, for us, six years.
- For six years.
- It's when the alcohol flavors and wood flavors come into what we call perfect balance.
We got to get it out of the barrel, or it starts to become bitter again.
- And then what do you do with the leftover barrels?
'Cause you don't use them again.
- We send them to Scotland, where about 95% of Scotch whiskey is aged in used bourbon barrels, and to Canada, where 100% of the Canadian whiskey is aged in used bourbon barrels.
One of the areas that Mom was so insistent on-- when Dad was complaining about the wax.
"Well, how the hell are we gonna get this done?"
She famously said, "We'll, you'll just have to figure it out."
And so, technically, she never worked a day in her life, and yet, she was the first woman inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.
Here's how much we've advanced.
In the old days, when the line wasn't quite as fast-- you know, we only had three dippers-- I could walk in a liquor store and say, "Betty Sue did this one, and Angela did this one," and all.
♪ ♪ Right, now, what Dad was trying to do was to create a bourbon that, at full proof, you could hold on your tongue and not burn.
Now, that's tough, because all alcohol burns at over 70 proof.
It's just the nature of it.
So he had to have enough vanillins in the whiskey and he had to-- to extract out so many of those alcohol derivatives that are sour, back-mouth.
We send Makers to market at 90 proof.
On your tongue.
You get a little tingle, but... - A little.
- And you notice it's all in front?
That's what he was trying to do.
All right, y'all got to get to work, and I got to get-- get out of here before my wife kills me.
- [laughs] ♪ ♪ - This has been such an incredible day.
I'm feeling good for the first time in several days.
And Ben's smiling.
And that--then the whiskey-- the bour--the bourbon could have... [stammers] See?
That could matter.
But what--I feel good.
[laughs] I also, you know, for the first time in my whole life, made a list of all the events that I had and assigned an outfit to them.
- Is that something people do?
- I mean, one of my biggest stressors when I go somewhere is, like, waking up and realizing I don't have anything to wear.
- My biggest stressor is whether my underwear is clean.
[lively bluegrass music] Want to hold my hand?
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Thank you for making this happen.
We've had the-- just most enjoyable day.
- Have you?
- Oh, my gosh.
I felt--I mean, it was like, one of the coolest things we've ever done.
- It was amazing.
- I knew you would love it, 'cause this is the authentic thing.
He's the real thing.
- I mean, my gosh.
Well, sit down and enjoy yourself.
- We will.
- All right.
We'll see you in a little bit.
- ♪ Just bring it down ♪ ♪ You can take a detour ♪ ♪ The shortest way around ♪ [together] ♪ White lines, neon signs ♪ ♪ Will put you in the ground ♪ ♪ ♪ - Nice to see you.
You got it?
♪ ♪ - Normally, when I'm at an event like this, I can hide behind my security blanket, also known as my apron, but tonight, I don't have anything to do except socialize and watch other people cook my food.
- ♪ I'm taking shelter ♪ ♪ He's out on the run ♪ ♪ She's headed for the bright lights ♪ ♪ With a loaded gun ♪ ♪ You can take it easy ♪ - We want to honor you as our TasteMaker tonight.
If you would, please come up, Vivian.
[applause] Small token of appreciation for all of your-- - Oh, my gosh!
It's my face.
- That's you!
Thank you so much.
- Thank you, thank you.
We have just had the best day.
It was great, because Mr. Samuels today kept talking about his mother and how his mother was really the one who kept pushing and designing the label and saying, "Oh, no, it has to be this way," and he said, "No, it really doesn't," and she said, "Yes, it does.
And he did it, and so I--I'm going to use that in the future with Ben.
[laughter] But, um, this is-- this is magical.
So thank you very much.
[applause] I think it's perfect that we're serving the Pepsi, peanut, and bourbon float.
It kind of honors the tobacco field tradition of dumping your peanuts in your Pepsi for the mid-morning break snack.
Of course, no one is pouring any bourbon into their Pepsis in the tobacco field, but we are.
♪ ♪ - Thank you very much!
[applause] - So this is what you made when--when we were visiting Louisville.
- Yeah, yeah.
- He just stuck some tobacco sticks in there to infuse the bourbon, and so we're tasting it now.
[soft electric guitar] ♪ ♪ It's burning my nose.
♪ ♪ I may actually taste tobacco.
What do you think?
- I don't know.
I don't get a ton of it.
- It adds, like, a-- - It has a tannic edge that it doesn't normally have.
I may be a Maker's Mark TasteMaker, but I have not yet won my bourbon aficionado badge.
It all just kind of tastes like bourbon to me.
I like it, but I don't taste any tobacco.
I actually think it has a quality that bourbon doesn't typically have.
I'm not sure I can identify that as... tobacco, but... - Well, if we get a buzz... - I'll definitely be tasting the tobacco.
♪ ♪ [lively bluegrass music] ♪ ♪ - For more information on "A Chef's Life," visit pbs.org/food.
"A Chef's Life" is available on DVD.