Thursday April 05, 2012 | 11:37 AM

Here's what I know about bourbon: ______________________ .

Well, that's what I knew, until I attended one of The Salt Exchange's monthly bourbon tastings.

I now know that bourbon, an American whiskey, is made mostly of corn (51%, by law), it is barrel-aged, and it's alcohol content rests between 80 and 160 proof. It also has a more complex taste than I gave it credit for - a layered journey with hints of caramel, vanilla, burnt sugar or spice.

My new knowledge impresses me. I'm sure you're impressed too, yes? If you're interesting in learning some bourbon for yourself, then do! Tastings take place from 5 to 8 p.m. during First Friday Art Walk and are led by Charlie Bryon, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Martha. He also spells "Bryon" funny.

For $12, tasters sample three bourbons. But they can also learn about the spirit's history, glean specifics on particular distillers, and a acquire a mouthful of descriptive words to describe what truly is an intricately flavored kind of booze.

Last month, we sampled Four Roses, Jefferson's and 1792. Bryon walked us through each taste, pointing out how 1792 starts out with a lot of heat, then mellows into a cool almost eucalyptus-like favor, ending with a creamy "medium finish," as he called it.

My palate wouldn't have detected that on its own.

The tasting is done on rotation, so the bourbon curious can drop in anytime between 5 and 8 p.m. You'll have time to take a seat at the bar between bourbons and explore the tastes on your own too.

Afterward, when you become a bourbon fanatic and begin traveling the world, spreading the bourbon gospel to the masses, you can return to The Salt Exchange for some bourbon bingo (and to say thanks to Charlie Bryon for completely changing the course of your life).

Anyone can play bourbon bingo, of course, and it ain't a bad way to explore the bourbon that's out there (The Salt Exchange has around 25). Pick a bottle, let the bartender see what letter it corresponds with, then check it off on your card. Get bingo, get more bourbon. For free.

They also do "snow bourbons" - bourbons (and drafts) are half price while it's snowing. So if Mother Nature decides to chuck one final storm our way, go immediately to The Salt Exchange.

Bourbon Tastings at The Salt Exchange: This Friday, April 6, features the bourbon delights of Old Fitzgerald, Bulleit, and Evan Williams Single Barrel. Cost is $12 per person and the tasting runs from 5 to 8 p.m., drop in any time. FMI:


About the Author

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Shannon Bryan is a feature writer for the Portland Press Herald and content producer for MaineToday Media's entertainment website,

And here's a well-known truth: Shannon can't cook. She's also ostroconophobic (in Maine?!?), but in a foodie place like southern Maine, she's determined to learn how to cook, eat, and order with the best of them. Read about her culinary crusade:
Pans on fire

She's also an investigator into all that's strange and entertaining to do around here. Those findings are gathered here:
Out Going: Things to do in southern Maine

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