When Beam Suntory released Legent Bourbon last spring, the whiskey world was divided. There were many who liked this new bourbon, a collaboration between Jim Beam and Suntory. The whiskey was distilled at Beam, finished in wine casks, and finally blended by Suntory master blender Shinji Fukuyo with non-finished Beam bourbon. There were also some who were not so enamored (there always are), who felt that the final product was a bit heavy on the finish and did not live up to the hype. If nothing else, Legent was a first for the mega drinks company, combining the resources of its American bourbon and Japanese whisky operations, at least conceptually.
This week Legent is back in the news, as Beam Suntory has brought Tokyo-based butcher and restaurateur Kentaro Nakahara to America to do a couple of pop-up dinners in New York City and Chicago. Nakahara is known for his burgers in Japan, and the point of these events is to showcase how he remixes and redefines an American classic, much in the same way that Legent claims to redefine what bourbon can be (within limits, obviously, as the category is highly regulated with certain rules that must be followed).
“As a Japanese craftsman and an expert on wagyu beef, I am always interested in ways to expand my boundaries and learn more about different cuisines and cultures,” Nakahara told The Manual. “[Legent]… has much in common with my story and the burger that I am known for at my restaurant Henry’s Burger in Tokyo. People might not know this about me, but I was born in the U.S. before moving to Japan, so I try to infuse my food with my knowledge and experience from both places. I have taken Legent into consideration when curating my menu for these events in New York and Chicago and there will be some surprises in store for attendees.”
The New York City event found Nakahara serving up some delicious burgers, double-patty wagyu beef creations smothered with his special burger sauce, on buns branded with the Legent logo. His version of the hamburger is not exactly a complete reworking of the classic, but it did pair quite well with the deconstructed elements that go into Legent (straight bourbon, wine cask-finished bourbon, and sherry cask-finished bourbon), a few cocktails, and Legent itself.
You can expect a similar experience at the Chicago pop-up that will take place on the evening of October 10 at 8:30 pm in West Loop neighborhood (location TBD). To secure a seat, you have to RSVP here — space is limited and names will be selected at random prior to the event.
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