Last year while visiting friends for the Belmont, I had a taste of very interesting elixer mixed up by a very good friend of mine. Inspired by several Russian establishments around NYC which serve Infused Vodka's, which is a process of placing a large amount of vodka in a glass urn and then placing various spices or fruits in the vodka and letting it sit to allow the vodka to soak up the flavor. Imagine a vodka that has been infused horseradish as a base for a bloody mary, or a pinapple infused vodka that has all the flavor of the fruit without cutting the alcohol content with a mixer.
Anyway, this friend of mine used Jullian's 20 year Pappy as a base for his own, infused bourbon. He prepared a decanter, and loaded it with dates, raisins, some vanilla bean, and I think perhaps a few coffee beans. He then stored it in a cool dark place for a couple of months.
The result was an after dinner aperatif that is hard to describe other than the fact that it was brilliant! It was sweet, picking up the sugars from the dates and raisins. It also had a remarkable body with the meaty flavor of the dates, and smooth texture of the vanilla bean. Very bold flavors as opposed to the subtleness usually associated with the Pappy. It was intriguing, and a very nice change of pace. Even the non-bourbon drinkers in the group where amazed by the drinkability.
So, while this is not something I would recommend as a usual staple of your bourbon drinking, it really was too sweet to enjoy much more than a small glass or two, it was an interesting diversion on a special occasion. I would recommend the process highly for those of you looking to experiment outside the usual limited scope of taste that bourbon is usually associated with. Perhaps this might be a way for us frustrated distillers who have been thinking about buying a barrel from Julian to expand the lexicon of bourbon in our own way, without putting a barrel up in the attic.