Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a huge Elvis fan. From his early days at Sun Studio to his films and TV specials, he’s maintained a special place in my heart. Inspired by Jim Jarmusch’s comedy crime drama Mystery Train, we took the night train from Chicago to Memphis to visit Graceland. In the wake of the success of Baz Luhrmann‘s film Elvis, it’s no surprise we’re seeing a resurgence of the great myth and oft-misunderstood reality that is Elvis Presley. So, when the opportunity arose to taste the latest Elvis-inspired whiskey, I jumped at the chance.
Grain & Barrel, a Charleston SC based spirits company, launched the Elvis Whiskey collection in 2021. Noting Grain & Barrel’s expertise within the premium spirits category (Chicken Cock Kentucky Whiskey, Dixie Vodka), the Elvis Whiskey collection seems like a natural fit. The first two releases feature iconic photos of the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and pay homage to the singer’s most popular nicknames: The King (Rye Whiskey) and Tiger Man (Tennessee whiskey).
The third and newest release, Midnight Snack, celebrates the flavors of Presley’s legendary midnight snack sandwich of peanut butter, bananas, and bacon. The label features references to Presley, including his signature and the letters “TCB,” referring to “Taking Care of Business,” the phrase which became his mantra. To quote our guide while touring the “Lisa Marie,” Elvis’ Convair 880 jet (on permanent display), named after the rock legend’s daughter and featuring a custom interior, gold-plated bathroom fixtures, a hi-fi stereo system, full bar, conference room, and a private bedroom, Elvis “did not care for the taste of alcohol but served it on board for his friends. The King preferred Dr. Pepper!” But that hasn’t stopped Grain and Barrel from commemorating the King’s favorite snack!
This latest whiskey represents further growth in a category that generates almost 50% of new market revenue for whiskey sales in the US. Like them or not, flavored whiskeys are here to stay. Skrewball Whiskey certainly dominates in the realm of peanut butter-flavored whiskey, while Ol’ Major (website is down) and Fathouse make notable bacon-flavored whiskeys. Adding banana seems like a bit of a leap, but not for those fans who know about The King’s favorite late-night snack.
This story truly captures the essence of the whiskey’s intent. Legend has it that Elvis was entertaining some Denver law enforcement buddies one night at Graceland. The Denver police officers moonlighted as bodyguards for other celebrities. They would sometimes take the stars to a now-defunct celeb-fave 70’s dive restaurant in Golden, Co., called the Colorado Mine Company. The three men fondly recalled discussing a particular sandwich on the menu, one that created such an impression that Elvis decided he had to have one – now! That sandwich was the Fool’s Gold, later described by its creator, then teenage cook Nick Andurlakis, as a “ginormous, artery-hardening contraption” consisting of a hollowed-out loaf of sourdough bread filled with peanut butter and bacon.
According to history, Elvis and his hungry companions boarded the Lisa Marie. After a quick two-hour flight (and by some accounts, about $16K later), they were greeted on the tarmac by Colorado Mining Company owners Buck and Cindy Scott, along with Andurlakis, to deliver 22 fresh Fool’s Gold Loaves. Presley also invited the pilots to dine with them, and the party spent three hours in the hangar eating the sandwiches and drinking Dr. Pepper, Perrier, and champagne. When everyone had finished, they flew back to Memphis before dawn. Back at Graceland, Presley family cook Pauline Nicholson would recreate the sandwich often referred to as “The Elvis” with a slight variation. Hers consisted of peanut butter and mashed banana served on grilled Hawaiian bread and fried in bacon grease.
Grain and Barrel’s Midnight Snack is a decadent dram celebrating that legendary story and the flavors it inspired. In the glass, Midnight Snack has a rich, amber-gold hue. On the nose, toasted sugar and brûléed banana rise quickly. Faint hints of creamy peanut butter follow. Banana Laffy Taffy and toasted sugar cover the palate, revealing a creamy, slightly fatty texture. The peanut butter is there in the flavor, but the bacon contributes more to the mouthfeel. It’s sweet but not teeth-achingly so.
For fun, I made a traditional Old Fashioned with Midnight Snack and enjoyed it, although the flavors of the base spirit overpowered the traditional orange slice. A banana slice and cherry would be a better garnish. I also made a “TCB in a Flash,” a tall swizzle with Dr. Pepper. At 70 proof, Grain & Barrel’s Midnight Snack will have your next drink, “All Shook Up!”