Recently during the most excellent adventure that was the BE gathering in July in Bardstown, I was talking about an herb used in the past to flavor whiskey. My interlocutor may have been Chuck, John L, Mike V, or Sierra, I'm not sure. I couldn't remember the name of the plant so different herbs were suggested, but without success. I said as we often do, "it will come to me". Well, it just did. Sorry for the delay. If my interlocutor is still reading, it was tansy I meant. I said Jack Daniels (the historical figure) was reputed to have liked his whiskey with the herb and a touch of sugar. I've often wanted to recreate the drink, but on the rare occasions I am confronted with a profusion of unusual herbs, I can't recall the darned name. In a neat piece of symmetry, when the name is present to mind, I have no practical way to get any. The dilemma assumes a particular moment since Wikipedia, with its usual thoroughness, states that the tansy flowers in July and August. As it is both wild and a garden herb, there must be a reasonable quantity of it in the arbors of the land right now, but this city denizen can never find any.
Wikipedia describes the flavor as a cross between camphor and rosemary. Other reports emphasize a certain bitter quality. There was formerly in commerce an article called tansy bitters, something ideal (surely) to address the 10 months of the year when fresh tansy is simply in contemplation, but again any hope of finding this would be slim-to-none.
Wikipedia also states the leaf carries a certain amount of thujone, the famed, or rather ill-famed, ingredient of absinthe which was said to be harmful to the brain and other organs in excess quantity. The amount in the leaf would be small no doubt and the odd tipple here and there of a drink in which it figures surely would do no harm. It is interesting to ponder that the Sazerac, a cocktail of whiskey, absinthe and bitters, was popular in the same era, so it all kind of ties together.
The recollection of tansy came to me, appropriately enough, as I was sampling a newly bought Jack Daniels SB. This bottle is one of the most interesting I've ever had of this brand: it has almost none of the traditional Jack taste, with a piney edge and a roiling finish which sets it yet further apart from its urbane (in comparison) bretheren in Rick 28.
I like its individuality and can't think of any other whiskey quite like it, it is sort of as if you took any good bourbon of even temper, and poured a little Hudson Valley Baby Bourbon or young straight rye in it.