Well, they both turned out great and got rave reviews... but they were completely different drinks!
CB#1, fermented cherries: this was the one where the cherries sat in sugar for a few weeks, with cheesecloth stretched over the top of the jar. I won't lie to you, they got a little funky.
There were a few moldy bits. I "researched" this on the interwebs, and found out that you can just strain the whole mess. Soooo.. I picked out some of the moldy bits, did a first strain through the cheesecloth, then a second one through coffee filters. I basically lined a funnel with a filter, and poured in as much as it would hold, wait for it to strain, and keep doing this. I did have to change the filters once or twice as build-up eventually stopped the filtering process!
Once I got the fermented cherry juice, in went the bourbon, on went the lid, and it sat for a few weeks. This one was like rocket fuel! The best way I can think of to describe the taste is this: if cherry-flavored cough syrup tasted good, this is what it would taste like. There was nothing bourbon-ey about this, which makes me wonder if I could have used a cheaper version (an experiment for next year).
CB#2, the one with the "soakers": This is the one where everything got mixed together on day 1 and just sat. Eventually, the cherries were strained out, and the liquid went right back into the bottle.
This one was smooth. It had cherry undertones, but still retained alot of the bourbon flavor profile. I would *not* mess around with my starter liquid on this one.
Both had, for lack of a better term, "floaties"... solids that kinda settled at the bottom if the jar sat around too long. The solution? Drink it faster! Just kidding. It didn't alter the taste any if you got some, it just looked funny. If you drink unfiltered beer or chardonnay sur lies, you probably won't mind this. I drink both, but it still weirded me out a tad, so I did filter some of it out (the ol' coffee filter trick!).
And that's it! Everyone who tried it went nuts over it. It was a huge hit! I plan to make it again next year, and maybe it will save me the hassle of holiday baking (or make it a whole lot more tolerable!). Gift suggestion: I used empty maple syrup glass bottles, which looked cute and held just the right amount for gifting! I tied a little folded sheet of paper with the story of CB, and tied on two little acorns on a string (city of oaks, and all!).