Saturday, November 1, 2014

American Whiskey Basics

Bullet Points:

  • The principles found in American whiskeys are corn, rye, wheat and sometimes malted barley.
  • Bourbon does not just mean the whiskey is made in Kentucky but can be anywhere in the United States.
  • In order for a whiskey to qualify as "bourbon", it's mash-bill (the ingredients used during fermentation and distillation) must contain a minimum of 51% corn. It must also be aged in new, charred white-oak barrels. There is technically no age requirement except for "straight bourbon", which must be a minimum of 2 years. 
  • Bourbon labeled "straight" contains no additives including sugar (except natural sugars within the charred oak), coloring agents or other neutral grain spirits. Whiskeys labeled "blended" may contain these additives but must be at least 51% "straight bourbon".
  • The age statement of a bourbon must be that of the youngest whiskey contained in the bottle (not counting any neutral grain spirits added).
  • Rye whiskey follows similar regulations, the major exception is that the mash-bill must contain at least 51% rye instead of corn.
  • Rye whiskey was prominent around and before the Prohibition but since has lost popularity. It has recently begun to make a come back amongst cocktail lounges as many bartenders are referring to classic cocktail's original recipes which called for rye whiskey rather than bourbon or blended whiskey.
  • Tennessee whiskey refers to whiskey made within the state-limits of Tennessee. Two principle distilleries are Jack Daniels and George Dickel. Production is similar to that of bourbon but includes what is known as "The Lincoln County Process" which included filtering the spirit through charcoal chips before being aged.
  • Linden B. Johnson signed an act of Congress that designated bourbon as "The Official Spirit of America" in 1964.
Principle Cocktails:
  • Manhattan
  • Old-Fashioned
  • Sazerac (originally called for Cognac but has since become a popular rye whiskey cocktail)
  • Ward 8
  • Whiskey Sour
  • Mint Julep
  • Brooklyn
Popular Brands:
  • Jim Beam: Produced in Clemont, Kentucky. Established in 1795. A seven-generation family distillery. One of the best selling bourbon whiskeys.
  • Four Roses: Established in 1888. Distilled in Lawrenceberg, Kentucky. The brand has had many changes in ownership over the years and produces several expressions of delicious straight bourbon.
  • Jack Daniels: Produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee, it is the best selling American whiskey in the world. Established in 1875. The distillery produces several expressions of whiskey including liqueurs and special release whiskeys. 
  • Woodford Reserve: Its current distillery is the oldest of the nine currently operating within Kentucky, built in 1838 and is a National Historic Landmark.
  • Buffalo Trace: The company has operated under several other names through out the years. It claims to be the oldest continuously operated distillery in American, acting a producer of medicinal bourbon during the Prohibition.