Not only is US whisky in good health, but it is sitting on the brink of a whiskey revolution as well. All sorts of weird and wonderful whiskies are currently maturing across the country and are set to revolutionise our perceptions of the nation's spirit. The United States has form in this area. A few years back, a new wave of microbreweries did for its beer industry what punk rock did for bloated corporate rock: shook it by the throat, scornfully cast it aside, and replaced it with something altogether more vibrant and exciting. Now it seems that the same might be happening to whiskey, albeit on a much smaller scale. In the United States, whisky has tended to mean bourbon and a few add-ons, and bourbon has tended to mean Kentucky. These days, though, new microdistilleries are starting to pop their heads above the surface, unfettered by tradition and convention, and not afraid to take whiskey in whatever direction they see fit.
Kentucky has, however, risen to the challenge. Across the state there are casks made of Maplewood, ash, and hickory filled with maturing spirit; there are barrels containing single malt, pure wheat, and rye whiskey, and spirit made with oats and even white (sweet) corn. And then there's the more traditional bourbon: rich, flavoursome, magnificent - and in as good a shape as it has ever been.
Only Islay in Scotland can match this wonderful state for its cohesive sense of purpose, its intensity, the quality of its whiskey, and its empathy with - and understanding of - grain spirit. Just as single malt whisky will be dominated by Scotland for generations to come, so, too, will Kentucky dominate American whiskey - and, aided by the new wave of exciting new distilleries elsewhere, play a key role as it move forward to a new level on the world stage.
The United States' native spirit must contain at least 51 percent corn, although it would usually have considerably more, and it must be matured in new white oak barrels, which may be toasted and charred. Straight bourbon must be matured for at least two years, and the drink is bound by strict rules on distilling strengths and the strength it can go into the barrel. Nothing can be added at all beyond the grain, yeast, and water, meaning that the rules for bourbon are stricter than those governing Scottish single malt whisky. A list of Bourbon distilleries is here.
Our bourbon tasting is one of our best selling packs.
Differs from bourbon in that at the end of the distillation process its producers break bourbon's strict rules by pouring the new spirit through a wall of maplewood charcoal. This process is a form of filtration and is known as the Lincoln County Process, and is what defines a whiskey as a Tennessee one not a bourbon. Tenessee Distilleries.
Rye has a long and proud history in American whiskey, but until relatively recently its popularity has declined. It is now being rediscovered by whisky enthusiasts and bartenders who see it as an ideal base for several different cocktails. In actual fact, there are three very different types of rye:
Try five ryes in our Rye tasting.
Made in the same way as bourbon, but the wheat content must account for at least 51% of the grist. Wheat is not a particularly common ingredient in bourbon, but it was what Bill Samuels Sr. used to give Maker's Mark its softer personality. Wheat whiskies are also rare, the style is softer and sweeter than bourbon.
Corn whisky breaks all the rules when it comes to American whiskey production. It must include 80% corn; does not require aging; and, if matured, the barrels must be either virgin oak or used � they cannot be new and charred or toasted as with bourbon production. This is the style of whiskey most usually associated with moonshine.
We have wheat and corn whisky in our Grains tasting
A new generation of microdistillers is experimenting with wood types, grains, special finishes, groundbreaking blends, and hybrid products that mix production techniques from both single-malt whisky and bourbon production.
Brands include: Ancient Age; Benchmark; Blanton�s; Buffalo Trace; Eagle Rare; Elmer T Lee; George T Stagg; Hancock�s Reserve; Old Charter; Old Fitzgerald; W L Weller; Weller Antique; and William Larue Weller.
Brands include: Elijah Craig; Evan Williams; Heaven Hill; Henry McKenna; Kentucky Gentleman; and Parker�s.
Four Roses and I W Harper
Hudson New York Bourbon
Jefferson�s and Sam Houston
Johnny Drum and Noah�s Mill
Old Forester and Woodford Reserve