Over 98% of the Bourbon produced in the world is made right here in Kentucky. A mixture of calcium-rich limestone water, cold winters, and warm summers make for a perfect environment for producing Bourbon whiskey. Early European settlers from the Northeastern U.S. brought their whiskey making abilities with them when they moved westward into Kentucky. There was an abundance of corn for them to make whiskey with. This is how corn came to replace barley as the traditional ingredient in Bourbon when compared to Scotch or Irish whiskey.
Bourbon whiskey must be made up of at least 51% corn. The rest of the grain bill can be made up of more corn, barley, rye, and wheat. A recipe with more rye in it can make a whiskey with more pronounced spice notes or “bite” including cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, and clove. A proportion of wheat in the grain bill can lead to a whiskey with a sweeter profile as the softness of the wheat allows the sweet flavors of the corn and vanilla from the barrel char to come through easier in the finished product. The whiskey must be stored in a new, charred, oak barrel. At this point, it is bourbon. To be called “Straight Bourbon”, it must be aged at least two years in the barrel. To be called “Kentucky Bourbon” it must be distilled in Kentucky and aged one year and one day. To be called “Kentucky Straight Bourbon”, it must be distilled in Kentucky and aged in the barrel at least 2 years.
Two things to look for when buying and drinking Bourbon: “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” and “distilled and bottled by” a Kentucky distillery. These statements can be viewed as quality stamps for the product.
- On the Rocks: Whether whiskey is served on its own, diluted with still spring water, or on the rocks is a matter of personal preference. Adding water changes the alcoholic strength, and just as the strength determines the range of flavors a whiskey shows, diluting can make whiskey taste slightly, or significantly, different.
Just as the name suggests, all Scotch Whisky (don’t confuse it with Irish Whiskey or Bourbon Whiskey) originated in Scotland. The majority of whiskies are the product of a single distillery; however, Scotch Whisky is a blend of distilleries and be divided into two categories: Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Single Grain Scotch Whisky
- On the Rocks: Whether whisky is served on its own, diluted with still spring water, or on the rocks is a matter of personal preference. Adding water changes the alcoholic strength, and just as the strength determines the range of flavors a whisky shows, diluting can make whisky taste slightly, or significantly, different.
Canadian Whiskey is a whiskey produced in Canada made generally with a blend of grains including corn, wheat and rye for flavor. They are generally lighter and smoother than other whisky styles; however, the best Canadian whiskey has a hint of the spicy, bitter-sweet character of rye, lightened with the blending spirit. Canadians still tend to order a “rye” and are typically served a Canadian Whiskey even though most have only a small amount of rye in the ingredient list.
The very first identifiable vodka is said to have appeared in the 8th Century in Poland; however, it wasn’t until the 14th Century in Russia that the Vodka we now know truly became apparent. Vodka will have been distilled to a high strength then filtered through charcoal to remove impurities before bottling. Vodka requires a form of starch or sugar to be created which is typically found in the form of wheat, rye, potato or grapes. Generally, there are three styles of Vodka:
- Eastern Style - those from Russia and Poland tend to have more character and alcohol seems harsher.
- Western Style - smooth and neutral making them ideal for cocktails
- Flavored Vodka - These may be made with flavorings such as cranberry, blueberry and root beer.
Rum has a colorful history with being used as medicine, a commodity for trade and other times stood in for currency. Rum has its roots in the Caribbean Islands and was first devised by the Spanish with their vast source of sugarcane plantations.
Most rum is made from molasses which is a by-product of sugarcane. Light rum tends to have a short fermentation which makes them slightly sweet and perfect for mixing. Dark rum is usually fermented longer and produces a richer spirit. All rum is clear after fermentation but Dark rum gets its color from aging in barrels or having caramel and sugar added. A rum rising in popularity is Spiced rum which gets much of its flavor from herbs and spices that steep into the rum.
The most popular way to enjoy a Rum is the classic “rum and coke”; which many people may not know is technically called a Cuba Libre.
Tequila production is considered a fine art in Mexico and is increasingly popular worldwide. The base material for Tequila is the Blue Agave. As with all spirits, there are levels of quality and classification which Tequila has four:
- Silver (blanco) - produced in stainless steel and aged for less than 60 days. Normally used in fruit-based drinks and cocktails.
- Gold - almost always a mixto that has been colored with caramelized sugar pulp.
- Reposado (‘rested’) - aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two months, they gain complexity, color and a smooth texture. Mexico’s most popular tequila style.
- Añejo (‘old’) - aged in barrels for 18 months to three years for mixto ( if it doesn’t say 100% agave, it’s a mixto tequila) and up to four years for 100% agave..
Why not try tequila today!
Gin is a distilled neutral spirit that gets its distinct flavor from Juniper berries and an assortment of herbs and spices like anise, lime peel, saffron and many more. The spirit base of Gin is usually a grain like wheat or rye which gives it the light body. Gin makers have their own secret combination of herbs and spices which can range from four to over fifteen. Gin is gaining popularity with the revival of classic cocktails like the Gin and Tonic and the ever famous “shaken, not stirred” martini.
- Exploring the world of Wines and Spirits
- Whiskey, The Definitive World Guide-Michael Jackson
- Bourbon Whiskey, Our Native Spirit-Bernie Lubbers