December 12, 2009

Elijah Craig 12 Year Review

Elijah Craig is distilled by Heaven Hill, in Louisville, KY. It's 94 proof, and aged for 12 years. It's age is what make Elijah Craig unique - 12 years is a long time for bourbon to spend in a barrel, and if not aged correctly, the result could be acrid, undrinkable bourbon. Of course, that's not the case with Elijah Craig 12 year (nor for its older brother, Elijah Craig 18 year).

EC 12 is deep amber in color, with a healthy reddish tint taken from the charred wood during its time in the rackhouse. The nose is sweet and sooty. Behind the sootiness is a lushness, a ripeness, like juicy dark fruit. It's robust, not dry. It reminds me of a waterlogged forest floor - not because it smells like one - but because it's gives off such a thick moistness.

Mouthfeel isn't watery or oily, but rather viscous. The taste is complex. You definitely get the charred sootiness from the barrel, but is tempered with a fatty sweetness. Next to the sweetness is the dark, ripe fruit suggested in the nose and a smooth oak note that, again, makes the barrel aging obvious. The sootiness and sweetness and fruitiness are Elijah Craig's heavy characteristics, and they are woven together by some subtle flavors of hay and fresh crispness. It finishes with a dry, tannic burn, completing the range of the bourbon's flavor.

Elijah Craig 12 year is complex and thought provoking. At the center of it's fatty richness is a crisp lightness like a dry white wine. It proves its age without making you pay the price for it, and surprises your mouth with its intricacies. Elijah Craig 12 year is a stand-out, and will teach you a thing or two about how bourbon is more that just whiskey.

October 31, 2009

Old Grand Dad 100 Proof Review

Old Grand Dad, owned by Jim Beam, is sold in three expressions: 86 proof, 100 proof bottled-in-bond, and 114 proof. There all made from the same formula, and all have a high rye percentage in the mash bill. Old Grand Dad 86 was previously reviewed here, and now I'll turn to the BIB.

The bottling of OGD BIB, like OGD 86, features a bright orange label which plays nicely with the amber glow of the bourbon. Its nose is flowerly-fragrant, backed with oak, with some spicy notes from the rye. An organic dampness lingers as well. There is no overbearing heat, despite the higher proof. Mouthfeel is dry, not oily, and dense. Old Grand Dad 100 proof's taste is peppery and spicy from the high rye, and even though its made from a completely different mash bill and yeast strain from Jim Beam, it still somehow has that unique Jim Beam vegetal nuance. It's not sweet, which is a refreshing attribute, but is nutty - almost almondy. The finish is hot and astingent, as the proof suggests it should be, but it complements the flavor instead of burning it away. After swallowing, the taste and the fire create a whole new flavor.

I do prefer other 100 proofs (or near 100 pro0f) bourbon over OGD BIB. That's not to say that I don't enjoy each occassion I drink it, though. While not a regular on my bar shelf, Old Grand Dad 100 proof is always a welcomed guest.

September 25, 2009

Old Forester 100 Proof Review

I reviewed the 86 proof Old Forester here, and that review may be useful to compare the 86 and 100 proof expressions. The 100 proof bourbon is made from the same, somewhat standard, mashbill of 72 % corn, 18 % rye, and 10 % malted barley. The difference, of course, is that the 86 proof is cut with more water to achieve the lower alcohol content.

Old Forester 100 proof is dull orange in color. The nose is a combo of buttery spice and caramel. It is not overpowering with astringency, as other higher-proof bourbons are. Its aroma encourages a taste. Mouthfeel is clean, and not viscous. Tasting reveals a few readily discernable levels: A syrupy sweetness one the roof of the mouth, a rye spiciness on the tongue, and a permeating dry oakiness that seems to fill the palate like smoke. The taste showcases, for sure, the higher proof, but does so without sacrificing smoothness. It finishes with a warm, lingering tingle, not a burn, and with some of the oak barrel.

Old Forester 100 proof is a great bourbon, and falls in the category of cheaper bourbons that successfully compete with the higher-priced premium whiskies. It is a balance of sweetness and spiciness, and of high proof and smoothness. It is brash enough to satisfy your bourbon tastes, but nuanced enough to evoke thoughtful sipping.

Like the Old Forester 86 proof, I had not tasted the 100 proof before this review. Unlike some bourbons that are forgettable, the 100 proof OF immediately reserved a spot in my liquor cabinet, and may very well become a staple in the rotation.

September 24, 2009

Jim Beam Tasting With Fred Noe

In the videos that follow, Fred Noe tastes and discusses Jim Beam's bourbons. In addition to the information he provides, I appreciate his casual, unpretentious approach to bourbon. It goes to show that connoisseurship isn't synonymous with arrogance.

They start with Jim Beam White and Black labels. Please excuse the theatrics during the first few minutes of the video.

They move onto most of the Small Batch Collection.

And finally, Bookers.

August 27, 2009

Knob Creek To Begin Webcasting

Starting September 1, 2009, at 4 PM EST, the folks at Knob Creek (well, at Jim Beam) will present their first webcast. If you point your browser to, you will be able to listen to the "whiskey professors" begin their foray into webcasting. Listeners can also participate, sort of, by submitting questions to be answer during a scheduled Q&A session. Submit your questions here.

Knob Creek gives us a vague idea of what to expect:

"After all, it's going to be a live broadcast. With Whiskey Professors. So anything could, and probably will, happen. All we can really tell you is that they plan on showing the world why Knob Creek is so special to so many of us, while also discussing when it will be back in full supply for all to enjoy. After that, anything is fair game. Questions from the viewers. A distillery tour. A special interview with a very special guest. And who knows what else. You'll just have to tune in and see for yourself. "

Call it a marketing ploy, but I think this webcast idea is a good one. For those interested, it will provide some valuable bourbon information. Efforts to get people interested in American whiskey is always beneficial.

August 21, 2009

Wild Turkey 101 Review

Wild Turkey 101 is made in Lawrenceburg, KY, at the Wild Turkey Distillery. The production process is overseen by the well-known and respected master distiller Jimmy Russell. 101 is also Wild Turkey's flagship bourbon expression.

At at high-but-not-too-high proof of 101, some drinkers may prefer to add a little water or icecubes to their glass. Personally, I almost always prefer to drink bourbons neat, with no additional water, and this review will follow suit. And, at 101 proof, it can be used along with the few available bottled-in-bonds for a tasting if you're so inclined.

WT 101 is deep orange/amber in color. Its nose is very pleasingly balanced, with a marked spice that rides on the back of warming, mellow sweetness. It doesn't give off an sharp ethanol aroma, which is nice considering the proof. Mouthfeel is soft; not viscous or oily. WT 101 has a strong rye spice note, under which sweet vanilla smokiness lies. The finish reminds you of the proof, rewarding you with a rolling burn from the back of your throat over your tongue. The finish also offers charcoal and citrus. It has a very strong character, but remains softly delicate. Overall, Wild Turkey 101 is complex and, given its price and availability, a remarkable bourbon.

Finally, for some reason (and maybe it's just me) WT has a reputation of being a "hard-drinking" bourbon - one that should be relegated to shot glasses at fraternity parties instead of enjoyed as a great bourbon. In an effort to dispel this reputation, I would go so far to say that WT 101 can holds its own against some of the ultra-premium bourbons around. Jimmy Russell certainly has done something wonderful.

August 11, 2009

WhiskyFest Announces Participants

Malt Advocate Magazine recently released the pours for both the San Francisco and New York WhiskyFests. You can get info about these events, including ticket pricing and dates, here.

Here's the participating whiskies for San Francisco:

And here's the New York group:

For those that haven't heard about WhiskyFest, here's a quick rundown from the Malt Advocate website,

"WhiskyFest . . . will feature more than 200 of the world's finest, rarest, and most expensive, single malt and blended Scotch, Irish, bourbon, Tennessee, Japanese, Welsh, Canadian and other whiskies from around the world to sample in one Grand Ballroom. High-end rums, tequilas beer and other spirits will be represented as well.

The focus is on education, and many distillery representatives will be on hand at the pouring booths to explain how the whiskies are made. Seminars by top whisky experts run throughout the evening. Meet distinguished members of the whisky community, and learn first-hand how their brands are made.

Attendees will also enjoy an expansive gourmet buffet all evening, plus coffee, tea, water and soda. Each attendee receives a commemorative Glencairn whisky glass for tastings."

Any whiskey fan should do his or her best to make it to one of these events, if only once.

July 18, 2009

Early Distilling In Kentucky

Several sources of bourbon-related information name Elijah Craig as Kentucky's first bourbon distiller. Other sources give that title to Evan Williams. Wrong. Undoubtedly, both Craig and Williams had a beneficial impact on bourbon distilling in the 1780's and later. However, bourbon was distilled in what is now Kentucky years before either Craig or Williams began to make whiskey.

It's important to understand that in colonial America, distilling spirits - whiskey, rye, brandy, rum - was simply part of everyday life. Having distilling equipment was as common as having a grist mill or a loom, and distillation was an efficient and necessary means to make good use of grain surpluses grown in the colonies - what wasn't used for food was either distilled or traded. So, even before settlers moved into Kentucky, spirits were being distilled all along the eastern seaboard, Maryland and Pennsylvania being known for rye and the New England area for rum.

When colonists moved into Kentucky around 1774, most traveled via land through Virginia, and later via river from Pennsylvania. These settlers knew how to distill, and upon the creation of permanent frontier settlements, distilleries were built as a matter of course. Keep in mind that in these early days, the vast majority of stills were made for home consumption and not commercial use. And, since corn was the primary crop grown in the Kentucky frontier (along with wheat), it became the surplus grain used to make whiskey, and eventually bourbon. Elijah Craig and Evan Williams didn't show up until years laters.

Whiskey distillers simply moved to Kentucky - they weren't born there. Settlers took their well established European distillation practices with them as they expanded westward, and into what is today Kentucky. They worked with what the land gave them, most notably corn, and made their spirits accordingly. Consequently, the initial distillation of bourbon whiskey was dependent on the idiosyncracies of Kentucky's climate and soil rather than a single man.

July 10, 2009

Jim Beam White Label Review, and Just For Fun, Jim Beam Red Stag Review

Jim Beam White Label is the best selling bourbon in the U.S. and abroad. The White Label is Beam's standard bottling, and to many people is synonymous with bourbon. It's aged 4 years, making it relatively young, and is priced very competitively at around $13.00 per 750 ml.

White Label's color is pale amber, and you can tell it hasn't had too many years in the barrel. It is also 80 proof. Its nose is pleasant and soft, very floral and clean. It's pretty thin in the glass, and is without the strong legs that some people pay close attention to. Tasting gives slight cinnamon and a sweet dankness. This dankness, in the finish, turns into what I consider the signature Beam flavor: heady, sour funkiness. I think this taste is attributable to the Beam Family yeast, and it imparts a marked organic mustiness to the bourbon.

I think there are better bourbons at this price range. While I can enjoy the vast majority of bourbons neat, I do prefer Beam White on ice. It also mixes very well in cocktails. Given its ubiquity, if it's all you can get you hands on, it won't ruin your evening. All in all I don't seek White Label out too often.

Moving on, we have Jim Beam's Red Stag. The Red Stag website explains the product: "Born in the heart of Kentucky Bourbon country, Red Stag by Jim Beam™ contains all the pride of Jim Beam's 200 year old family tradition. Through a slow infusion process, our distillers start with fine four year old Jim Beam® Bourbon and then complement its distinctive taste with hints of natural black cherry flavor. The result is a sweet well-rounded taste that's delicious mixed or straight up."

I first heard about Red Stag in late February, and it was officially released on June 1. I had occassion to get a bottle, so this review marks my first encounter with it. I should also mention that I am still having an internal battle regarding flavored bourbons - are they too gimicky, thereby insulting bourbon heritage? Or are they merely another product, albeit aimed at a particular market segment, that simply add to the array of whiskey choices? I don't know, but I am trying to be open-minded. Anyways...

Red Stag, per the label, is "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused With Natural Flavors." It is black cherry flavored, is 80 proof, and is virtually identical in color to Beam White Label, with a slight red tinge.

The nose is unsurprisingly syrupy sweet, and smells candy sweet. In the background is a distinct bourbon and ethanol smell. The taste allows a lot of the Beam-ness to come through, and while flavored, you still know 1) there is bourbon in here, and 2) that bourbon is Beam. I appreciate that Beam did not sacrifice bourbon taste for the sake of flavor infusion. It finishes, well, like Beam and cherries. The closest thing I can compare it to is whiskey mixed with Torani blackberry syrup.

Red Stag is not a failure. I would drink it again willingly, on the right occassion. The Beam company being what it is, I'm sure there was substantial market research and all that to make the introduction of Red Stag something more than a calculated risk. I guess we'll see, and if nothing else, at least us bourbon enthusiasts have one more thing to talk about.

July 6, 2009

A Rare Glimpse Into Anchor's Distillery

Anyone who has toured San Franciso's Anchor Brewing knows that you get to sample their beer for free and see how they make it. What you aren't allowed to see, however, is the small distillery on site. I am a big fan of Anchor's rye whiskey products, and also believe that Fritz Maytag (Anchor's owner) represents all good things in American whiskey.

Enjoy - it's absolutely worth it. And, I apologize for not being able to embed the video (I'm not allowed).

July 1, 2009

How Bourbon Really Got Its Name, Really?

There are several different stories that explain, or attempt to explain, how American corn whiskey became known as bourbon. Despite the differences among these accounts, there is a common thread linking them all together: Bourbon County, Kentucky.

After the American Revolution, what is today the State of Kentucky was a large territory in Virginia. Around 1780, Virginia began to divide this large Kentucky territory into smaller units. To pay respect to the French for helping the U.S. defeat England, a bunch of these divisions were named after the French, one of which being called Bourbon County after the French royal family. So, that's how Kentucky got a Bourbon County.

One explanation of American whiskey being called bourbon was simply because bourbon was invented in Bourbon County. Many related accounts expound on this idea, claiming Elijah Craig was the first to distill "bourbon" in Bourbon County that was called "Bourbon County Whiskey." The name was eventually shortened to just bourbon. The unfortunate side to this tale is that Mr. Craig never distilled in Bourbon County and there is not one single place where bourbon can accurately be said to have been invented.

Others say that the bourbon name grew from Kentucky's trade with southern cities. Whiskey was a popular export from Kentucky, and much of it was shipped down the Ohio River. The primary port in Kentucky served Bourbon County, an area where a lot of corn whiskey was being produced. However, the vast Bourbon County was subdivided into 34 smaller counties as the 19th century approached, and the region was then known as Old Bourbon County. The whiskey that was made in this Old Bourbon region was labeled "Old Bourbon Whiskey" on the barrels that were shipped down river. As time went by and more whiskey was shipped, people began to understand Old Bourbon Whiskey to be the corn-based whiskey that many had not tasted before. Eventually, "bourbon" was the name used by whiskey drinkers to distinguish it from rye.

Along those same lines, another account tells us that both Bourbon County and Kentucky earned a respected reputation for the whiskey that the early Americans made there. "Kentucky bourbon" became the popular, generic classification for the whiskey that came from that part of the county, differentiating it from Pennsylvania rye.

Still other accounts discuss how advertising gave bourbon its name. When whiskey was shipped down the Mississippi River, it was referred to as "whiskey from Bourbon," meaning Bourbon County. In 1821, it was first advertised as "bourbon whiskey," and within 20 years, bourbon was the household name for American corn whiskey.

Finally, another explanation goes like this. By 1786, bourbon was known as "Kentucky" or "Western whiskey" so people could tell it apart it from Pennsylvania and Maryland whiskey. In this same year, about, Bourbon County was created, and near this time whiskey was first floated down the Mississippi River for trade with New Orleans and St. Louis from Bourbon County. The whiskey became to be known as "bourbon" based on its point of origin.

Well it seems that no two stories are the same. But despite the nuances, the common thread of Bourbon County remains. The most plausible explanation appears to be that many different distillers in and around Bourbon County made whiskey from corn. Since there was a concentration of these whiskey makers in the area, their corn product became associated with the Bourbon County region. Whether by trade, advertising, or word-of-mouth, this Bourbon County whiskey became popular, and eventually became known as bourbon. So, Scotch comes from Scotland, Irish whisky comes from Ireland, and at one point, corn whiskey came from Bourbon County and the surrounding area.

June 24, 2009

Aeneas Coffey and the Column Still

Aeneas Coffey was an Irishman who was born in France in 1780. Somewhat ironically, Coffey was an excise officer, and made a living investigating and shutting down illegal distilling operations. Perhaps his familiarity with whiskey production was the impetus behind his patenting of the Coffey still in 1831.

The Coffey still, a.k.a. the continuous still, the beer still, the column still, and the patent still, is the device that intially seperates the alcohol from the mash, discussed here. Coffey's still, which was really a revamp of an existing still designed by the Scotsman Robert Stein, inlcuded two columns, one named the analyzer and one named the rectifier. The analyzer essentially heated the cold mash that was pumped into it, almost to the point of boiling. The now-heated mash was then sent over to the rectifier. The rectifier is basically what has become the column still in virtually all of American whiskey distilleries (Woodford Reserve uses old alembic-style pot stills) and is where steam meets the mash and vaporizes the alcohol from everything else. Modernly, the need for the analyzer has fallen by the wayside.

The column still has several advantages of its pot still predecessors: it can be used continuously instead of emptied, cleaned, and refilled after every use like pot stills; it can produce much greater quantities of alcohol faster than a pot still; it is cheaper and more efficient to operate; and produces purer, higher concentrations of alcohol. These advantages made the column still ideal in the US for post-Civil War distillation, when distilleries began to turn their plants into large-scale production centers and efficiency was key. They remain a vital part of bourbon production today.

The column still has not overtaken the whiskey industry. Scotland refuses to use them, because they believe that their traditional pot stills produce higher quality results. To an extent, this is true, with the caveat that "higher quality" is a subjective term - since pot stills yield less concentrated alcohol, there necessarily remains more impurities in the liquid (the higher the alcohol content, the less room for impurities, such as cogeners and proteins), and it is these impurities that influence the whiskey's flavor. So, the argument goes, column stills strip away too many flavor-enhancing impurities compared to the alembic/pot stills. I will now happily end this post without opening any doors to a bourbon vs. Scotch debate.

June 17, 2009

Colonel Albert Bacon Blanton

Those who know high-end whiskey are no doubt familiar with Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon. The details about the man for whom that bourbon is named may be less known. Here's a quick bio.

Col. Albert B. Blanton entered the bourbon industy as a 16 year old in 1897, when he was hired as a clerk in what was then called the O.F.C Distillery in Kentucky. After learning about most of the aspects of bourbon making, Blanton was made the plant manager in 1912, at the same time the distillery changed names to George T. Stagg. A few years later, when Prohibition struck, Blanton kept the distillery alive by bottling bourbon, under Federal license, for medicinal uses. Blanton's was the only Kentucky distillery that did so, and was one of only 4 in the United States given this permission. Blanton was again promoted, this time to president, in 1921.

Near the end of Prohibition, around 1929, the George T. Stagg Distillery was sold off to Schenley Distillers Corporation. Blanton stayed on as plant manager and distiller, and guided the distillery into the more modern age of bourbon production in the 1930's and 1940's. Blanton retired in 1953, and in his honor, the plant was renamed the Albert B. Blanton Distillery.

In 1959, Albert Blanton died. He was one of the very few industy men to be part of bourbon both before and after Prohibition, and most importantly was able to use the traditions of bourbon making that he knew to shape the modern face of the industry. In 1992, Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon, the first of its type, was introduced by Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee to celebrate Blanton and his accomplishments.

Also noteworthy, the Albert B. Blanton Distillery became the Ancient Age Distillery in 1962, and in 1992 the physical premises were bought by Sazerac. In 2001, the plant became what we know today as Buffalo Trace. A statute of Blanton stands on the site, and its base reads,

Loved And Respected
Master Distiller And
True Kentucky Gentleman.
He Dedicated 55 Years Of His
Life To The Service Of
His Community And His Company.
That His Inspired Leadership
May Live In The Minds Of Those
With Whom He Lived And Of
Those Who Follow. This Memorial
Is Erected With Gratitude And Honor.

Oh, and Col. Blanton was not in the military - his title of Colonel is a civic distinction that was bestowed upon him by the State of Kentucky.

June 13, 2009

Filtration and the Lincoln County Process

Understanding the different filtration processes between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey is understanding why Tennessee whiskey is not legally considered bourbon. Because products like Jack Daniel's and George Dickel use the "Lincoln County Process," they are technically not bourbons.

The Lincoln County Process is not a new thing. It got its name because Jack Daniel's Lynchburg, TN distillery was in Lincoln County before county boundaries were reassigned (Daniel's is now in Moore County). But, before it was called such, it was a practice used by many whiskey rectifiers to improve the often-times harsh taste of the unaged whiskey sold in the 19th century. The process, also known as charcoal mellowing or leaching, is one by which whiskey is filtered before it goes into the barrel. Here's how it goes:

Sugar maple trees are harvested in the fall, when the trees' sap content is low, and are then air dried and cut into 5 foot long boards. The boards are stacked crosswise on top of each other, like a lattice, until the pile reaches about 7 feet tall. These piles are called ricks. The ricks are then set ablaze while men with water hoses control the temperature - to high a temperature would reduce the maple to ash, instead of charcoal. Once all the wood is burned to charcoal, the charcoal pieces are dumped into a vat that's between 8 and 10 feet tall, creating a column of charcoal. Then in goes the unaged whiskey where it drips and filters through the charcoal column and out the bottom of the vat through a wool blanket. It takes a week to 10 days to complete its course through the charcoal. From there, the charcoal filtered whiskey goes into the barrel to age.

The effect of the charcoal filtering gives the whiskey a sooty characteristic (celebrated by Jack Daniel's fans) and gives the whiskey a distinct smoothness. Charcoal filtering also jump-starts the aging process by subjecting the green whiskey to the benefits of charred wood. You see, when whiskey is aging in its charred oak barrel, the chemical interactions between the wood and the liquid reduce the undesireable cogeners. Cogeners are fusel oils and acids that are naturally created during distillation. They are what give unaged, raw whiskey its awful taste. So, giving the whiskey time to flow in and out of charred barrel allows science to do its work, and blunt the offensive tastes by removing the cogeners. (Keep in mind that not all cogeners are "bad;" while some are toxic in high concentration, some are harmless and even add to the character and body of bourbons). So, filtering the new whiskey in the Lincoln County Process gives the mellowing abilities of the charcoal a head start before it's times for barrel aging.

Boubon is also filtered, but in a very different manner from Tennessee whiskey. The filtration of bourbon is largely a 20th century practice. It happens after bourbon has been aged, but before it's bottled, and has only cosmetic purposes. When bourbon is done aging, it has in it some harmless impurities. These impurities are naturally occurring fatty acids and proteins, and are the reason behind the dreaded chill haze - the cloudiness that appears in bourbon when it's chilled. Since consumers think this cloudiness is a sign of bad bourbon, distillers filter the impurities out. Again, it's merely for appearance, and some bourbon enthusiasts think the removal of these impurities removes some of the subtle tastes from their drinks. So, to appease their drinking public, distillers chill their bourbon before it's bottled and filter out the particulates. The bourbon is chilled for filtration because it makes the impurities easier to find and remove. If you haven't done so already, try some Booker's which isn't filtered at all.

Now, there is some debate about the real difference between bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. The two differ only in that Tennessee whiskey undergoes the Lincoln County Process - it has an added filtration step. However, Jack Daniel's and George Dickel, which are the only two Tennessee whiskies, meet all the legal requirements of bourbon set forth by the Federal Regulations. So, where is the real difference? Technically, any bourbon could be charcoal filtered and still legally be called a bourbon. I suppose those that enjoy debating these types of things will comment on the taste differences between the two: charcoal filtering takes away too much taste, charcoal filtering adds too much taste, charcoal filtering makes it too sooty.... Whatever side of the fence, nay rick, you are on, my suggestion is to drink what you enjoy and let labels be labels.

May 31, 2009

Knob Creek Review

Knob Creek is part of the Jim Beam Small Batch collection, which includes Booker's, Baker's, and Basil Hayden's. Knob Creek is the least expensive and best selling among the four. It's named after an actual creek in Kentucky, along which young Abe Lincoln lived. Knob Creek is orange-copper in color, is 100 proof, and is sold in a flask-like bottle similar in shape to Woodford Reserve.

Knob Creek starts out as the same whiskey as Jim Beam White label (aged 4 years). The only difference is that KC is aged 9 years (one year longer than the Black label expression). It would be fun to spend a day comparing and contrasting the taste profiles of Jim Beam White label, Black label, and Knob Creek seeing as they are all from the same Beam mashbill and differ only by age.

KC's nose is thick; syrupy sweet with citrus undertones. While thick, it's also complex, and there is some corn, licorice, and something dank like the smell of a basement in Vermont. The taste is smoky, almost peaty. Syrupy sweetness is present, but not to the degree the nose promised - instead it's tempered by hot spiciness. There is also a dry woodiness that spreads to the roof of your mouth and back of your tongue while a cornbread tastiness pops up on the front of your tongue. Nice and complex, with each sip having differing characteristics. It finishes pretty quickly with an oaky surge that plows through your mouth, from the back to the front.

All in all, KC is interesting because it is complex. This complexity is what I appreciate most about it, even more that the actual taste. While KC is not my favorite for its taste, it definitely ranks high for its ability to make me ponder its nuances and several dimensions.

May 27, 2009

Bottled In Bond

Bourbons that are "bottled in bond" are those that comply with the Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897. This Act was created to ensure the authenticity and purity of bourbon, and mandates that to be considered bonded and be labeled as such, bottled whiskey must be at least 4 years old, at least 100 proof, be the product of one distillery and one distiller, in one season. Bondeds are thus distinct from straight bourbon because straights commonly are combinations of different bourbons made at different times and places.To make sure these requirements were met, bonded bourbon was aged in Federally bonded and supervised warehouses, the keys to which were held by the goverment supervisors (these "government men" were agents of the Treasury Department, and up until the early 1980's, they physically unlocked the doors each morning and locked them each night).

These requirements are interesting and all, and can be useful in understanding the character of modernly available BIBs, like Old Grand Dad 100 proof. More interesting is the history and historical players behind the Act.

Among his many other significant contributions to the bourbon industry as we know it today, E.H. Taylor was instrumental in the creation of the Bottled-In-Bond Act. By way of brief background, Edmund Haynes Taylor was born in 1890 in Columbus, KY. He made a bunch of money as a banker and eventually became interested in the whiskey business. His first foray into the bourbon industry was in 1860, when Taylor funded Gaines, Berry & Co. Distillers, which apparently made Old Crow. After the Civil War, he acquired the Old Pepper distillery along with its whiskey stocks. Taylor also had a hand in the OFC Distillery, which today is Buffalo Trace. In addition to bourbon, politics became another primary interest to Taylor, and in 1871 he was elected Mayor of Frankfurt, KY - a position he held for almost 20 years. From Mayor, he went on to become a state representative and then Senator. With his substantial interest in bourbon, and his powerful political presence, Taylor was especially well-positioned to influence the government about the importance of protecting the quality and integrity of American whiskey at that time. You see, Taylor did not want the American public to distrust whiskey, and he had good reason to think they might.

When Taylor was born and living, bourbon was not aged, advertised, or sold as it is today. A large percentage of whiskey available in the 1800's was green (unaged) and thus very harsh tasting. While aging bourbon in charred oak barrels was on its way to becoming the standard, there were still an overwhelming amount of distillers, wholesalers, and retailers who did their best to make the young bourbon palatable. Some used innocuous ingredients, like syrups or fruit juices to sweeten the bourbon. Others, however, used some pretty disgusting stuff like tobacco, acid, and other harmful toxins to trick drinkers' mouths. All this was compounded by the fact that the U.S. did not have any truth-in-advertising, trademark, or brand name protection laws at this time. Accordingly, with harmful bourbon concoctions being sold under the false pretenses of "pure Kentucky bourbon" (for example), time was ripe for Federal intervention.

So, armed with his political might and his determination to keep bourbon pure, Taylor joined forces with the then-Secretary of the Treasury John G. Calisle. Together, they successfully fought for the Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897. The term bonded bourbon now is antiquated, but is still similar to the several single barrel expressions sold today. So, if you see the random Bond, give it try, and appreciate the distiller's skill in selecting the single-season, single distillery quaff. And, when enjoying any bourbon, tip your glass to Mr. Taylor and thank him for the absence of acid and tobacco in your drink.

May 19, 2009

Woodford Reserve Distillery Tour

I liked these videos, taken from the Woodford Reserve Distillery. The information is useful and interesting, and seeing where and in what manner a bourbon is made always give me a new perspective when I drink, in this case, Woodford.

May 11, 2009

Alembic: The San Francisco Bourbon Bar

I vacationed last week in San Francisco with my wife. I had done a little research into there being any great San Francisco bourbon bars. Alembic was a suggestion. I checked out the website. The bourbon menu speaks for itself. And, the more daring of you should also peruse the food menu (the boar jerky is awesome).

Alembic is unassuming and unpretentious. It's on the gritty/artsy/eccentric/ecletic/freakish Haight Street and draws a diverse clientele. The bourbon and American whiskey selection is outrageous:

I started with a Blantons, then moved on to Four Roses Small Batch, Four Rose Single, Van Winkle 20 year, and then tried a Bernheim seeing as it's so hard to find. As you can see, I took advantage of getting to buy a glass from the pretty expensive bottles out there.

I was served by Janiece, who was knowledable, friendly, and a bourbon enthusiast. It was a truly memorable experience, and the bar was a testament that bourbon is still very much appreicated by the American, or at least San Franciscan, drinking community. You'd be doing yourself a big favor by stopping by next time you're in northern California.

May 1, 2009

A Question of Barreling, Part II: Why Char?

Bourbon barrels are made of oak, by law. I discussed this here. The use of oak is actually a tradition from antiquity, seeing as oak casks were the choice vessel for storing wine and beer through the centuries. So, the Europeans who settled in America brought this tradition with them.

The charring of barrels is also a practice that pre-dates bourbon. Wooden barrels were commonly used as containers, holding pretty much anything that needed containment: pickles and foodstuffs to metal scraps. When it was time to re-use a barrel, it was fired on the inside to sterilize it for the next use. So, it would be common for charred oak barrels to be handy during the early days of American whiskey making, and made a great whiskey transporter.

In those early days, distillers and whiskey merchants would sell most of the liquor unaged, essentially as grain alcohol. However, some whiskey was stored and aged. Since at least some of the barrels used to store this whiskey would have been charred to eliminate the remnants of its previous use, the whiskey would have a chance to age in the charred wood. When finally sold, the resultant bourbon would have been much more palatable and enjoyable to the purchaser. Thus, the benefits of using charred barrels became well known, and new barrels were charred for the sole purpose of holding bourbon during its aging process.

But why char new barrels if all these existing ones are available? Well, charred barrels became less and less available for whiskey distillers. Distillers sold their liquor to customers and retailers in the barrel; the bottling process was yet to occur. So, as barrels went out to customers and stores, they rarely found their way back to the distillery. Accordingly, distilleries were forced to char new, unused barrels to acheive the desired bourbon. Since people preferred whiskey that came from a charred barrel, producers obliged. Business is business.

Presently, the two primary barrel producers are Bluegrass Cooperage in Louisville, KY and the Independent Stave Company located in both Missouri and Kentucky. The barrels that come from these places are charred at the plant to the distillery's specifications. The charring is measured in levels, from 1 to 4, 4 being the deepest char which subjects the barrel to about 1 minute of flame. Only seconds differentiate between the char levels. A char at level 3 is very common in the distilleries.

A worthwhile, short video of the barrel-making process is found on Independent Stave's website, here.

April 21, 2009

Elmer T. Lee and the Creation of the First Single Barrel Bourbon

Elmer T. Lee, Master Distiller Emeritus at Buffalo Trace, created the first single barrel bourbon. By doing so, he arguably precipitated the American movement towards premium bourbons in the 1980's.

Born in 1919, Mr. Lee grew up in Frankfurt, KY. After serving with the military, he earned his degree in engineering from the University of Kentucky and in 1949 got a job as a plant engineer in what it presently Buffalo Trace Distillery. For 15 years, Lee worked as an engineer and was lucky enough to serve under Col. Albert Blanton from whom he learned much of his bourbon-making knowledge. In 1978, Lee was promoted to plant manager and master distiller. Years later, in 1986, he retired.

In 1984, however, Lee released Blanton's Single Barrel bourbon to compete with the international movement towards higher-end whiskies (this was around the time single malt scotch was creating a name for itself). Lee decided America deserved a part of the premium whiskey pie, and his decision to market and sell single barrel bourbon did just that.

Despite being "retired," Lee still goes to the Trace every week, on Monday's I hear, to select the barrels to be used in the distillery's different products. For Blanton's, Lee prefers to select barrels from the middle floors of warehouses C, I, or K. According to Lee, these locations contain the most balanced and flavorful bourbons.

Lee is certainly among the most influencial characters in bourbon production, both from a modern and historic viewpoint. A great video featuring Lee is available from Buffalo Trace's website. You should definitely watch it.

April 15, 2009

The Importance of Water

Water is a critical ingredient in bourbon making, or at least the right kind of water is. As luck would have it, Kentucky's natural spring water is ideal for the creation of its native whiskey.

Allow me to go on a brief geological tangent. Limestone is abundant in Kentucky. This type of sedimentary rock was formed 460 million to 330 million year ago when warm, shallow seas covered what is presently Kentucky. The subterranean limestone now acts as a natural filter for Kentucky's spring water.

As is important to the bourbon industry, when groundwater flows through the limestone, iron salts are removed from it and calcium and magnesium are added. As a result, the water can react more favorably with the yeast during the fermentation process, as it provides an ideal environment for yeast to live and multiply. Without such suitable water, i.e. water that contains iron or other minerals, the water will react with the chemicals in the barrel wood and turn the bourbon bitter and black, and sometimes bright green. Again, the right water is a critical factor in making drinkable whiskey.

I guess ideal bourbon-making water is truly millions of years in the making.

April 10, 2009

Bourbon Fermentation and Distillation

I spoke about the creation of the mash in an earlier post. That mash has to go through some more key steps before meeting the barrel and beginning the aging process to become bourbon. Those key steps include fermentation and distillation. Generally speaking, fermentation is the process of alcohol creation and distillation is the process of alcohol collection.

After the sour mash, or backset, is added to a fresh mash mixture, yeast is introduced. Yeast is a living microorganism that has a specific role in bourbon (and, well, all alcohol) production: it feeds on the sugars created when, during mashing, the enzymes in the malted barley reacted with the grain starches. The by-products of the yeast's feast is carbon dioxide, the release of which makes the liquid bubble and froth during fermentation, and alcohol. After a few days of alcohol and CO2 releasing, the alcohol content rises to between 8 and 11%. Depending on the yeast strain used, the rising alcohol percentage eventually kills off the yeast and effectively completes fermentation. Yeast, by the way, should not be underestimated or thought of being merely a fungible commodity. Each yeast strain is different and is capable of influencing the flavor of the bourbon - some yeasts make bad-tasting whiskies. Distillers guard their yeast strains very cautiously; for example, Beam still uses yeast from the same mother batch used when distillation reopened after Prohibition.

The end of fermentation marks the beginning of the (usually) two step distillation process. The now-alcoholic mash is pumped into the first still, the column still, so named for it columnar shape. It can be several stories high, and is about a yard across. The fermented goop is pumped into the top of the still, where it slowly trickles down through a series of pierced horizontal plates spaced about 18 inches apart and attached to the inside of the column. As gravity slowly pulls the mash down through the grated plates, steam enters and rises from the still's bottom. Since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, the hot steam vaporizes the alcohol and carries it up and out of the still, leaving behind all the non-alcoholic mash components.

The vaporized alcohol is then condensed into what is a clear, potent liquid before it starts its second distillation. Distillation number two occurs in another still, called a "doubler." The doubler removes even more water from the condensed alcohol, therby increasing the liquid's proof. And as you'll recall, law says "bourbon" can't be distilled to an alcohol content greater than 160 (80 proof). From the doubler, it's on to the barrel and aging.

Distillation allows distillers to regulate the alcohol content of what will eventually become bourbon. This is important as proof and flavor have a direct relationship, and in order for bourbons to meet the standards of their master distillers, control over the alcohol content at this early stage of production is vital.

April 7, 2009

Bourbon Tasting With Ex-Maker's Mark Master Distiller Dave Pickerell

Below is a YouTube feed that I enjoyed watching featuring Maker's Mark former master distiller Dave Pickerell. Dave talks about some of the nuances to tasting bourbon and talks briefly about Maker's distilling philosophy. I liked this video because it recongizes both the objectivity and subjectivity to tasting. Yet again, science meets individualism.

March 28, 2009

The Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace is a strange name, and the distillery's history begins with that name. When buffaloes roamed early North America, they made trails through the country. These trails and paths were known as "traces," and were followed by pioneering settlers as they explored the new lands and expanded into the western frontier. One trace in particular was called The Great Buffalo Trace, and it lead to a river crossing - the Kentucky River - in today's Franklin County, KY. By the late 18th century, a population arose in this area along the Kentucy River and soon began distilling whiskey. The Great Buffalo Trace thus provided the name to the modern distillery of today, which is the oldest distilling location in the U.S.

While distilling began when settlers first arrived, the first contemporary distillery was established in the late 1850's. By 1869, the distillery was bought by E.H. Taylor, and was named O.F.C. Distillery. The distillery was later bought by George T. Stagg, and overseen by Albert Blanton (Blanton's Bourbon). Blanton, who was master distiller from 1912 to 1952, was able to keep the distillery open through Prohibition - the distillery was one of three others that received a governmental permit to continue to produce whiskey for medicinal purposes.

In 1999, the George T. Stagg Distillery was renamed Buffalo Trace and Buffalo Trace Bourbon was introduced. Today, the distillery is owned by Sazerac, and it has earned more international awards that any other North American distillery. In addition to its flagship Buffalo Trace Bourbon, the distillery distills 11 bourbons, including Blanton's, Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg, Rock Hill Farms, Pappy Van Winkle, and W.L. Weller.

The above photo, by the way, is one of the distillery's rackhouses.

Finally, whiskey and bourbon enthusiasts (and newcomers) should visit the Buffalo Trace Saloon, at The Saloon is a free, and as described by the distillery, is a site for "fans to check out all kinds of things they like - sports, music, parties, contests," and of course, bourbon.

March 26, 2009

The San Francisco World Spirits Competiton Results Are In

The 2009 San Francisco World Spirits Competition was recently held. To quote the website:

"The San Francisco World Spirits Competition is the first comprehensive, international spirits judging ever held in the United States on an annual basis. Founded in 2000 by directors of the San Francisco International Wine Competition, Anthony Dias Blue and Carol Seibert, the Spirits Competition continues each year to grow in entrants as well as stature within the industry. This is a fabulous marketing and promotion opportunity for the top medal winners."

This year, the event was held at the Nikko Hotel in, as you may have guessed, San Francisco. Several judges were in attendance, and had the very tough and very enviable task of tasting and ranking spirits. American whiskey was only one of several segments tasted and evaluated, and the complete rankings can be viewed here. I don't want to regurgitate all the results, but thought a brief review of some bourbons was in order.

Bourbon as a broad category was broken down into Straight Bourbon, Small Batch aged for 10 years or less, Small Batch aged for 11 or more years, Single Barrel aged 10 years or less, and Single Barrel aged 11 years or more. Of note, both Jim Beam Black Label and White Label received recognition, being awared double-gold and gold medals respectively. It goes to show that Beam as a frat-house staple belies its true quality. The Small Batch 10 year results recognized all the usual suspects, including Baker's, Booker's, Knob Creek, and Woodford Reserve. Among the remaining groups, which included 11 whiskies, 6 were a product of Sazerac, which deserves some press.

I like seeing bourbons ranked at competitions like this not because I need someone else to tell me what's good, but because the results spike my curiosity. That subtle differences and nuances between such fine bourbons can be quantified gives me brief pause to appreciate someone else's opinion. Doing so is usually a good exercise.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Best in Show awards will be published on Saturday, the 28th.

March 24, 2009

Bulleit Bourbon Review

Bulleit may be my favorite of the moderately-priced bourbons out there (around $24.00). It is a Kentucky straight bourbon, and weighs in at 90 proof. I have read that Bulleit was initially made for the sole consumption of an attorney in Lexington, KY. True or not, the story adds some mystique to Bulleit's history.

Bulleit is golden orange in color, and its mashbill boasts a high rye content - 30%. I'm not sure of any other bourbon that has a higher rye content. Its label touts it as a "Frontier Whiskey," which I guess is some marketing ploy used to conjure up ideas of the "olden days" when families distilled their own bourbon. Thankfully, the recipe is not as old as the frontier, as whiskies in that time period were, generally, not aged much if at all. In keeping with the "frontier" spirit, the bottle is hip flask-shaped, sort of. I do think the shape is cool.

Bulleit's nose is grainy, but balanced. It's spicy and slightly floral. Mouthfeel is viscous, pleasant without being oily. As for taste, the high rye content certainly introduces itself unabashedly. The taste is peppery and oaky with a welcomed raw bite. Not too complex, but its beauty lies in its simplicity. Bulleit finishes with a dry, leathery note and a subtle burn. It is a solid bourbon.

Bulleit is my go-to when mixing a Manhattan. It's the type of bourbon that I buy as soon as I finish a bottle so I always have it on hand. Highly recommended.

March 21, 2009

That Which It Is Not

Understanding why all other whiskies cannot be called bourbon makes it easier to understand why certain whiskies can be. I talked about the legalities of "bourbon" here, and will explain how other whiskies are different.

To recap, "bourbon" must be:
- made with at least 51% corn,
- cannot be distilled at a proof higher than 160,
- cannot be barreled at higher than 125 proof,
- the aging must take place in fire-charred oak barrels,
- the barrels must be previously unused, and
- nothing can be added during the bottling other than water.

So what about all the other whiskies around?

Rye Whiskey essentially follows the guidelines of bourbon. The difference is that the grain used in its production must be at least 51% rye. Pretty simple difference. Rye brands include Wild Turkey Rye, Sazerac, Rittenhouse, Old Overholt, Jim Beam Rye, and Michters Rye to name a few.

Wheat Whiskey is, again, made per the bourbon formula with the exception that the majority of the grain must be wheat and not corn. Bernheim Original is an example of wheat whiskey, and comes from Heaven Hill Distilleries. To be honest, I've never tasted Bernheim, but am doing my best to get a bottle.

Malt Whiskey, just like rye and wheat whiskey, differs from the bourbon regulations in one way - by requiring at least 51% of the grain be malted barley. There are very few American brands of this, and the ones the do exist are, for lack of a better term, American-made Scotch. Clear Creek Distilleries in Oregon makes a malt whiskey, as does St. George Spirits in Alameda, California.

Rye Malt Whiskey must contain at least 51% malted rye grain. Anchor Steam's Old Potrero is made with 100% malted rye. As an aside, Anchor Steam's Junipero Gin is outstanding.

Corn Whiskey diverges significantly, in part, from the bourbon-type regulation template. Corn whiskey must be made with at least 80% corn grain and need not be aged in wood. In fact, if it is, the wood cannot be charred or fired. Basically, corn whiskey is an unaged spirit that resembles Prohibition-era moonshine. It's pretty nasty. Georgia Moon makes a corn whiskey. So does Platte Valley.

Tennessee Whiskey includes Jack Daniel's and George Dickel. These whiskies are filtered through maple charcoal before they are aged in barrels. This filtration, known as the Lincoln County Process, is unique to Daniel's and Dickel. There is some debate about the differences between Tennesse whiskey and bourbon, and some believe that there is no reason that these whiskies can't be legally called "bourbon." Chuck Cowdery explains this, in his usual expert manner, here.

Scotch must be distilled in Scotland. According to the Scotch Whisky Order of 1990, Scotch must be distilled from water and malted barley, to which only cereals and other whole grains can be added. The mash must be "converted into a fermentable substrate" by only endogenous enzyme systems, meaning the enzymes that play a part in the distillation must come from the grain initially added - not from independently introducing enzymes into the mash. Scotch must also be fermented solely with yeast. It's distilled to a strength of less than 94.8%, which ensures that the whiskey retains the flavors and characters of the raw materials used in its production. Further, Scotch has to be matured in Scotland in oak barrels for no less than 3 years and 1 day, and cannot contain any additives but water and/or caramel coloring. Finally, it cannot be bottled at less than 80 proof.

The most popular Scotches are the single malts. These include Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, Macallan, Bowmore, etc., etc., etc. The taste, body, character, and color of Scotch varies greatly depending upon the region of Scotland in which it was made. My favorites come from the Islay, like Lagavulin and Laphroaig.

Canadian Whiskey like all other whiskies is produced according to specific regulations. It has to be mashed, distilled, and aged in Canada for at least 3 years. Aging occurs in wooden barrels with capacities no greater than 700 liters. Canadian whiskey is made from a mash of cereal grain or cereal grain products and the enzymes used to break down the starches of the grain need to be derived from malt "or other enzymes," and fermentation has to occur from yeast or other natural organisms. This whiskey can't be bottled at less than 80 proof, and it may contain caramel and flavoring additives.

Comparitively, Canadian whiskey has relatively lax regulations governing its production. Popular Canadian whiskies include Crown Royal, Forty Creek, and of course, Canadian Club, which was regularly smuggled over the border during Prohibition and distributed around the U.S. These whiskies are known for their subtle, light flavors and smoothness.

Irish Whiskey must be produced in Ireland or Northern Ireland to be labeled as such. Irish whiskey must be produced with cereal grains, and the starch in those grains have to be converted to sugar by enzymes contained in malt and/or other natural enzymes. Like Scotch, Irish whiskey is distilled at an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% by volume to preserve the aroma and flavor derived from the materials used. It also has to be matured in wooden casks for at least 3 years, either entirely in Ireland, entirely in Northern Ireland, or some combination between them. Bushmills, Jameson, Redbreast, and Black Bush are some examples.

Whiskey is whiskey, right? Well, not exactly. The subtle differences in production can make marked differences in the final product. Go forth and taste.

March 16, 2009

Brrrr-bon - Does Bourbon Really Warm You Up?

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has reached for some whiskey (or any other booze for that matter) in an attempt to warm up on a cold night. Drinking it does give a warming sensation, but does it really raise our body temperature? Can bourbon replace your blanket when the heater's broken? Well, not exactly.

Booze actually reduces the body's core temperature when drunk in cold and even not so cold places. Let me explain - alcohol, chemically speaking, dilates the blood vessels upon drinking. When blood vessel are dilated, blood flows towards the surface of the skin, and warms the nerve endings there. While this gives the sensation of warmth, it actually makes us colder for two reasons: first, with warm blood near the surface of the skin, it is more easily absorbed by the colder outside air causing heat loss. Second, when there isn't alcohol in your system, your body draws blood to your organs when you're cold, which helps increase the core temperature. So, the dilation of vessels and the consequent blood flow away from the body's organs actually cools the body. It seems that the next time you are skiing, a flask of bourbon will more likely lead to hypothermia than to warmth.

Drinking booze also reduces the body's natural ability to shiver, which is one way your body creates warmth. Also, the quick warming sensation may be met by the natural reaction of sweating, and sweating during colder weather can drastically decrease your body temperature.

So, there you are - a science lesson. Bourbon may decrease body temps, but it certainly raises your spirits. Plus, if your barefoot and jacketless in northern Canada with no supplies but a fifth of Old Grandad, it's safe to say your troubles are far greater than those mentioned in this post.

March 12, 2009

Rackhouse Construction

As mentioned briefly in my post on barrels, temperature and temperature change has an affect on the aging of bourbon. Hot Kentucky summers lead to expansion and bourbon seeps into the barrels, while winter brings with it retraction. The rackhouse (or rickhouse) is where the bourbon barrels are stored and aged, and temperature regulation within these storage houses is thus crucial in bourbon aging.

A rule of thumb is that temperatures that dip below 40 degrees in the winter may halt the chemical interplay between whiskey and wood, and summertime heat above 90 degrees may cause too much expansion too quickly. The storage houses take this into account.

Traditionally, "old-style" rackhouses are layers of heavy wooden floors topped with a tin roof. Each floor holds barrels of bourbon. The walls are thick stone dotted with windows, and the basement is exposed dirt. The exposed dirt isn't a result of cost-cutting; rather, it helps to add humitidy to the dry winter months and softens the temperature changes between seasons. These warehouses were also built with ventilation as a priority - with the help of the several windows, the rackhouses were designed to allow cross ventilation, or lateral ventilation through each floor, and stack ventilation, which is the cycle of air from the top of the house to bottom and back again. All of this attention to detail is to the benefit of the bourbon.

These traditional rackhouses are relatively expensive to build, and thus aren't always a viable option for new construction. Newer, cost-effective rackhouses use less expensive wood, less robust exteriors, and cheaper, but highly reflective, metal roofings that deflect heat and reduce extreme temperature spikes inside. These newer-type warehouses don't allow as much control over the interior temperatures as the traditional ones. So, to make up for the temperature swings, the bourbon barrels are rotated throughout the rickhouse. Generally, the barrels at the top and near the outside walls of the houses are most susceptible to the varying climate. To compensate, barrels are moved from top to bottom and from outside in as they mature. Ideally, the rotation keeps consistency among the thousands of barrels.

Other types of rackhouses are made with a view towards accelerating the aging process. These houses are constructed with dark roofs to absorb heat, and meager walls that welcome the cold of the winter. The idea is that allowing temperature spikes will drive the bourbon into and out of the barrel walls quicker than other houses allow, and by fast-forwarding the process, a distillery saves a lot of time. However, this speed has its price, and bourbons that undergo this accelerated process are said to be of inferior quality to those whiskies that have paid their dues and spent years and years on the dark floors of the rackhouse. But, you decide for yourself.

I hope that with the past few handful of posts you are seeing a theme: bourbon is profoundly natural. Of course modern technology has permeated the industry, but at no point has it stolen the lore from the bottle. The appreciation and enjoyment of bourbon goes far beyond the taste of the liquid, and should not end when your glass is empty.

March 11, 2009

Brief History Of Bourbon, Visually

In an attempt to give you a break from the potential monotony of reading these posts, I thought some audio/video would suffice. Enjoy:

March 9, 2009

A Question of Barreling: Why Wood?

Pretty much everyone knows that bourbon spends some time aging in wooden barrels. Why wood? Why American oak? Read on.

Wood, instead of any other material, is the medium of choice (and necessity) for the storage and aging of bourbon and other alcohol because wood provides an idea place to bourbon to mellow out. When bourbon is first introduced into a barrel, it isn't the lovely shades of reddish-amber and brown you see in the bottled end product - it's clear and has a taste that you would never remember fondly. The wood of the barrel chemically interacts with spirit, and when the acids in the wood are introduced to the infant whiskey, over time the unpalatable harshness is blunted. Theoretically, and up to a point, the more time in the barrel creates a smoother drink. Yes, it is very much a science as it is an art.

Oak is used because of its grain. The very tight nature of oak wood's grain allows an ideal amount of oxygen both in and out of the barrels during aging. This ebb and flow of air through the pores of the oak is an essential part of the maturation process, and imparts taste to the bourbon. And, with the ebb and flow of air comes the absorption of the spirit into the wood itself. From the hot summers to the cold winters, bourbon expands and contracts into and out of the wooden barrel walls, sucking the acids, sugars, and colors from the charred wood to give bourbon its color and, in significant part, taste. It's manipulated nature at its best - 100% natural processes that wouldn't occur without human intervention.

The process of maturation is a topic unto itself, and will be discussed later in greater detail. In the meantime, I hope you understand that bourbon creation depends on all things natural. Indeed, a whiskey that has anything artificial added to it cannot properly be called "bourbon," nor should it ever be.

March 7, 2009

Bourbon As A Congressional Concern

Who says alcohol and politics don't mix? About a year and a half ago, on August 2, 2007, Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning sponsored a Resolution that declared September "National Bourbon Heritage Month" and paid homage to bourbon's role in American history. I think the Resolution further legitimizes bourbon as being part and parcel of America's development as a country, and validates the extent to which bourbon contributed to the American identity. Here's the text:
Designating September 2007 as `National Bourbon Heritage Month'.

Whereas Congress declared bourbon as `America's Native Spirit' in 1964, making it the only spirit distinctive to the United States;

Whereas the history of bourbon-making is interwoven with the history of the United States, from the first settlers of Kentucky in the 1700s, who began the bourbon-making process, to the 2,000 families and farmers distilling bourbon in Kentucky by the 1800s;

Whereas bourbon has been used as a form of currency;

Whereas generations have continued the heritage and tradition of the bourbon-making process, unchanged from the process used by their ancestors centuries before;

Whereas individual recipes for bourbon call for natural ingredients, utilizing the local Kentucky farming community and leading to continued economic development for the Commonwealth of Kentucky;

Whereas generations of people in the United States have traveled to Kentucky to experience the family heritage, tradition, and deep-rooted legacy that the Commonwealth contributes to the United States;

Whereas each year during September visitors from over 13 countries attend a Kentucky-inspired commemoration to celebrate the history of the Commonwealth, the distilleries, and bourbon;

Whereas people who enjoy bourbon should do so responsibly and in moderation; and
Whereas members of the beverage alcohol industry should continue efforts to promote responsible consumption and to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) designates September 2007 as `National Bourbon Heritage Month';
(2) recognizes bourbon as `America's Native Spirit' and reinforces its heritage and tradition and its place in the history of the United States; and
(3) recognizes the contributions of the Commonwealth of Kentucky to the culture of the United States.

March 1, 2009

Sour Mash Method Explained

Several bourbons indicate "Sour Mash" on their labels or otherwise indicate that the sour mash method was used in the creation of that bourbon. So what does that mean?

To understand what sour mash is, you first have to understand the term "mash." At the beginning of the distillation process of bourbon, cornmeal and water are mixed together at a high temperature. The temperature is then lowered, and then either rye or wheat is added depending on the bourbon. The rye or wheat are the "flavor grains," so using one or the other has an impact on the flavor profile of the final product. The temperature is once again reduced when malted barely is added. The barley is added because it releases enzymes that are necessary to convert starches into sugars, which is essential in distillation. Once all these ingredients are together, mixing a big tank at the distillery, it becomes the mash.

After sufficently mixed, the mash then goes onto the fermentation process where all the alcohol is distilled from the mash. The stuff left over after all the alcohol is distilled is known as the sour mash due to its sour flavor.

The sour mash, also called backset and spent mash among others, is then introduced to a new batch of mash when entering the fermentation process. So, sour mash is fermented mash that is left over from a previous distillation that is added to a new distillation. The process is used to control the acidity levels of subsequent fermentations, which in turn helps ensure that each distillation is consistent in flavor.

The Sour Mash method is used in the distillation of many bourbons, including Ancient Age, Evan Williams, Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, and Old Fitzgerald. It's a very traditional way of bourbon production, still used today despite modern technology's creation of alternate methods. This adherence to tradition and heritage is one reason I enjoy American whiskey so much. Cheers.

February 25, 2009

Economic Bourbon Reviews, Part VII: Ten High Blended

We've reached the final whiskey review, which falls to Ten High. I've had Ten High a few times before, but never tasted the new blended expression that has replaced the Kentucky straight bourbon Ten High once was. The venerable Chuck Cowdery discusses the change from straight to the blend here, here, and here. I'm not sure I remember the former, straight Ten High, so I'm not sure I can compare it to the blended version. But that is the topic of another discussion anyway.

Ten High is bottled by Barton Distilling Company. It's 80 proof and made by the sour mash method, which I discussed briefly in the Evan Williams review. I've heard the name "Ten High" comes from the poker hand, the ten-high straight.

Neat: The nose of Ten High is ethanol, which is likely due to the fact it's a blend, meaning it's been blended with 49% neutral grain spirits (vodka). Behind the alcohol aroma is some vanilla sweetness and maybe some light fruit notes. Mouthfeel is slightly oily. Taste is not complex, kind of blunted, with oak and a tiny amount of smokiness. Very easy to drink. It finishes quick, with an astringent, grainy burn. It's uninteresting.

Whiskey Sour: Ten High mixed into an okay whiskey sour. Certainly nothing spectacular. But, I hope you wouldn't be too snooty to turn it down. It puts the booze into your drink, and just be happy enough with that. Like the other bourbons in this review series, Ten High's price is outstanding given its quality.

As you might have guessed, Ten High did not beat Old Grand Dad as my favorite cheap bourbon. Like Rebel Yell, it falls in the huddled masses of the average middle group. If Ten High is all that you have on hand for an impromptu party or is all that is left in your liquor cabinet when the urge to have a whiskey arises, don't fret.

Well, the reviews are in. Old Grand Dad takes the cake in my book. However, there was not a bad bourbon in the bunch. Considering the low prices of these bottles, and in the spirit of the enjoyment of spirits, you really can't go too wrong with any one of these bourbons. I hope that even in the worst of economic times, at least one of these whiskies is accessible to you.

February 24, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part VI: Rebel Yell

And we come to Rebel Yell. It's name would suggest a nod to the Civil War South, and before the whiskey was acquired by an International distiller, its label read, "Especially for the Deep South." I wonder if sales increased when that slogan was edited from the label?

Rebel Yell is a Kentucky straight bourbon, is a pale, straw color, and is 80 proof. It is a wheated bourbon, meaning that wheat and not rye is used as the grain. Wheated bourbons are supposed to be softer and smoother than others, and I think that is generally true. It's made per its original W.L. Weller recipe.

Neat: The nose is very soft, dry, and a little citrusy, suggesting that the taste is light. Mouthfeel is watery and thin. As for taste, Rebel Yell has a sugary sweetness that quickly dissapates into a licorice and herbal spice. Simple, subtle, and docile. The finish was oaky, dry, and left a calm, lingering burn on the roof of the mouth. It is mellow and unassertive.

Whiskey Sour: Rebel Yell is a good fit in a whiskey sour. Since there wasn't any real complexity in its flavor when drank neat, there isn't much lost when mixed in a cocktail. The lemon and the sugar become the predominant flavors, but the finish is still dry and wooden. It's above average, but not memorable.

Rebel Yell has been the most mellow and soft of the whiskies thus far. For that, I give it credit as it has differentiated itself from the others. Being of the mind that you should chose a bourbon that fits your mood, I think Rebel Yell would be a good choice for a calm and lazy afternoon drink. I liked it more than Ancient Age, but not as much as Old Grand Dad or Early Times. It's in the middle of the pack, and stands out in that crowd because of its softness. When I think of a rebel yell, I think of fury, aggression, and relentlessness. In that regard, Rebel Yell is incorrectly named.

February 23, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part V: Old Grand Dad 86 Proof

Here we are, already into the fifth inexpensive bourbon, marking the antepenultimate review in this series. The last time I had Old Grand Dad was at a friend's wedding in the Poconos, about 3 years ago. If I remeber correctly, it was the only whiskey the bar stocked. Needless to say, I have fond memories of it.

Old Grand Dad, with its distinctive bright orange label, is a Kentucky straight bourbon. It's currently produced by Jim Beam, and is said to be named after Basil Hayden. It's recipe dates back to before the Prohibition.

Neat: Old Grand Dad's nose is grainy, spicy, and woody. Lurking way in the background is some caramel sweetness. So far, so very, very good. The taste is rye at first, then a spicy crispness. The finish is all over the mouth and tongue, and is a permeating, strong burn that dissipates into an agreeable warmness. It's like getting slapped in the face, but it being an enjoyable experience you'd want to repeat. Old Grand Dad is brusque and tough. Wonderful.

Whiskey Sour: The sugar in the whiskey sour certainly sweetens the Old Grand Dad up, but its rye flavor is still alive and kicking. I find myself wishing that I was still drinking it neat, as I would a higher-priced bourbon. That isn't to say, however, that mixing it is bad. Rather, the mix was still in keeping with the character of Old Grand Dad neat: good and strong. Having said that, I do think I prefer it neat. I am going to see how it fares in a manattan. I think it has earned a spot on the varsity team.

I think we have a winner. I know there are still two more bourbons to go, but as of today, Old Grand Dad edges out Early Times. The back label on the bottle reads, "Since 1882, the unique marriage of body and flavor in Old Grand-Dad whiskey has been the standard by which all others are judged." I think this motto is justified, at least within the arena of bourbons under $12.99 a bottle. Well done.

February 21, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part IV: Old Forester

Next, alphabetically, is Old Forester. I'm happy that Old Forester is part of this review series because I haven't tried it before, and without the review, who knows when I would have sampled it. Let's see if it is worth of being tried again.

Old Forester, like Early Times, is produced by Brown-Forman. It is a Kentucky straight "whisky" (spelled without the "e," a subject of some debate ) and clocks in at 86 proof. Old Forester is known to be America's first bottled bourbon, which is to say that it was the first to be sold solely in distillery-sealed bottles. I think this ensured that the bourbon wasn't tampered with prior to the sale and thus guranteed quality.

Neat: The nose presented cinnamon toast and dark fruits/black cherry. There's some spiciness, too. Mouthfeel was watery, and didn't hint at taste. As for taste, the rye comes through assertively. I was expecting to get some maltiness, but I couln't find any. There is also a dankness in the background, like a musty basement. At the end is when the sweetness pops its head in. Quickly. Old Forester finishes with a definite tannic burn but isn't overpowering. Oak and some char are in there as well.

Whiskey Sour: When mixed, Old Forester's rye bite was still there, as was it astringency. I'm not sure if I liked the sour better with Old Forester or Evan Williams. That makes me think it's close enough to call it a draw. So, in keeping with my thoughts on Evan Williams, the sour is average, and being average doesn't mean I won't drink a few or more of them. It's not a memorable experience, but who really needs it to be?

In sum, Old Forester 86 proof is a great value. I rank it together with Evan Williams, so while ahead of Ancient Age, it's just behind Early Times. As I mentioned, this was my first experience with Old Forester, and it gave me a firm handshake but had little to say. I think you could easily do worse.

February 20, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part III: Evan Williams Black Label

In the third installment of bourbons that won't break the bank, I turn to Evan Williams. Evan Williams is distilled in Bardstown, KY, by Old Evan Williams Distillery, which is a subsidiary of the well known Heaven Hill Distilleries. EW was created in 1960 and is named after one of Kentucky's first distillers. (As an interesting aside, Evan Williams the distiller began distilling in 1793 in Louisville, KY, but had to close shop about 20 years later due to complaints from his neighbors. I guess not everyone in Kentucky is a bourbon lover). EW is touted as being the second best selling Kentucky straight bourbon in the U.S., and has a significant international presence, too. And, to be honest, a bottle of it closely resembles Jack Daniel's if a quick, passing glance is all you give it.

EW black label is bottled at 86 proof, and is distilled using the sour mash method. For those unfamiliar with this method, it describes a distillation process in which mash from previous batches is used to ferment and distill new bourbon (more on this process later). This method helps to ensure consistency among different bottlings. Ok. The tasting.

Neat: Upon intial nosing, soft vanilla and corn. Maybe some fruit notes after a few inhales. The smell has a balance, but isn't burdened with having to balance too much. Mouthfeel coats the tongue well, little bit of a burn at the edges. From feel to taste, there isn't much transition. There is a buttery nature to the taste, which layers well with an ethanol tingle. Then some spiciness, a good amount, that makes itself known late. The taste is not complex, and I don't mean to imply that that's a bad thing at all. EW finishes with corn and dry wood that hits the roof of your mouth. It ends with a healthy whisp of astrigency.

Whiskey Sour: Evan Williams makes a makes a good sour. It's tannic finish is blunted by the sweetness or sourness, not sure, of the cocktail. Also, the ice and the water that melts from it mellows the bourbon. However, the corn presence is almost magnified when mixed. I think the whiskey sour is average, and I would have no problem drinking a few of them throughout the evening.

Overall, Evan Williams is better than Ancient Age, and comes in as a close second behind Early Times. And for the purists out there who don't want to compare apples to oranges, which I may myself be, it is a better bourbon that Ancient Age. As with other cheaper bourbons, EW is a great value. Seeing as I paid $9.49 for a 750 ml bottle, I am in no position to complain about its quality. Picking up a bottle of it to have on hand is a smart choice in my mind. Think of it this way: you can have ten normally-sized drinks from the bottle at less that one dollar each. So, there you are.

February 19, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part II: Early Times

Ok, I know, I know. Technically Early Times is not a bourbon, but a Kentucky Whiskey (well, "Whisky" as labelled) on account of some of it being aged in used barrels. However, in the spirit of thriftiness, I thought it deserved a place in the economical bourbon review series. After all, in trying times rules must be bent.

Early Times, as the label will tell you, was established in 1860. The distillery was founded by Jim Beam's uncle, John, and has since passed to the Brown-Forman Company. It is now made in Shively, KY and was wildly popular in the 1950's. Early Times has recently enjoyed a lot of success abroad, as an export.

Neat: ET is darker than one might think, being an amber-brown. The nose is vanilla, vanilla, vanilla with some caramel and slight citrus. It encourages you to taste it. Mouthfeel is more oily than Ancient Age, and has a greater presence. Early Times' taste has a honey sweetness, with undertones of leather. It is a much bigger taste than Ancient Age but is not overwhelming at all. I enjoy its simplicity, as if it's proud to be uncomplicated. It finishes in a hurry and treads lightly with only a timid burn. I thought it was very satisfying.

Whiskey Sour: Early Times makes a great whiskey sour. There isn't much analysis to be done here; when mixed, it makes a whiskey sour taste like you'd hope one would. It's easy to drink, making the glass hard to put down until you're done.

Early Times is surprisingly tasty. It's low prices belies its quality, and if I drank it blind, I'm not sure if I wouldn't be tricked into thinking it was a higher-priced whiskey. At bars, ET is usually relegated to the rail, but compared to its company at that class of drink, it is definitely an over-achiever. An outstanding value that has earned its place on a bourbon blog.

February 18, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part I: Ancient Age

Everyone knows that times are tough and that those of us who still have jobs should consider themselves lucky. The economy being what it is, and disposable income being cut, I thought I would review some economical bourbons.

I chose seven bourbons, and made my choices by price alone (and I suppose availability in Southern California as well) - no 750 ml bottle was more expensive than $12.99. Today, I will start with Ancient Age, for no other reason than it being first alphabetically. I'll review the bourbons neat as well as mixed in a whiskey sour seeing as the ingredients for whiskey sours are very cheap: lemons and sugar. So, here goes.

Ancient Age is a Buffalo Trace Distillery product, and thus hails from Frankfort, KY. It is bottled at 80 proof and is a straight bourbon aged for 3 years.

Neat: The nose presents a lot of corn and sweetness. Some butterscotch in there, too. Mouthfeel is clean, not viscous. No initial burn either. Ancient Age tastes young, very slight spiciness and substantial sweetness with not much complexity at all. Finish is dry, woody, and pretty short with a faint, pleasant burn. Overall, nothing outstanding but nothing to pour down the drain either. It is what it is and is far from disappointing.

Whiskey Sour: When mixed into a sour, Ancient Age presented well. It blended nicely with the acid of the lemon and was complemented by the sugar. It makes a simple, refreshing drink and since there is not much complexity to it, no subleties are overpowered by the sour and sugar in any significant way. A great choice for a cheap cocktail at home (or at the office?)

Ancient Age does not disappoint. I would rather mix it with some sour mix or even with some cola, and save the more expensive bottles for sipping. For bourbon on the cheap, you get what you pay for, and then some, with this one.

February 17, 2009

Old Fashioned, But Still Hip

Like a Manhattan, the Old Fashioned is a quintessential bourbon cocktail. Legend holds that it was invented in Kentucky, which may place it at the top of the list of all bourbon cocktails.

The history of the drink that I choose to believe is that an Old Fashioned was created around the turn of the 20th century by Colonel James Pepper, a Kentucky bourbon distiller, and a bartender at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY. It has also been said that the Old Fashioned may have been the first mixed drink to be called a "cocktail." However, I think people said the same about a martini, so who knows for sure. Anyway, I think it's fair to say that the old-fashioned glass was, in fact, named after the drink.

An Old Fashioned is made by placing a sugar cube/teaspoon of sugar in an old-fashioned glass and soaking it with a few dashes of Angustora bitters. After the sugar and bitters have mixed, add enough club soda to cover the sugar and then muddle it all together. Next add the bourbon (however much you want, we're all adults here....) and a splash more of the club soda. You can garnish it with an orange slice and maraschino cherry should you want to. I usually do if I have fruit handy as it definitely completes the drink. If you are extra ambitious, you can also add a twist of lemon to finish it off.

The Old Fashioned is a sweet, refreshing cocktail. It was once called a "palate-paralyzer," but I'm glad that name, or more specifically misnomer, went to the wayside - "palate-pleaser" is much more accurate.

I enjoy Old Fashioneds very much, and I guess Cole Porter did as well, as he wrote "Make it Another Old-Fashioned, Please." A smart guy, that Cole Porter.

February 16, 2009

The Laws of Bourbon

No bourbon blog would be complete without a discussion of what actually makes whiskey a "bourbon." So, what is bourbon? Federal law will tell you.

To legally be a bourbon, at least 51% of the grain used to make it must be corn. No less. Further, the whiskey cannot be distilled at a proof higher than 160, and when put into the barrels for aging, it cannot be higher than 125 proof. The aging must take place in fire-charred oak barrels that have not yet held any spririts. If the whiskey is distilled and aged in this way, it can be called straight bourbon. Finally, nothing can be added during the bottling other than water, making bourbon a very "natural" drink.

This all seems very technical. However, within these rules, there is still a lot of room for creativity and individuality. How else could we have such a variety of spririts that qualify as bourbon? Some of this creativity is found with the amount of corn used - 51% is only the minimum, and several distillers use much more than that. Also, the level of char in the aging barrels will influence the character of the bourbon, as will the other grains used in addition to the corn such as rye or wheat. And, of course, the years spent in the barrels will have a direct impact on the taste, color, and subtleties of a bourbon whiskey.

In addition to straight bourbon, we have "small-batch" bourbon, blended bourbons, and single barrel bourbons. Small batch bourbons, such as Knob Creek and Baker's, are bourbons that are bottled from a blend of a select handful of barrels. Such bourbons are usually aged between 6 and 9 years, and have top-shelf qualities due to the careful decisions that go into the selection of the batch of barrels used in the bottlings. Only the choicest barrels or bourbon are used.

Single-barrel bourbons are, well, bourbons bottled from a single barrel. Each single barrel bourbon is bottled without be blended with the bourbon from seperate barrels. Single barrel bourbons may have slight taste changes from barrel to barrel.

Blended bourbons are bourbons that are bottled from the blend of several (like hundreds of) different barrels - many more barrels that used in small batch production. Blends allow for control over taste and other characterisitcs so there is continuity between a bottle today and one sold 10 years from now.

Well, there you are. As for me, I have the day off and it's cold and rainy outside - the perfect opportunity to pour myself a glass of something to warm me up.

February 11, 2009

Woodford Reserve Review

Woodford Reserve ranks very high on my list of sipping bourbons. I almost always drink it neat, but is just fine with ice, too. It happens to also be the official bourbon of both the Kentucky Derby as well as the Breeder's Cup. Giddy Up. The distillery is located in the middle of bluegrass country, in Versailles, Woodford County, KY, and uses copper stills. It is supposedly an extremely picturesque area, and worth visiting. It's certainly on my list.

Woodford is 90.4 proof. It has an orangy-amber color, and comes in a distinct flask-like bottle. But let's get to the tasting:

The nose is clean and not overpowering with definite cherry, vanilla and spice notes. Very pleasant. The nose hints at what becomes a peppery tang taste, but it also belies a dry and woody taste. After the initial dry pepperiness, a sweetness pushes its way through - a maple syrupy sweetness without being heavy. Woodford's finish is long, dry, with calm alcohol burn that makes its way up and our your nose. A great thing.

In all, Woodford Reserve is moderately priced and will never disappoint. It should be a mainstay in your liquor cabinet. Also, I think it is an outstanding introduction to more sophisticated bourbons, should you be on the look-out for such. As always, your thoughts are encouraged.

February 10, 2009

Kentucky to Tax Booze, Bourbon?

The Kentucky legislature is attempting to get a bill passed that would place a 6% tax on all alcohol sold in the state in addition wholesale taxes that currently exist on bourbon. This measure is being met with some pretty strong resistance from bourbon and other alcohol industry representatives. In fact, industy representatives protested this tax today by pouring bourbon on the Kentucky State Capital's front steps. While I am not quite sure what they thought they would accomplish by doing so, I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures.

The bill is set to go before the House and Senate before the Governor gets to review it. It looks, however, like the bill has support from all the right/wrong places (depending on your point of view) and will be passed in some form or another. Since Kentucky is facing a $450 million possible loss in revenue for the upcoming year, several politicians are looking at this bill as a measure to create more money for the state. In fact, the bill is slated to be signed by February 14, 2009, and would be put immiately into effect.

What does this mean for bourbon? Well, if the tax is implemented, thus raising the price of a bottle of bourbon, in theory people will buy less of it. With less demand, retailers cannot maintain their current supply, and will stock less booze. This in turn will hurt distributors and then producers/distilleries, the end product being job loss. It could also cause Kentuckians to cross state borders to buy their beloved bourbon (and other spirits) for cheaper. And, let's not forget the coopers that make bourbon barrels and the bartenders that serve bourbon. Again, this downturn is just theory. What happens in practice may be different. I suppose we will see, and in short order. Stay tuned for updates.

Listen to an interview with Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and find out how to voice your opinion to Kentucky legislators about this tax here.

So, what do you think about this probable tax? Fair? A disaster waiting to happen? A necessity?