Whiskey for the Holy Ghost Pt 1

So I have been doing some thinking after the first couple of entries that I have made on here, and decided that I am going to review different styles of whiskey according to season. It makes perfect sense for those of you who know me. I tend to be a very thematic person and a lot of the things that I enjoy I break up according so seasons or holidays ect. ect. For example, for whatever reason, I have a tendency to really get into Jazz during the winter months; because the first Jazz album I “discovered” was Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. So I will now forever associate that album and Jazz for that time of year. Same thing goes with whiskey. On that note, for the rest of the summer I will be doing reviews on the American whiskies; Kentucky Bourbon, Tennessee and Rye. Why review these whiskies for the summer, because thematically it makes perfect sense. Summer is when America comes alive; you have Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day to close out the season. Summer is when America breaks out the grills and immerses itself in the finest of all cuisines, barbeque. Summer is the season of baseball games and camping. Since I have decided to do bourbon reviews exclusively for the next couple of months, I think it would be nice to take some time to explain to you what bourbon and ryes whiskies are, and maybe help others understand the differences between Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish and Canadian whiskey.

Kentucky Bourbon

So let’s start things off with the most prevalent of American spirits, Kentucky Bourbon. Bourbon gets its name from the county that it was created in, in the 1800s, Bourbon County, Kentucky. It is a barrel aged spirit primarily made of corn; and much like Scotch, Kentucky bourbon has a very strict set of guidelines that distillers must adhere by to legally call their product bourbon.  According to the Federal Standard of Identity for Distilled Spirits 27 CFR 5 the following must occur for distillers to legally put bourbon on their labels.

  • Must be at least 51% corn in grain mix.
  • Must be aged in new charred oak barrels (although there is no minimum age requirement).
  • To be called Kentucky Straight Bourbon, must be aged at least two years and can have no additives like flavoring or E150a (caramel coloring).
  • Must be distilled to no more than 160 Proof or 80% ABV.
  • Must enter barrel for aging at no more than 125 Proof or 62.5% ABV.
  • Must be bottled at 80 Proof or 40% ABV or more.

Tennessee Whiskey

Tennessee whiskey is legally a straight bourbon whiskey that is distilled in the State of Tennessee. Although not a legal requirement, what separates Tennessee whiskey from its Kentucky cousin is something called the Lincoln County Process. In this step distillers take the spirit after it has aged two years in new charred oak barrels and let it drip filter through huge slabs of maple charcoal before bottling. This lends a unique sweetness to the whiskey and makes its finish incredibly smooth. This might be the reason why Jack Daniels is one of, if not the most popular whiskey in America.

Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey is the least popular of the American whiskies, not because of its flavor profile or aroma, or because it lacks overall quality; but because bourbon distillers got the leg up on the competition with its sweeter fuller flavor. Rye tends to give a dry and noticeably black pepper spice flavor. Before prohibition Rye was actually the whiskey of choice for Americans and was the base for cocktails such as the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. Rye is in a bit of resurgence right now and is even being distilled by bigger vendors like Buffalo Trace and their label Sazerac Rye Whiskey; Sazerac being the hailed as the first cocktail to be created, dating back to pre Civil War New Orleans, LA. To be legally be called Rye whiskey in the U.S. it has to follow the same strict guidelines as bourbon, but instead of it primarily being corn in the grain mix, it must be at least 51% rye grain.