The Joys of Whiskey: Amuricah.
Whiskey is a magical thing. It has the ability to cool you off on a hot summers day or warm you through in the dead of winter. What else can do that? Tell me…. (don’t you dare say a window air conditioning/heating unit or central air or just about any other kind of liquor). (It’s pretty clear Brian is currently on the whiskey because it in no way cools you off, ever. That’s what I thought.) Nothing else is capable of adapting to its surroundings and always making you feel great. Whiskey is an especially unique type of beverage because it happens to be my favorite. (That’s right, we play major favorites in our house. Whiskey is our proverbial favorite child.) Because of my love for whiskey and per the recent request of a reader, I wanted to impart a bit of whiskey knowledge and share some of my favorites. I intend to cover most types of whiskeys but for today’s post I am going to focus on some American favorites (I mean it is the 4th….er 5th of July). Here we go…
American whiskeys are whiskeys that are made in, you guessed it, Amurica. There are a number of specific varieties but today we are to focusing on rye and bourbon. That is not to say that others don’t exist but that is just typically what I keep ’round the house. (once again, with the favoritism)
Rye whiskey is typically made in the U.S. but can also be made in Canada. It must contain at least 51% rye but usually also contains corn or malted barley. Depending on your taste, if you are a fan of rye whiskey, “better” rye’s usually contain a higher percentage of rye in them. Rye whiskeys are distilled to no more than 160 proof and are aged in charred new oak barrels. The whiskey must be diluted to no more than 125 proof before it is put in the barrels to age. If a rye whiskey has been aged for at least 2 years then it can be considered a “straight” rye.
As far as rye whiskeys go I typically have 2 go-to’s. Bulleit Rye and Leopold Brother’s Maryland Style Rye. The Bulleit Rye is very easy to find at any liquor store and is reasonably priced. The Leopold Brother’s is much harder to find, especially outside of Colorado, due to its small batch size and low production. My interest in rye whiskey is fairly new so I have yet to sample many of the other popular brands so I suggest you all do a bit of research and let me know your thoughts.
Bourbon whiskey, unlike rye, is made up mostly of corn. 51%-79% to be exact. The rest of the mixture typically includes wheat, rye, and malted barley. However, like rye, bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 proof and put into new charred oak barrels at no more than 125 proof. Bottling must occur at 80 proof or higher to be considered a bourbon. One interesting thing to note is that the barrels that are used in the aging process for bourbon can never be used for bourbon twice. Once the aging is complete the barrels are typically sold to wineries or other types of whiskey distilleries for their own aging process. Bourbon does not have any aging requirements other than “at least briefly” but to be considered a “straight bourbon” it must be aged for at least 2 years.
As you may or may not know, Whit’s family hails from a small town in Kentucky so when we go down there we drink a fair amount of bourbon. (and by fair amount he means an ess-ton.) I have had the opportunity to sample numerous different varieties but I will stick to a few that have stood out. First there is the old trusty, Maker’s Mark. It is hard to go wrong with this bourbon. It mixes very well in a cocktail but is also completely delicious on its own with just some ice. If you want to spend a bit more money, I recommend Woodford Reserve or Booker’s Bourbon. Both have excellent flavor and will definitely satisfy your whiskey desires. One lesser known bourbon that I have really enjoyed during my time in Kentucky is called Eagle Rare. Eagle Rare is relatively inexpensive and now can be found throughout the country but it has an exceptionally smooth flavor and I typically like to have a bottle on hand.
Both bourbon and rye have very distinct flavors. Rye is typically known to be a bit more spicy and bourbon a bit more sweet. That is not to say that one is better than the other. It is obviously all up to taste. So I suggest you get out there and try yourself some whiskey.
In a few weeks I’m going to give you all the lowdown on some of my favorite international whiskeys so you better stay tuned. Consider yourself learned!