Many different types of whiskey are produced within the United States of America.
The most famous variety is 'bourbon whiskey', named after Bourbon County (the
part of Kentucky where most of this whiskey was produced). After the whiskey
rebellion of 1794 (a tax revolt), many of the American whiskey producers moved
to the south of Kentucky and Tennessee. Here they found the right conditions for
whiskey production and easy access to roads and rivers. It wasn't long before
an industry emerged around towns like Bardstown, Louisville and Lynchburg.
The origins of this 'Bourbon' whiskey
go back to the 18th century when some
American farmers began distilling part of the grains of their harvest. Distillation
turned the grains into alcohol, a commodity which was much easier to store,
transport and sell. In the early years there wasn't a real standard recipe,
but these days you can have a pretty good idea about the background
of the contents of your glass (or bottle) if you order a bourbon whiskey.
in the USA specifies that a whiskey can only be called
'Bourbon' whiskey within the US if it fulfils a number of conditions:
1) It must be produced within the USA,
2) The mixture of grains used has to consist of at least 51% corn,
3) The spirit must be distilled to no more than 160 Proof (80% ABV),
4) The spirit must be matured in new, charred, white oak barrels, and
5) The spirit entering the barrel may not exceed 125 Proof (62.5% ABV)
6) The whiskey must be bottled at 80 Proof (40% ABV) or more.
There are no rules for the amount of time regular Bourbon whiskey
has to spend inside a cask, but Straight Bourbon is at least two years
old. Scotch whiskies need to mature for at least 3 years. Because only
fresh casks are used for bourbon whiskey, the wood has much impact.
Some bourbons are sold within a year after they were distilled.
The casks used (the most) in Scotland are ex-bourbon casks.
The American law specifies that the casks can be used just once for
bourbon, so the Scots are able to pick up second hand casks for cheap.
A bourbon mash usually contains 70-80% of corn. The 'recipe' also
includes small quantities of other cereals like malted barley, rye & wheat.
Bernheim NAS 'Original'
(45%, OB, Kentucky Straight Wheat Whisky, USA, Bottled +/- 2006)
Nose: Very sweet but little complexity. Very much like a bourbon, actually. Enjoyable but simple.
After ten minutes of breathing it opened up a bit - but not enough to make my heart grow much fonder.
Taste: Bourbony. Hot and smooth, but just like the nose it offers very little complexity.
Score: 47 points - based on my very limited experience so far, rye whiskey seems to offer more potential.
That being said; I imagine this wheat whiskey was matured in a fresh but not very good cask. Should have used a 2nd hand cask?
George Dickel Original Tennessee Finest Quality Sippin' Whisky Superior No. 12 Brand
(43%, USA, 100cl, Bottled +/- 1999)
(This whisky - spelled without the extra 'e' here - is distilled at the Cascade Hollow Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee, USA)
Nose: Did somebody fart? It wasn't me and I'm the only one here... A little dusty. Bourbony. Chemical candy fruits.
Liquorice All Sorts? Very strange... The profile reminded me of Jack Daniels, but it seems more complex.
Taste: A flat bite. Dryish. Milk powder. Fruits. A little sweeter after a while - and perhaps a little smoother as well.
Score: 47 points - sippin' indeed - although everybody would be well advised to avoid large gulps.
Although I have to say I didn't find it all that 'superior', it's one of the better bourbons I've tried.
Jack Daniels 'Old No. 7 Brand'
(40%, OB, Tennessee Sour Mash whiskey, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Sweet with sharper, smoky edges. Liqueurish. Big without a lot of substance on closer inspection.
Perhaps whiffs of vanilla and tangerine? Or perhaps 'Créme Brulee' - but that might also be the caramel association.
Taste: Slick and sweet start, replaced by a long woody burn. Loses points in the long, cloying aftertaste.
Score: 39 points - here is one of the few whiskeys that I prefer to enjoy with some ice.
Maker's Mark NAS
(45%, OB, 7/28/94, Bourbon, USA, Bottled +/- 2002)
American whiskey is usually spelled with an extra 'e', but in this case the front label says 'Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky'.
Darned 'artists' - don't you just hate it when they draw outside the lines?
Nose: Extremely sweet - a bit like Jack Daniels but more subtle. Grainy with something faintly fruity (orange skins?) in the background.
Paint thinner. Glue. Not my cup of tea. It does open up a little with time, though. Peanuts? Quite different from malt whisky.
Smoke? Growing complexity, more organics. Mint? Some breathing obviously had a positive effect.
Taste: Flat start, growing deeper, sweeter and hotter in the centre. Pleasant but superficial. Rough and uninspired finish.
Score: 48 points - I've never been a big bourbon fan and obviously the Maker's Mark is not going to change that.
There's something in the superficial slickness of these American whiskeys that just rubs me the wrong way...
Old Farm 1938/1943 100 Proof Straight Rye Whiskey
(50%, OB, USA) - a sample from Hans Offringa.
Nose: Woohaah! Wood and fruits, not unlike the Glen Grant. Rich and fruity. Smoke and organics after half a minute.
Unfortunately, the magnificent nose loses steam after ten minutes. Something metallic? Then pure grain smells emerge.
It has lost most complexity after fifteen minutes, but has grown notably sweeter in character. More oatmeal and grains.
Taste: Rich and smooth with growing amounts of wood and smoke. More meaty notes with refreshing hints of mint. Wow!
Unfortunately it loses steam after a while, just like the nose. Almost takes a medicinal direction at times. Smooth & sweet
Verdict: 90 points - making it by far the best American whiskey I've EVER tried! Thanks, Hans! A real eye-opener.
Not quite as complex as the Glen Grant - but what would you expect after just five years in the cask... Amazing...
The sweetness emerging from the empty glass is an experience in itself. That lifted it from 89 to 90 points.
Old Portrero 11yo
(50%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006, USA)
Nose: Whooh... Paint thinner at first. Sweet. Then 'older' fruity notes emerge. Like 'Asbach Uralt' brandy.
It lacks complexity compared to Scotch whisky, but I enjoy it more than most bourbons like Jim Beam.
After about half an hour the nose finally opened up a bit more, with some dust perhaps water melon.
Taste: Again, some chemical paint thinner in the start. More like a bourbon here than in the nose.
Sweet. Very smooth mouth feel with an evaporating finish, just like most bourbon whiskeys I've tried.
Score: 54 points - to tell you the truth I had expected more after some people raved about it.
St. George Lot 3
(43%, OB, Single malt whiskey, USA, Bottled +/- 2002)
(From 100% malted barley, without any peat and distilled just once in a relatively small 'Holstein Still'.)
Nose: What's that? It's like walking into a wedding cake bakery. Marzipan & lots of fruits.
And not the 'European' fruits like apples or strawberries I often find in Scotch single malts.
This has all kinds of 'exotic' fruits like passion fruit, grenade apple and overripe mango. A very enjoyable experience.
Taste: Ooh, that's too bad. Very little of the sweetness has transferred to the palate. Young and brash.
It actually tastes very much like some grappa's and eaux de vie I've tried.
With time it gains some more depth and gravitas, but in the end it remains a little too flat and chemical I'm afraid.
Score: 67 points - not bad at all for a malt that's composed of mostly three year old whisk(e)y!
Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey 2001
(47%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006, USA)
Nose: Fruity, expressive and quite chemical. The fruits become ever more dominant over time.
Quite exquisite and surprisingly complex. Black currants, cassis, some raspberries, 'fruits de bois'.
Taste: Ough.... Here the chemicals have overpowered the fruits. They return in the finish though...
Score: 68 points - still a little rough around the edges, but interesting and quite enjoyable.
The funny thing is that the legal requirements I just mentioned apply to the US market
exclusively. If bourbons are produced for markets
outside the USA, the producers are not bound by these rules if they want to sell their product as 'bourbon whiskey' anywhere outside the US.
The same is true for the rules and regulations regarding the various other types of American whiskey;
- Corn whiskey (whiskey distilled from a mash consisting of at least 80% corn - a.k.a. maize)
- Malt whiskey (whiskey distilled from a mash consisting of at least 51% malted barley)
- Rye whiskey (whiskey distilled from a mash consisting of at least 51% rye)
- Rye malt whiskey (whiskey distilled from a mash consisting of at least 51% malted rye)
- Wheat whiskey (whiskey distilled from a mash consisting of at least 51% wheat)
Apart from 'federal' regulations that apply to all states of the USA, there are also different state laws and local regulations w.r.t. the
production, labelling and consumption of alcohol. That means that there is far more to tell about American whiskey than I'm able to here.
This 'Deviant Drams' section is a mere diversion from the main focus of the Malt Madness website: single malt (Scotch) whisky.
My knowledge of and experience with world whiskies and other alcoholic beverages is relatively limited, but I have plenty to say
about single malt Scotch whisky. For example, there's a Beginner's Guide to Single Malts with 10 pages filled with lots of useful
information for (relative) beginners and the 'Distillery Data' section has profiles for over a hundred malt whisky distilleries.
Clicking on one of the links below will take you directly to the distillery profile of that particular whisky distillery in Scotland.
Aberfeldy - Aberlour - Ailsa Bay - Allt A' Bhainne - Ardbeg - Ardmore - Arran - Auchentoshan - Auchroisk - Aultmore
Balblair - Balmenach - Balvenie - Banff - Ben Nevis - Benriach - Benrinnes - Benromach - Ben Wyvis - Bladnoch
Blair Athol - Bowmore - Brackla - Braeval - Brora - Bruichladdich - Bunnahabhain - Caol Ila - Caperdonich - Cardhu
Clynelish - Coleburn - Convalmore - Cragganmore - Craigellachie - Daftmill - Dailuaine - Dallas Dhu - Dalmore
Dalwhinnie - Deanston - Dufftown - Edradour - Fettercairn - Glen Albyn - Glenallachie - Glenburgie - Glencadam
Glencraig - Glen Deveron - Glendronach - Glendullan - Glen Elgin - Glenfarclas - Glenfiddich - Glen Flagler
Glen Garioch - Glenglassaugh - Glengoyne - Glen Grant - Glengyle - Glen Keith - Glenkinchie - Glenlivet - Glenlochy
Glenlossie - Glen Mhor - Glenmorangie - Glen Moray - Glen Ord - Glenrothes - Glen Scotia - Glen Spey - Glentauchers
Glenturret - Glenugie - Glenury Royal - Highland Park - Imperial - Inchgower - Inverleven - Isle of Jura - Kilchoman
Killyloch - Kinclaith - Kininvie - Knockando - Knockdhu - Ladyburn - Lagavulin - Laphroaig - Ledaig - Linkwood
Linlithgow - Littlemill - Loch Lomond - Lochnagar - Lochside - Longmorn - Macallan - MacDuff - Mannochmore - Millburn
Miltonduff - Mortlach - Mosstowie - North Port / Brechin - Oban - Old Pulteney - Pittyvaich - Port Ellen - Pulteney
Rosebank - Royal Brackla - Royal Lochnagar - Saint Magdalene - Scapa - Speyburn - Speyside - Springbank - Strathisla
Strathmill - Talisker - Tamdhu - Tamnavulin - Teaninich - Tobermory - Tomatin - Tomintoul - Tormore - Tullibardine