With the rains finally hitting Mumbai with such pomp, it gives me real warmth as I write this article on American whiskey. Going a decade back, Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam to a certain extent were perhaps the only ones synonymous with American whiskey. To tell us more about them Ms Shatbhi Basu, American Whiskey Ambassador for India recently on behalf of DISCUS (The Distilled Spirits council Of The United States) took us through a whiskey experience at a soiree held at the Taj Lands End, Mumbai.
American whiskey is firstly spelt the way the Irish do with an ‘e’ and not whisky like in Scotland. They are of different kinds, Rye whiskey (51% Rye), Corn Whiskey (80% corn) but the two most popular styles are Bourbon and Tennessee and in fact they were even made a part of the constitution in the 60’s as a very unique product of the USA . The primary ingredient in a Bourbon whiskey is corn and a small percentage of malted barley is a must for fermentation; apart from which adjuncts like rye, red winter wheat etc can be added. Bourbon can be made anywhere in America and the one made in Kentucky is called a Kentucky straight Bourbon. It as such does not have any aging requirements but when it’s called a ‘Straight Bourbon’ it has to be aged in new charred American Oak barrels for at least 2 years. Most prominent producers age it for over 4 years if not they have to mention the age on the bottle for everything aged between 2 and 4 years.
How is Bourbon different from a Tennessee?
When ‘straight bourbon’ made in Tennessee undergoes an activated maple charcoal filtration also called as the Lincoln county process, it becomes a Tennessee whiskey. Jack Daniel’s thus is a Tennessee and not Bourbon. This filtration makes the final product even more mellow and sweet. George Dickel’s is the other of the two big names in Tennessee.
The evening’s ultimate agenda was ticked as we tasted a spicy Jim Beam silver ,a toasty Jim Beam Black, a nutty Maker’s Mark, a leathery and butterscotch like Woodford reserve, Banoffee pie like Jack Daniel’s, a complex sweet and spicy Gentleman’s Jack and lastly the robust Silver Select. The non-whiskey drinkers happily engaged themselves with a twisted whisky sour with sweet spiced orange juice. According to Shatbhi, “Bourbon & Tennessee whiskeys make great cocktails because of their definitive flavour, the edginess and depth they bring to the drink. They show, a certain assertiveness, that redefines the taste experience! This is what makes them hugely popular with our consumers.”
Last words, the way you have your whiskey should be in the way you want to rather than what the norm seems to be, JD with coke or on the rocks or with orange juice or straight up however it may be.. Remember it about your drinking experience than anybody else’.
P.S: Did you know Kentucky and Tennesse have one of the highest number of dry counties,even the county of Bourbon was dry in recent past… Irony!