Our final foray into the wold of whisk(e)y takes us home. So don your reds whites and blues and tell Johnny to strike up the band because baby it’s time to talk about America!
Corn, barley, rye and wheat. The usual suspects of whisk(e)y production across the globe. The United States is to be thanked for taking those ingredients and birthing a few of her own original spirits. Namely, Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. Like Scotland and Ireland we have our own set of regulations to follow when producing America’s finest. Though you will notice they are…shall we say, more relaxed? This is a recurring theme with alcohol production here in the states. Comparing America’s craft beer market, responsible for IPAs incorporating habanero peppers as well as Rocky Mountain Oyster Stouts (if you are unaware of what this means, do yourself a favor and keep it that way), to brewers in Germany, you will notice QUITE the difference. The Purity Law of 1516 firmly regulates beer production in Germany. It declares that that the only ingredients to be used are water, barley and hops (yeast as well but no one knew what the heck that was in 1516).
This is all to say, we do things our way and tend to let innovation and ingenuity run a little wild!
Bourbon! Originally crafted in Kentucky and now made as far and wide as Minnesota, is a spirit whose mash bill (or recipe) must be comprised of at least 51% corn and can be distilled to a proof no higher than 160. The remaining 49% is up to the distiller and can vary dramatically from producer to producer. Upon entering the ageing stage, this spirit must be no stronger than 125 proof Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. New barrels. Every. Single. Time. The luckiest of those bourbon barrels make their way to Scotland to be used in Scotch Whisky production. It is important to note that there is no minimum age requirement for Bourbon. Many enter the market at no older than just a few months. More often than not you will find Bourbon to be a fuller feeling, sweeter spirit on the palate with kisses of char, smoke and vanilla. We currently carry several different Bourbons at vomFASS in MOA. Panther Distillery in Osakis Minnesota produces “Pike Street” and “Saint Paul,” both 3 year old Bourbons. A personal favorite of mine is made as far South and as far East as one can travel in Minnesota. “Giants of the Earth” is a 2 year old Bourbon distilled by Rockfilter all the way down Spring Grove, MN. Produced for vomFASS are “Two Georges High Corn” and “Northern Plains” Bourbons. The former being produced from 81% corn and the latter being a blend of Kentucky and Wisconsin Bourbon.
Tennessee Whiskey! Decidedly NOT Bourbon in the way Cremant is not Champagne. Varying by a small margin technically but worlds apart in history, these two spirits have one key difference: Charcoal. Here we go with the weird America stuff again. Tennessee Whisky is produced the same way Bourbon is but just before barreling the clear corn spirit is filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Some people make their own charcoal by burning whiskey soaked sugar maple while others simply soak the charcoal with the soon to be whiskey. Tennessee Whiskey will have a smoother personality, a taste similar to Bourbon and of course a rather distinct charcoal presence. Tennessee Whiskey is also a killer song by Chris Stapleton.
To be covered in a future entry you can also find Rye and Wheat based whiskey here in the USA. More specifically you can find them on our shelves at vomFASS at Mall of America! Next time you find yourself in our neck of the woods be sure to ask about our, Two Georges line of whiskey. We can get you a taste of the Bourbon, Rye and an exceptionally unique Wheat Whiskey.
Indeed, whisk(e)y has many faces. Some of which are specific to the land in which they were first born. Others are finding new homes across the world as people strive to satisfy the thirst for high quality spirits we all seem to share. Whichever expression you are to enjoy next we hope you’ll do so with a bit deeper of an understanding and appreciation for the history and labor behind each Whisk(e)y.
Will O’Reilly continues to talk about the world of alcohol long after you stop even listening. Find him at vomFASS on level 3, north, in Mall of America!