Back in January, I felt very lucky to get a taste of Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old whiskey. I grew up drinking bourbon, but I can’t say I really discovered whisky until I visited Scotland. And although the Pappy 23 was a revelation, I haven’t sampled all that many different American-made whiskies. Yet.
The popularity of North American artisan whiskey has been growing for a while now, but many of the smaller distilleries aren’t heavily represented over here in Europe. Yet.
From a good article on the history of whiskey in North America:
“The (American) Revolution meant the decline of rum and the ascendancy of whiskey in America. When the British blockade of American ports cut off the molasses trade, most New England rum distillers converted to whiskey. Whiskey had a patriotic flavor. It was an all-American drink, made in America by Americans from American grain, unlike rum, wine, gin, Madeira, brandy, coffee, chocolate, or tea, which had to be imported and were taxed.”
Farmers on Virginia’s frontier began making whiskey with corn instead of rye in 1789, but what made it distinctive was aging. The Virginians discovered that charring the inside of oak barrels gave their matured whiskey a superior flavor and dark, rich color.”
Production had its ups and downs – particularly during the Civil War and the Prohibition – but over the last few years, a wide variety of American whiskey has been created that branch out from the standard bourbon I grew up with. A lot of the newer stuff is rye whiskey. Rye whiskey is made from fermented mashed grain that is at least 51 percent rye (a legal requirement), and is described as more peppery and complex by some than bourbon, which is at least 51 percent corn and has a sweeter, smoother taste.
So, as an American living in France, I am very pleased to have been selected as one of the tasters for the upcoming tweet tasting sponsored by The Whisky Wire and Arkwrights Whisky and Wines, #LiquidAmericana.
For me, the benefits are twofold: I get to see what’s going on in the whiskey world Stateside, a touch of home, and I get to discover some great (I hope) whiskies among fellow whisky lovers.
I’ve already received my five numbered sample dram bottles in the mail. One of the bottle caps was slightly loose, so the postal service got a tiny share of Number 3 and I got a nice whiff of what’s to come on Wednesday, June 26. I tightened the cap, and lined up the five bottles on a shelf. The rest remain a mystery – I haven’t opened them. Yet.
Here’s a nifty American whiskey map: