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BOURBON

Some will tell you that the name Bourbon can be applied to whiskeys which are distilled in Bourbon County, Kentucky.

In fact, any American whiskey is entitled to the name "Bourbon," providing the spirit is a distillate of 51% corn and is matured for a minimum of two years in charred American oak barrels. 

However, when labeled as "Kentucky Bourbon," the whiskey must, indeed, come from the state of Kentucky.  The whiskeys made in Tennessee (Jack Daniels and George Dickel) are labeled as "Tennessee Whiskeys" to distinguish themselves from Bourbon Whiskey. 

Bourbon, as noted above, must be 51% corn.  The other grains involved are usually some sort of blend of barley malt, rye and wheat.  The grains are then processed into a meal and water is then added.  This is, then, cooked, producing starch.   Further cooking causes the starch to become maltose or grain sugar.  Add some yeast to this and you'll have fermentation. 

The mash is then allowed to ferment for a few days, attaining something like eight or nine percent alcohol.  It is at this stage when the distiller takes over, heating the mash and capturing the vapors (which contain alcohol and flavor). 

You will find some large distillers with continuous stills, as much as 50 feet tall and four feet in diameter.  The product of this still is called "low wine" or "distiller's beer," being 45 to 65 percent alcohol.   A doubler still then refines this to "high wine," with something like 50 to 58 percent alcohol.   The higher the proof (alcohol), the less flavor you'll find in the whiskey at this stage. 

Tennessee distillers will then filter the high wine through a maple charcoal filter before aging the spirit. 

The whiskey then is transferred to new oak barrels.  The barrels have highly charred staves which contributes color and flavor to the whiskey.  A two year aging period is the minimum, but whiskeys matured less than four years must state the age on the label. They must be stored at no more than 125 degrees (I imagine warmer storage "ages" the spirit more quickly).  It must be at least 80 proof when bottled.  Most major brands make no age statement, since they're typically a bit more than 4 years old.  

There are not so many distillers today.  There's been a tremendous consolidation of brands, with one distiller making a dozen (or more) brands of whiskey.  For example, Jim Beam produces Knob Creek, Basil Hayden's, Baker's and Booker's. 

Blended Whiskey is a blend of which a minimum of 20% is 100-proof straight whiskey.  The rest can be other whiskey or grain neutral spirits.  I read someplace that these can even contain a bit of sherry!

Bonded Bourbon Whiskey is made in accordance with the "Bottled and Bond Act of 1897."  It is a straight Bourbon whiskey made at one time (not a blend of years, apparently) and in one location.  It must be aged for at least four years and is bottled in a government-supervised warehouse at 100-proof.

Canadian Whisky is usually distilled primarily from corn or wheat, though rye and barley are sometimes used.  These are usually aged in used barrels, not new.   Three years of aging in wood is the minimum, though most are four to six years old.

Rye Whiskey is made in a fashion similar to Bourbon, but must be 51% rye.  It is usually heavier in flavor than Bourbon. Very little whiskey is bottled as "Rye Whiskey," most being blended with corn whiskeys to add body and flavor.   In some parts of the U.S., people asking for "Rye" are asking for a Canadian whisky.


Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey is a bottling of Bourbon of a single barrel.

Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is something like a "Special Selection" in winemaking.  It is a selection of barrels from various batches and bottled with the idea that the distiller will duplicate the whiskey on a consistent basis.   These are becoming popular, as distillers have noticed consumers are willing to pay premium prices for what are perceived to be premium (or ultra-premium) products. 

Sour Mash indicates a method of whiskey-making.  The process was developed by James C. Crow (Old Crow) who would add a portion of the previous day's "mash" to the new mash.  I can remember seeing one brand (years ago) sold as a "Mellow Mash," but most are "Sour Mash."

 

Some Whiskeys We Like:

Best Buy:

MAKER'S MARK 750ml sale $21.99
1.75liter jugs are just $39.99!

Maker's Mark is a premium Bourbon whiskey which just about any connoisseur will drink.  It is rather smooth and has a sweet oak bouquet.  We have it sale-tagged to introduce it to our customers. 

Top of the Line:

S

 


BULLEIT   (750ml)
There's a wonderful story of the Bulleit family coming from France and settling in New Orleans back in the 1800s.  Apparently Augustus Bulleit knew how to make brandy and used his distillation skills to produce a Bourbon once he moved to Kentucky.

A few years ago, a descendent of the family, a law school graduate, started up a Bourbon-making business.  A few years later he sold it to Seagrams.  But Tom Bulleit works as the company spokesman and the recipe remains a good one.

What's different about this whiskey is it's got a high percentage of rye for a "Bourbon."  It's smooth and has nice vanilla bean notes.  It's less 'sweet', though, than Maker's Mark, for example.




VAN WINKLE
These come and go rather quickly...
This company makes a number of different bottlings...and they seem to prefer selling these in bars where they are sold "by the shot."


We sometimes have their older bottlings...I order these every week and you never know when a bottle might show up.

Stop by and have a look.





ELMER T. LEE
The old Ancient Age distillery, now Buffalo Trace, is the source of this lovely Bourbon.

Elmer worked under Albert Blanton and learned his craft, eventually becoming the master distiller at Ancient Age...he was the first to bottle a single barrel Bourbon, called Blanton's, in fact.

He retired years ago and today the distillery puts out a Bourbon in Lee's honor.  This is along the lines of Blanton's, but a bit lower in "octane."



JOHNNY DRUMM
The old Willett Distillery is today called Kentucky Bourbon Distillers and they make some good, "old time" Bourbons.

Johnny Drum is an "old timers" whiskey and today's young whippersnappers may find this too "retro" for their tastes.
It sells for around thirty bucks.





W.L. WELLER 10 year old
The Bernheim distillery in Louisville owns this brand.  Weller is a famous name in whiskey lore, William LaRue Weller being famous for selling his product as "An Honest Whiskey at an Honest Price."
The 10 year old "Centennial" bottling is a 100-proof spirit with an amazing fragrance reminiscent of vanilla and butterscotch.  The aftertaste of this lingers with fiery warmth.  $34.99 a bottle, so it's still an honest whiskey at an honest price.   Not in stock presently...

 

BOOKER'S
Booker would be Mr. Booker Noe, grandson of Mr. Jim Beam.  This whiskey started out as a little holiday present to Booker's buddies, but it was so well-received, someone decided they ought to commercialize the product.  It's bottled without being "cut" with water, so you'll find this has quite a kick to it, clocking in at around 123 proof.  The whiskey is not filtered, either and will turn cloudy should your bottle be exposed to cold temperatures.  
Booker is quite a "good ole boy" according to a former Weimax staffer who met him once.  She said he does enjoy his whiskey, too.  
We're told that one of his famous lines is "Whiskey improves with age.  The older I get, the more I like it."  
The fragrance of this potent potable displays oak, honey, caramel, butterscotch and spices.  $55.99

BASIL HAYDEN'S
Y
ou've probably seen the whiskey called "Old Grand-Dad."  The old grandfather for whom that spirit was named was none other than Basil Hayden, a Kentucky distiller back in the 1700s!
Old Grand-Dad is now owned by Jim Beam and so's this special eight year old Bourbon.  Though of course based on corn, there's a higher-than-normal percentage of rye and barley in this.  You'll find it to be spicier than most Bourbons, attributable, says the distillery, to the rye.  $42.99

 

 



OLD FITZGERALD
Old Fitzgerald was the whiskey first produced by John Fitzgerald back in 1870 in Frankfort, Kentucky.  His Bourbon was only sold in private clubs and to cruise-lines (I don't know if it was some kind of cure for sea-sickness).  
The firm was purchased by Pappy Van Winkle, who's taste ran towards using more wheat and less (or no) rye.  Mr. Van Winkle was also involved in the creation of Maker's Mark Bourbon, by the way.  The 12 year old bottling of Old Fitz is terrific!  Hints of cinnamon and spice, combine with vanilla...very fine!  $34.99

 

 




 

 




KNOB CREEK
Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have resided, as a child, in the area near Bardstown, Kentucky called "Knob Creek."  Abe wasn't much of a whiskey fan, though he legend has it he asked an aide what kind of whiskey the victorious General Grant favored so he could send some of it to the other military leaders of the day.  A product of the Jim Beam distillery, this was first introduced in 1992.  A nine year-old whiskey, this is bottled at 100-proof.  The oak and caramel notes are very attractive and this is a lovely Bourbon for Manhattans. 


GEORGE DICKEL
George Dickel was not the founder of this well-known distillery in Tennessee.  No, he was a whiskey merchant who ended up buying the Cascade Distillery.
They had to pack up and move out of town, as Prohibition arrived in Tullahoma about a decade before the rest of the U.S.  George Dickel whisky (they spell is differently from most American producers) was, for a time, made in Kentucky.  The process, known as the Lincoln County Process, is different in that it was filtered through a vat filled with sugar maple charcoal.  "Mellow as Moonlight" is how they sold George Dickel whisky back in Dickel's day.  You can taste the charcoal notes in "Old No. 12".  A "Special Barrel Reserve" bottling has similar pedigree but with some caramel and spice on the finish.  


EVAN WILLIAMS
Mr. Williams' claim to fame is being the first commercial distiller in Louisville. He was so quick to set up a distillery, it seems he didn't obtain the proper government permits for this enterprise.  Nonetheless, he was elected to the local town council which enacted an edict declaring any ardent or spirituous liquors would be confiscated by the board for their own use after adjournment.  Evan Williams is said to have frequently arrived with a jug full of ardent liquor.  
The Evan Williams brand is made by the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown.  Their Black Label is a lovely medium-bodied, mildly-oaked Bourbon.  The price is quite reasonable, too, costing little more than ten bucks.
Their 12 year old is a very fine whiskey.  We usually have a bottle of that on the shelf, too.



HENRY McKENNA
Hank emigrated from Ireland to Kentucky where he was farming and distilling.  He ended up doing more of the latter and less of the former.  His recipe used a high percentage of wheat in the whiskey.  McKenna also insisted on aging the spirit in wood until it was smooth.  His distillery fell idle during Prohibition, his heirs running the place from 1934 until selling it to Seagrams in 1941.  It's now a brand owned by Heaven Hill.  We periodically get a call for this rather basic, 80 proof Bourbon.  It's got a touch of wood and a bit of herbal/minty notes.  Liter bottles are around $15.




MICHTER'S

We sometimes have a lovely Bourbon and Rye from this company....very showy, too.




JEFFERSON'S RESERVE

This is often billed as a 15 year old Bourbon, but the label does not make this claim.  I read they blend whiskeys ranging from 12 to about 17 years of age to create this lovely spirit.  It's woodsy and has a nice 'sweet' tone to the nose and palate.  Very fine.

 

 

 


BUFFALO TRACE
This distillery is located in a northern part of Kentucky at a location close to the Kentucky River where buffalo used to migrate...

The distillery turns out an impressive range of labels and this label represents a selection of barrels...the Bourbon shows a lot of oak, toffee and wood spice notes.








Old Overholt Rye Whiskey

Wild Turkey Rye

Jim Beam Rye

Wild Turkey 12 year old

Wild Turkey "Rare Breed"

Jack Daniels Black Label

Jack Daniels Single Barrel

Jack Daniels' Gentleman Jack

Michter's  Rye (in stock)
Michter's Bourbon|

Rittenhouse Rye

If We Don't Have It, We'll Special Order It!


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