So now for the $125 question: what does it taste like? The head distiller calls out “light floral notes, little honeysuckle, citrus, almost like an Asian pear.” It reminded me a little bit of sherry on first sip. Later, in martini form, it most poignantly recalled how glasses filled with well-made 80-proof liquor tend to make you tipsy before you know it.
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“The majority of our experiments we’ve conducted over the past thirty years have been successful,” Wheatley revealed. “We’ve experimented and released whiskies featuring unique recipes, oak barrels, entry proofs and more. Every once in a while, the experiments do not turn out as planned, and we’re not comfortable with releasing them if they do not need meet our standards.
“However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about our failures too, because that’s how we all learn, both as a company and as an industry as a whole,” he said.This barrel is part of more than 4,000 experimental barrels – or 80,000 cases – of whiskey ageing in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery, with variations including unique mash bills, types of wood, and different barrel toasts.
Craft bourbon, like craft beer, is in the midst of a boom: In the past 15 years, the number of distilleries in the U.S. has surged from just a handful to around 600.Why are Americans buying more bourbon?
According to author Reid Mitenbuler, one reason is that we’re being seduced by clever bottles and throwback labels. Along with enticing branding, some of these bottles of “craft bourbon” boast hefty price tags. Take Pappy Van Winkle, a craft bourbon with “family reserve” editions that retail for thousands of dollars.
And yet “the term ‘craft’ is little more than an ambiguous buzzword,” Mitenbuler writes in a new book, Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey. Behind all the craft buzz, Mitenbuler says, are actually just some “carefully cultivated myths” created by an industry on a roll.
Minnesotans, like people all around the country, are in the midst of a whiskey craze. Consumption of all whiskeys in the U.S. was 22 percent higher last year than in 2004, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. And Minnesota ranked ninth in per capita consumption of spirits, with whiskey the most consumed spirit in the state.
There has been much speculation surrounding the elusive idea of whisky and terroir. Raw evidence for an influence of terroir on the flavour of whisky is usually sought from the density and mineral content of water, the locality of barley or the microclimate and location of maturation. Yet these remain at best intangible aspects of terroir’s influence on whisky and, in some cases, easily dismissible ones. Despite this though the sense of location, geographic and geological identity in a glass of single malt remains a powerful one. How often have we fallen in sway to the little organoleptic rhythms of the sea or the forest floor; the farmyard and the industrial?
The only spirits that arrived in our house, when I was growing up, was vodka of dubious provenance brought from Poland. It acted like a magic charm as all the men became slightly flushed and started wild dancing while the women looked bemused. My lexicon of spirits was severely limited; gin and tonic sounded like something horrible that old people would drink. I remember my first sip of this deliciously refreshing bitter, fragrant, citrus-scented drink even now. It was baptism into the intriguing, perfumed, beguiling, slightly dark and mysterious world of gin.