George Thorogood anyone?
I take our girls to the local library every week for story time. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I get to browse and pick something out, too. Sometimes, if I'm really lucky, I actually get to read it before it's due to be returned.
A few weeks ago I had one of those lucky days. I didn't even have to go very far. Right there, in front of me, was the Happy Hour section. I know, right?! Who was the brilliant librarian who thought that up? No idea, but I am so glad they did. Among the options of beverages, I saw The Book of Bourbon And Other Fine American Whiskeys by Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan. I knew right then my search was done.
I consider myself a whiskey girl, and being from Wisconsin, I love me a good whiskey old-fashioned sour with mushrooms. Those yummy, pickled mushrooms get me every time. Love them. Whiskey old-fashioneds from Wisconsin are something special. Trust me. I have ordered this drink many a time in many a place and just have not found another as divine. Some bars use sour mix instead of sour soda (blech). Others use a different blend of bitters, or more orange, or less of this and more of that. If you are ever in Wisconsin, do yourself a favor and order one. You can have it sweet or sour, but sour is the way to go. With good ole 50/50 sour soda. You can also order them with brandy, instead of whiskey, but don't bother.
And when you're done, you can go to church, because where there is a bar in Wisconsin, there is usually a church nearby...though usually there are more bars than churches in a town. And it's only considered a proper town if it's got at least one of each!
I never really thought about what whiskey I was getting when I first starting ordering them, thanks to my dear brother. (He is also a big fan). But slowly as my taste changed and matured, I would order Maker's Mark, Basil Hayden, Woodford Reserve and the like. I never really thought about what made them whiskey or what exactly it was about them that I liked so much.
Until I read this book.
Apparently not all whiskeys are even whiskeys.
Some are whiskys, sans the e
Some are bourbons.
Some are scotch.
Whiskey's beginnings are traced back to Ireland and Scotland, and each of those countries make their own distinctive versions of the spirit, Irish whiskey and Scotch. American whiskey is this whole other beast, with all it's myriad variations. Whiskey is made by fermenting cereal grain, distilling it, and aging it. When it is first distilled, it is clear, like vodka or gin. Only time in wood gives it it's color. And only time in charred wood gives it a crimson hue. All kinds of grains can be used, but in the USA corn and rye are king.
Made from corn
According to The Book of Bourbon, every straight bourbon today is made from a sour mash based on corn, in which a portion of the residue from one batch of mash is used to start the next, kinda like a sourdough starter. To qualify as bourbon, a spirit must:
Some popular brands that are bourbons include Bookers, Basil Haydens, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker's Mark and Wild Turkey. These are actually Kentucky bourbons, which are generally thought to have originated in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
This is also made from corn and follows pretty much the same standards listed above. However, what makes it a Tennessee whiskey and not a bourbon is the filtration. Present day Tennessee whiskey are filtered using the Lincoln County Process in which the whiskey is steeped in or filtered through sugar maple charcoal. Enter Jack Daniels, which used to be produced in Lincoln County, TN. Now it is produced in Lynchburg, which is in Moore County. A dry county. What are the odds!
Made from rye
Rye whiskeys are, of course, made from rye. They follow the same aging, flavoring, coloring rules as bourbons, but they must be made from a mash containing at least 51% rye. Then it gets interesting.
Safe to say the Scots are serious about their whiskey?
And the whiskey versus whisky thing? Apparently, in Ireland and the United States we tend to use whiskey with an e. Most other countries tend to leave off the e. At least we're not the only ones this time!
My hubs and I are embarking a whiskey self-education program. That really means that we are going to be tasting and comparing different whiskeys, bourbons and the like. And we're bringing you and our friends and neighbors along. Because really, what better way to build a community than to invite your new neighbors around for drinks!
So, what's your favorite whiskey or whiskey drink? Leave a comment and let me know!