A Brave New World: American Whiskey

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Whiskey is a centuries old story. You can imagine recipes and instructions for distillation on ancient pages now browning with age. Though whiskey?was probably around for longer than the books?seem to indicate, the first actual confirmed written record (according to Wikipedia) is from Ireland in 1405. In Scotland, evidence of production dates from the year 1494.

Here in the new world, whiskey was used as a currency during the American Revolution and George Washington is known to have operated a distillery at Mount Vernon. During Prohibition (from 1920-1933) whiskey was available with a prescription from a doctor and was sold through licensed pharmacies. It was during this time that Walgreens pharmacy chain grew from 20 to nearly 400 stores. Coincedence? I think not. While Kentucky is the American birthplace of the barreled spirit, states all over are now creating their own versions of?this tasty libation.

Whiskey?s presence is enduring.

Lately, there?s been something of a craft spirits revolution; it seems like more and more whiskey is being produced than ever before. I see bars all over Portland catering specifically to lovers of bourbon, whiskey and even moonshine (unaged and clear corn whiskey). Ok, let?s be honest, I don?t just see them, I visit them. I?m a huge fan of Multnomah Whiskey Library (it?s like stepping back in time and entering a classic speakeasy, something you have to experience to comprehend), and other favorites include Pope House Bourbon Lounge, Branch Whiskey Bar, The Rookery (at Raven and Rose) and Swine Bar.

American whiskey uses cereal grain to produce the fermented mash. There are many different types of American whiskey, including bourbon whiskey (at least 51% corn), corn whiskey (at least 80% corn), malt whiskey (at least 51% malted barley), rye whiskey (at least 51% rye), rye malt whiskey (at least 51% malted rye) and wheat whiskey (at least 51% wheat). A couple of rules apply, American whiskey must be distilled under 80% alcohol by volume and must remain under 125 proof. Some people say the only whiskey is Scotch whiskey. I beg to differ. But I?m American, so maybe my opinion doesn?t count to some. While there are whiskeys from practically every country and at every price tag, it would be impossible to review them all and there are some lovely new world expressions to explore. Let?s start by looking at two: one from right here in the Pacific Northwest and a classic bourbon whiskey straight from Kentucky.

Westland American Single Malt Whiskey
Westland?s flagship whiskey, this spirit represents the brand?s house style. The malt is grown in the state of Washington and they even own their own peat bog (which can be better experienced with their Peated Malt Whiskey). This whiskey, though complex with sweet aromas of graham crackers, caramel and cr?me brulee, the creamy mouth feel further enhances the enjoyment. And though it sounds like dessert any kid would love, this whiskey is mature and solid, developing in flavor and complexity. Enjoy it neat or blend it into an Old Fashioned. It will not disappoint.

I.W. Harper:
I.W. Harper spent many years trying to bring bourbon out of the backwoods. Athey were winning awards back in the late 1800?s. Now, after is spending 20 years abroad in international markets, they are making their debut back in the United States. Welcome back and where have you been all my life? Consider them the Urban Bourbon, ideal for the modern consumer who values the beverages rich history. I.W. Harper should be appreciated, not just consumed. Their offerings include: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ? 82 proof with a golden amber color, caramel, vanilla and toasted coconut on the nose with a long finish of chocolate and malty goodness. 15-Year_old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey ? Showcases the rye spice. Darker, deeper amber color, with a higher viscosity, showing flavors of vanilla, burnt sugar, and cr?me. Hints of allspice and white pepper add depth to the mid-palate structure.

 

RECIPE:

Satiate Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is one of the oldest cocktails and has never gone out of fashion. Though this is considered a no-no by some traditionalist standards, I prefer to muddle one boozey cherry into the sugar syrup. I love the way the sweet cherry compliments the smokiness of the whiskey.

2 shots of good rye whiskey
1 t simple syrup
3 dashes of bitters
Gourmet brandied cherries (DIY or try Luxardo or Unbound)
Splash of club soda
Ice (preferably the big cube)
Orange twist for garnish

Muddle the cherry with the syrup and bitters, add one oversized ice cube, whiskey and the soda. Rub the orange twist around the rim of an Old Fashioned tumbler?and then add to the drink for?garnish. Feel free to throw another cherry on top – first of all, because you can, and secondly, cause you’ll win bonus points with the girlfriend/wife.

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