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  1. #11
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Rye and Bremen, Germany circa 1900

    That's right, there is seemingly something "indefinable" about a truly local spirit (or any local product) although sometimes one can lay a finger on why. Taking Scotch as my example too, consider McCarthy's Single Malt Whisky, an artisanal whisky made from all-Scottish, peated barley malt in Oregon. The maker is a brewer who distills on the side. The whisky is very good, and very much in the Scottish style, but it is "missing" something, I think it is missing the cold briny effect imparted to Scotch in Scotland in warehouses at or near the cold Northern sea. McCarthy's taste is close but is not quite there. Possibly the cold humid air in Scotland also affects fermentation in a unique way. Sure, there is ocean not far from even the interior of Oregon, but it is a different ocean, in a different climate in a different country.

    I am not sure though that straight whiskey can't be duplicated. Canadian distillers make straight "bourbon" and "rye" to flavour their high-proof neutral-tasting whisky. They do not market these straights as such, so it is not possible to see how close these spirits are to the "real" thing. Would Ontario-aged whiskey made from the same mash that informs, say, Maker's Mark, aged in new charred wood, really taste all that different from that whiskey or any of Kentucky's best? Maybe it would, I don't know. Michter's, made from very close to the usual bourbon recipe (just accented more than normal toward the rye) never tasted like any bourbon I know, though, it tasted like Michter's. Hirsch's 16 year old Michter is close to (in fact better than) the original (youngish) Michter's of yore, and it tastes like ... Michter's, not like bourbon of Kentucky. The cold aging in the Pennsylvania vales may have had a special impact as compared to the different microclimate of Kentucky. This was Lew Bryson's theory, and Lew knows a lot about whiskey (and beer).

    Yet, is this the "narcissism of minor differences"? Not to the whiskey mavens of the world, I suspect...

    Cy

  2. #12
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Rye and Bremen, Germany circa 1900

    Just to further the discussion about local products, an example of making a classic whiskey style that results in something seemingly quite different is the Canadian Lot 40, a Corby's product. Corby's is part of Hiram Walker/Allied Domecq, the huge U.K. concern. Intent on making a traditional (ie. non-blended) whisky, they made, in a pot still, a whisky from all-rye. Both malted and unmalted rye are used, no barley malt as far as I know. Presumably, the malted rye is used to saccharify the raw rye grist. The result is a rich, pungent whisky, very flavourful. It does not really taste like any American straight rye I know. It has more depth than Maytag's rye and quite a different taste although there are some resemblances. I think it does not taste like any other American rye whiskey because it lacks corn content. I tried mixing, say, two-thirds of a high corn content bourbon with one third Lot 40, and the result is very good and much closer to a good American rye such as Rittenhouse or Old Overholt. (I think the combo would even impress those who admire the Old Rip Van Winkle ryes which are the best there is). So here we have a local product that, as it should, ends up tasting unique. Even if Lot 40 had been made with a mash akin to that used for most modern straight ryes, I'd like to think it would taste local, unique in some way. Our water, air, climate, grains, would all conspire I think to produce something unique although no doubt recognisable broadly as straight rye whisky. The maker of Lot 40 might argue Lot 40 tastes like Pennsylvania and Maryland rye of 100 years ago. Almost certainly, it tastes like some of those old ryes did, but no doubt they themselves must have varied quite a bit. I have noted the American F. Byrn (1875) wrote that rye whiskey was usually made from a mash of 80% rye and 20% barley malt. He also stated that when barley malt was not available, all-rye could be used. I think that version, at least when aged, likely tasted like Lot 40. Lot 40 is likely the closest we have on the market today in Canada to the straight whiskies made in-house by Canadian distillers to flavour their high-proof light tasting whisky or (if used in Canada, I am not sure) grain neutral spirit. I also tried adding a dash of Lot 40 to a dram of Canadian Club and the result again was great, it tasted like extra-special Canadian Club (more like the 12 year old CC which is a fine whisky by the way).

    Cy

 

 

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