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  1. #31
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Southern Comfort 2006

    I'm going to talk to someone at BF about this at my next opportunity. It certainly is close enough to the original to make the claim credible, would be my guess. In other words, it's as close as they can make it.

    In 1874, there really was no such thing as GNS. It wasn't possible to make it, so if it was grain spirit it was technically whiskey, even if it wasn't exactly "straight bourbon" as we would know it today.

  2. #32
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Southern Comfort 2006

    I agree that the kind of grain neutral spirits known today, of approximately 96% alcohol by volume and very bland in taste, probably was not known at the time or was not at any rate in regular commerce. In Byrn's text, which I mentioned earlier, and also Fleischman's manual (1885), the term grain neutral spirits is not used and in using that term I was being a little loose.

    There was however a clear distinction between whiskey and "spirits". Fleischman refers often to "spirits" as opposed to aged whiskey. It is not just aging that makes the difference since he points out spirits don't age other than taking some flavor from the wood. Most of Fleischman's whiskey compounds involve combinations of spirits and whiskey.

    Byrn, for his part, refers numerous times to the desirability for certain purposes of making "pure, flavourless" spirit (e.g. to prepare cordials). He refers to certain techniques to do this including multiple distillation. He explains that rectification can mean rendering a spirit flavourless or covering over its "essential oils" (congeners) by flavourings or other (chemical) means.

    From this I conclude, and I think we are in agreement here, that the spirits of the time used in commerce were rough and probably had some whiskey-like flavor. Maybe they were akin to the young British grain whisky distilled to a high proof but not rendered quite neutral.

    The Southern Comfort compound may have been a flavored base spirit of this kind (the flavorings being fruits and others of the kind used for shrubs mentioned earlier and of course some aged bourbon).

    Therefore, I would think the original Comfort was more congeneric than the one available today although perhaps they are quite close. I would think the one of today may, in pure taste terms, be better than the original and the best ever unless Comfort was at one time made based on 100% bourbon.

    Gary

  3. #33
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Southern Comfort 2006

    I don't think there is any essential disagreement. Rectifiers in the pre-prohibition sense of the term used redistillation, filtering (through charcoal and bone dust), blending and flavoring to make whatever alcohol they had available more palatable. Today the term rectifier tends to mean "liqueur maker" and though most liqueurs use GNS as their alcohol base, some still have whiskey, brandy or other aged spirits as an ingredient.

    Today, at least in the US, what we can call things is tightly regulated by the federal government's Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits. This was not the case 100 years ago, so it can be hard to know what the same terms meant to people then.

    A couple of other thoughts. I think what BF has done in putting some whiskey into Southern Comfort is allow them to talk about it as a "whiskey liqueur," which probably helps them persuade retailers to put it in the whiskey section, rather than in the liqueur section, which is what they want. (Positioning it as a "whiskey substitute" has long been and still is a basic part of the brand's marketing strategy.)

    Although this is just an opinion, there is a consensus among many of us who look into these things that what Heron was trying to do was make Kentucky whiskey taste more like Cognac. We believe that because we do know that, in New Orleans at that time, Cognac was considered the king of all distilled spirits. We further think that's one of the reasons the name "bourbon" caught on, because it supported an association between Kentucky corn whiskey and that French brandy.

  4. #34
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Southern Comfort 2006

    I have a friend who has some 10 year old Southern Comfort which does not have the Heron statement on it.

    While this does not mean that the formulation is different than the current, Heron-identified product, I plan a taste test to see if the bourbon component and fresh fruit elements of the original recipe can be distinguished from the older version.

    By the way I'll put up soon one of the old shrub recipes, which call (Byrn's does) indifferently for any spirit.

    The cognac connection does make sense. E.g. Byrn refers to cognac as the standard for an aged, dark-colored drink and offers numerous ways to emulate the taste. He suggests additions of burned wheat and caramel for this purpose. He says if American distillations are properly "managed" the result will be very close to French brandy and even spirit made from cider and "crabs" (crab apples) can work for this purpose.

    He never uses the term bourbon though and only infrequently refers to whiskey made from Indian corn. However, the book was Euro-centric and also, he worked in Philadelphia which in the 1860's-70's seems not to have been a market for the emerging aged bourbon (but rather rye whiskey, seemingly not long aged, malt whisky, brandy, cordials and almost everything else).

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 12-20-2006 at 05:15.

 

 

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