Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Why Kentucky?

Recommended Posts

cowdery

To the best of my knowledge, Southern Comfort contains zero whiskey and makes no claim to contain any. There are a great many sources that say it does, which always amuses the folks at Brown Forman. It is classified as a liqueur and consists of alcohol (GNS), sugar syrup, a flavoring syrup in which apricot concentrate is the principal ingredient, and coloring. Its heritage, though, is exactly that of the old rectified whiskies.

--Chuck Cowdery

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Chuck,

Circa 1861. I thought I had the date with the bib info, but it was not on that page. I will have to look the next time I am in Bardstown to get the exact date.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Chuck,

Are you sure of this? I thought there was some aged whiskey but it was less than 5%. I could be wrong and I am not sure I remember where I heard that.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cowdery

I'm sure. I have it on the best authority.

--Chuck Cowdery

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Friday night I had the interesting experience of tasting the product made from this "bourbon" recipe. There was a lot to be learned from this experience because by looking at what people were doing to imitate bourbon, we can get a better idea as to what bourbon was at the time.

The first thing I noticed was the color. It was very dark and with a reddish hue. A true "red eye" whiskey. It was so dark that it led me to believe that it was imitating a very old bourbon - over 20 years old. It was darker than any 20 year old bourbon on the market today but that may be because they don't bottle at barrel proof which would make a darker product. (For the record I do have some barrel proof 20yo bourbon and it is darker than they are.)

The next thing I noticed is the nose with caramel and mint - lots of mint. I have noticed that very old rye recipe bourbons , bourbons of 15 years old or more, often have a mint scent in the nose. That was what they were trying to capture here. The caramel and mint oders are in fine old bourbons so they put these things in their recipe, but at the same time the caramel was not "bourbon caramel" and the mint was not the mint you in an Eagle Rare or some other old bourbon.

The last thing was the taste. It had bourbon characteristics but it was not bourbon. For the record it reminded me of a product made by U.D. called "Rebel Yell Shooter" which was a cinnamon and bourbon flavored "shooter" drink made in the early 90's when such drinks were the rage of the hour. This product was wintergreen instead of cinnamon, but the same type of flavor - mint with a hint of caramel.

What I learned is that aging whiskey to 20 years or more must have been common in the 1860's when this book was published. It was common enough to invite immitation.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cowdery

This will undoubtedly strike many as a strange analogy, but it struck me as I read this that female impersonators exaggerate female characteristics in order to create the illusion that they are women. It may be the same thing with someone creating a fake bourbon, that they would actually strive to make it darker, redder, with more mint, more caramel, than any actual bourbon, to better "sell" the illusion. This doesn't change your basic premise, but it is reasonable to suppose that faux bourbon was a little more extreme than the real thing.

--Chuck Cowdery

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Good point Chuck. I also considered that the ingredients may be a little more pure or refined now than back in 1860 giving it a darker color. The fact is, as I see it, that in any case they were going for a bourbon between 15 and 25 years of age.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Another point to consider is that it doesn't really taste much like bourbon WHISKEY. Perhaps it also didn't LOOK much like whiskey of the time did, either. When I tasted it, I thought (and said), "This doesn't taste at all like whiskey. It tastes almost fruity. What it most tastes like is highly fortified Port or a kind of sweetish Cognac". Lincoln called it a liqueur. What would you suppose a New Orleans wholesaler might have called it? How about, "Bourbon"?

=John=

http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cowdery

It has always been my contention that we have a good example of an old style rectified whiskey still on the market today. It's called Southern Comfort. From the history of Southern Comfort's origins, more than 100 years ago in New Orleans, I infer that it was green whiskey flavored in a way that would cause it to resemble the most popular premium distilled spirit of that place and time, which was cognac.

In other words, John, I'm agreeing with you. Mike's point also is well taken.

--Chuck Cowdery

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bourbonv

Tim,

Here is the recipe that Lincoln made for the tasting I mentioned in the other post.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gillman

Hi, I would like to see this recipe. I don't see it appended to your post..

To me, rectified implies distilling to a very high proof to reduce congeneric content.

You speak of flavouring whiskey. In 1885, a book by Joseph Fleischman was published in New York which gave numerous recipes for blended whiskey. The whiskey was composed of neutral spirits (called spirit in the book); genuine bourbon; and in some cases, genuine rye (i.e., blended in to the bourbon/spirit mixture or to make an all rye/spirit blend). All these blends incorporated a fruit concentrate, for which Fleishman gives the recipe too, to add colour and flavour. One such concentrate was made from an infusion of spirit, prunes and raisins. Another was made from carob (he calls it St. John's Bread) and green tea.

I have confected some of these blends in small quantity. They can be extremely good. I favour the ones, of course, that have no, or very little, spirit. Fleishman's best blend was his no. 11: it was 45% bourbon; the same percentage of another brand of bourbon (probably mingling young and older brands); 9% straight rye (he specified "Monticello"); and 1% prune/raisin infusion. Made intelligently, this is very good indeed..

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bourbonv

Gary,

The post with the recipe is the one I replied to, bringing it forward.

Rectifying meant a lot of things to a lot of different people. For some it was taking whiskey from different distillers and "mingling" it together to get the flavor profile they wanted. Others used neutral spirits and flavoring agents such as prune juice and cherry juice. Other made the drink described in the recipe found here. Others were even worst and even dangerous to drink. That is one of the reasons that the Bottled in Bond act passed and also the need for the Pure Food and Drug act that eventually led to the Taft decision.

In my post the other day about what's in your library, I recommended everybody should have a book on the history of Scotch and a book on the History of Canadian Whisky. One of the most influental people on the American whiskey scene is Hiram Walker and his Canadian Club whisky. It influenced Americans causing a wave of products made in the same way with flavorings and such. It also started the birth of Whiskey advertising in the United States. You should look at the old trademark books and see how many "Club" whiskies appeared after Hiram Walker started distilling.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gillman

Hi Mike, thank you, I will check that previous post.

I see now that the term rectify was used in a broad sense (probably meaning to "correct" the taste of new spirits or whiskey).

Thanks for the comments about Hiram Walker and the Scotch blenders; no doubt as you say they influenced the practice of blending in the United States.

However, I point out Hiram Walsker was American-born, in Massachusetts, if memory serves. He innovated in regard to blending, but did a lot of the work across from Windsor, in Detroit. Thus, I feel blending was truly a cross-border exercise, almost from inception..

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
tdelling

>Hi, I would like to see this recipe. I don't see it appended to your post..

Look up to post #3997 - 03/10/01 03:01 PM.

>To me, rectified implies distilling to a very high proof to reduce congeneric

>content.

Well, "rectified" is sort of a bad word nowadays, sort of like "blend".

Back in the day (before food purity laws), adulterants in food were rampant.

Meat, beans, you name it. It was dishonest and dangerous. "Whiskey" might

have hot peppers in it to give you a burn going down, and tobacco in it to

give it color, the give it twang on the tongue, and to make you sick the next

day. (Being sick the next day is an indication of quality, right?).

There were rectifiers with good names who made good whiskey by blending,

and perhaps adding things like raisins, but there were also scalliwags who were

out to swindle you at the expense of your health. So we, as a country,

decided that pure whiskey was the way to protect ourselves.

Here's the recipe again:

"Old Bourbon Whiskey"

"Neutral spirit 4 gallons; refined sugar, 3 pounds, dissolved in water,

3 quarts; decoction of tea, 1 pint; 3 drops of oil of wintergreen, dissolved

in 1 ounce of alcohol; color with tinciture of cochineal, 2 ounces;

burnt sugar, 3 ounces."

For those of you who aren't alchemists, "oil of wintergreen" is also known

as "sweet birch oil" and "teaberry oil", and can be extracted from birch

trees. Chemically, it's methyl salicylate, but I have no idea what kind

of purity the old recipe was pre-supposing. It's more of a birch flavor

than a peppermint flavor.

Cochineal is an intense red dye taken from little bugs that live on cacti

in Mexico. It's FDA approved for food use. You can heat it a bit to make it

darker if you want.

"Burnt sugar"... well, that's an art unto itself. The Maillard reaction makes

all kinds of interesting flavor compounds. Color can vary from light

tan to dark black, depending on how you do it, and flavor can likewise vary.

I think substituting caramel candy would be pretty much equivalent for

those who try their hand at making carmelized sugar and end up in dispair.

It looks like a fun recipe.

Tim Dellinger

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ratcheer

(Being sick the next day is an indication of quality, right?).

I will never forget seeing Jim Stafford on the Tonight Show many years ago (probably in the 70's, maybe the early 80's). He was explaining that it almost killed him to drink booze and smoke marijuana at the same time, so he had to give one of the up. He said he chose to give up the marijuana, because with it, "you don't get to puke". lol.gif

Tim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bourbonv

Gary,

Hiram Walker was born in the USA but he did his distilling in Windsor, Canada and his style of whisky really became what we know as Canadian whisky today (for better or worst). There is a lot to learn by studying the history of other whiskies because even in the 19th century the distillers were learning from each other. I believe the there was a give and take across the both the northern border and the Atlantic Ocean.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bourbonv

Over the the past several years, John Lipman and myself have had a series of debates about the aging of whiskey. He is convinced that the idea came from Pittsburg and came down river and I argue that it came upstream from New Orleans. I think that when you read the first two posts made in this thread it becomes clearer that it did not come down river from Pittsburg and the Monongahela Rye tradition.

In the 1861 recipe for Monongahela Rye, the idea of coloring is optional, thus leading on to believe that this product was not always aged before consumption. In the 1888 testimony by Atherton he declares that very little whiskey made above the Ohio River was made for the purpose of aging while in Kentucky almost all of the whiskey was made to be aged in a warehouse.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gillman

The Atherton quotation is very interesting, but I don't follow his comment that non-Kentucky Whiskey was "alcohol, cologne spirits and redistilled whiskey".

That would exclude, whether young or old, genuine rye (Monongahela) whiskey.

In Joseph Fleischman's 1885 book on blending and compounding liquors, he lists the main bourbon and rye distilleries of the time. E.g. Monticello is one rye distillery he mentions; another is Mount Vernon.

He gives the then current market prices. The least costly rye was higher in price than the dearest bourbon.

And this was written in New York - the rye areas of production were closer to New York than the bourbon lands..

I do not seek here to compare rye and bourbon, merely to show that in the 1880's (and surely it could not have been much different in the prior decades) genuine rye whiskey was considered at least on a par with genuine bourbon.

Thus, genuine rye whiskey must have been aged. Even new rye whiskey would still have been whiskey, i.e., distilled at relatively low proof and possessed of the flavour (deriving in part from fusel oils) that make whiskey what it is whether new or old.

Maybe this Kentucky son was "boosting" the local product by dismissing the aged straight rye which was in certain markets its competitor?

There are many indications rye was aged well in the 1800's. In an ad for the liquors of W.T. Walters & Co, of Baltimore appearing in the city directory of 1855-56, the house vaunted its "Superior Old Monongahela" and others in its range of the "finest and largest stock of Old Rye Whiskey in the United States".

This wasn't new whiskey, no way.

The ad also advertised "Pure Spirits" and "Tuscaloosa Extra Rectified Whiskey". These are mentioned after the aged ryes. The list starts with cognac and other imported liquors and it is evident from reading the ad that the costliest liquors are mentioned first and the least costly, last. Clearly, rye whiskey was aged at least as long as the 3-7 years Atherton speaks of and was held in high esteem and commanded higher prices than the rectified version.

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gillman

I'd like to add a p.s. to my message above, which is that possibly Atherton meant;

(i) most rye whiskey is sold young;

(ii) some is aged (because he says it can be drunk new as well as "after"); and

(iii) by definition, bourbon is different than rye because bourbon is meant always to be aged, it is never sold young.

I can agree with this interpretation. Still, Atherton was I think playing a little fast and loose. Bourbon too had a non-aged counterpart, corn whiskey. Young white corn has been sold in Kentucky from the beginning, and still is. It wasn't of course called (even before the law mandated that it couldn't be) "Bourbon", but it was the elder brother, as white rye whiskey was to aged Monongahela.

Also, as I said earlier, genuine Monongahela and Maryland rye whiskey, young or old, were really whiskey, not, "alcohol, Cologne spirits [which is silent spirits, like vodka] and redistilled whiskey". So, I think as a respected Kentucky distiller, he may have been giving the competition an elbow, as it were. Still, I'll agree with his main point: bourbon by accepted practice at the time was invariably an aged product but the same could not be said for rye whiskey.

No wonder rye ultimately went down the tubes as a major whiskey category in the U.S. It never had a clear profile, even well before Prohibition. Surely this contributed to the ability of people in the aftermath of Volstead to accept Canadian "rye whisky" - most of which was really a blend - as a valid substitute for traditional U.S. rye whiskey. Hiram Walker didn't assist the process, to be sure, but it seems that rye whiskey had a blurred image much earlier that contributed to its ultimate demise. In a sense, this "problem" is still with us. Lot 40 (a Canadian straight-type rye), Van Winkle's ryes, Pikesville Rye, Wild Turkey rye, Maytag's rye and the others still made are all fine products but they differ from each other quite significantly. Bourbon, though, older or younger, fine, good or less good, is much more of a defined taste, in my view. Thus, Jim Beam's 4 year old bourbon is not all that far off from, say, Knob Creek in taste. Sure, they are different, but they share a strong family resemblance and this is true of bourbons compared even as between the different makers. Rye is a different story. Thus, to the poster who asked what would substitute for ORVW 13 year old rye, I would say, not really much else, it is a unique flavour in the rye spectrum. Still, Julian Van Winkle has a fine palate. When that stock runs out I have no doubt his next selection for the ORVW Family Reserve label (to come from Buffalo Trace, I understand) will be as good in quality as the one from UDV if not (we'll see) identical in palate.

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bourbonv

Gary,

Maybe I should explain more why Atherton was testifying before the Congressional Committee. This was when they were trying to get the bonding period extended to 8 years. The arguments made but not included here continue with the fact that brandy distillers usually sell an unaged product and are not a factor in the increase of the bonding period and I think that is point he is trying to make here. A great proportion of rye whiskey was made to be an unaged spirit and ended up as he says "alcohol, cologne spirits and redistilled". You must remember though that Pennsylvania and Maryland both had thriving distilling industries until prohibition closed them down. Their overall production exceded Kentucky's many times. Thus if only say 10% of the spirits produced became aged spirits, it would still form a sizable proportion of the overall market in aged spirits. This does not count the whiskey sold as unaged spirits that was then bought by rectifiers and aged by them for future use in the market.

You talk about rye being higher priced than bourbon. That was true. Actually the overall demand for rye was higher than that of bourbon up until prohibition. That also means that distillers in Kentucky made a lot of rye whiskey for aging. Atherton did not say Kentucky bourbon was made for aging, but that Kentucky whiskey was made for aging. A large percent of that whiskey was rye. Just about every distillery I know of had a rye version of its bourbon label. Some examples include Old Fitzgerald, I W Harper, Henry Clay, Old Stagg and others.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gillman

Thanks, Mike, and I agree with you and anticipated some of your points in my second post.

I do know, too, that much rye was made in Kentucky although Atherton gave as a mash bill a classic bourbon, not rye, recipe, so I think he had in mind principally bourbon whiskey as it later came to be defined.

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bourbonv

Gary,

I agree with what you are saying here but there is one point that I think you left out in the demise of rye whiskey.

After prohibition Kentucky embraced their distillers where as Pennsylvania became very restrictive toward alcohol as a whole. This meant the bourbon tradition survived in the state where its roots were deepest and rye was left to whither a slow death, surviving only in foriegn soil, so to speak.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gillman

Thanks, I did not know that. I think too in the Northeast cities where rye had been prized, Scotch whisky filled the gap resulting from the lack of sufficient aged rye stocks in 1933. Whereas outside the Northeast, people were less ready to accept such foreign substitutes. This may have been for cultural reasons and/or economic ones.

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
cowdery

What I find most interesting about Atherton's testimony is:

The age of the whiskey in the trade is regulated by summers. If it has passed through three summers it is three years old.

Is that still the practice? It's much like the aging of racehorses. Whiskey born on June 20, 2003 will have seen three summers as of September 22, 2005, while whiskey born two days later won't be three until September 22, 2006.

I'm assuming "pass through three summers" means the entire summer.

Of course, in 1888 they didn't distill in the summer. They distilled in the spring until the weather got too warm and resumed when it cooled off in the fall.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bourbonv

Chuck,

That is an interesting point, but some distillers did distill in the summer. The limiting factor was their water source. If it was good and steady during the summer so they could use it cool the worm, then they could distill, even though it was at reduced yields unless the water source was steady enough to cool the mash as well. The Getz Museum has some patent drawings from the Old Crow distillery from the late 1860's patenting water cooled fermenters with copper pipe coils to pump water through to cool the mash.

Bottled in Bond Act pretty much killed the idea of using summers when the idea of seasons was introduced. Even so you will often see whiskey with something like "eleven summers old" on the label to show that it is oled than 10 years, but not a full 11 years old.

Mike Veach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...