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Issue 101 - White Dog Days

Whisky Magazine Issue 101
February 2012

 

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White Dog Days

Liza Weisstuchis a spirit, lifestyle and business journalist who's work has appeared in the Boston Globe and the New York Times

During Kentucky Bourbon Festival five years ago I first tried white whiskey. I was with Dave Pickerell, former master distiller of Maker's Mark and a friend from LA in the sepia-toned, aromatic still room, which was far toastier than the spring weather outside, when he dipped a copper ladle into the crystalline luminescent fluid and urged me to try what seemed like a liquid compression of bakery fumes. It was hot, turbo-charged and jagged edged, but also mildly sweet and modestly delicious. This nascent spirit was about to be sent off on a long path to maturity, refinement.

“That's white dog,” Pickerell bellowed, noting it was 130 proof. I took another tiny sip, and thought: this is the real deal; this is how the colonists did it. After all, when George Washington was selling rye whiskey from his Mount Vernon distillery, it was clear as water.

But could I drink this every day? No way.

Next thing I knew, white whiskey was showing up on the shelves of upscale shops and on the back bars of popular urban cocktail haunts. But as if to prepare them better for this big, bad outside world, these white dogs seem to have been muzzled and neutered. Some have even been formulated, like a mutt, so they go down better without wood's mellowing effect.

The experience of drinking one of these highproof beasts in a cocktail or in your living room from a bottle announced with a slick, TTB approved label is no substitute for a generous pour of amber bourbon. The spike in white whiskey pr...

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