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Issue 111 - High Strength Bourbon

Whisky Magazine Issue 111
April 2013


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High Strength Bourbon

Our man behind the stick ups the ABV for a different type of drink.

It's been very much the centre of discussion of late what a few degrees in a whiskey will do to the taste. The seed of the debate was the (subsequently reversed) decision by Maker's Mark to drop their ABV by a mere three per cent. Measly as this may seem, it still equates to almost a 10 per cent loss in whiskey, and really, that's the thing you're after rather than the extra three per cent of Kentucky water. Many argued that it wouldn't change the taste (mainly on the distillery side), but one of the key changes I think would've come when it came to mixing the spirit. Cocktails, as I've discussed before, are a great way to explore a different side to your whiskey; be it a different occasion, ringing a new friend around or showcasing a different side flavour-wise.

Like adding a drop of water to a neat dram, dilution or complementary flavours begin to open up new facets, and play up to the characteristics inherent to the base spirit. By having a higher proof whisk(e)y, you're giving more opportunity to allow these different flavours to unfold according to your own tastes. I often find a ‘sweet spot' with a dram, which changes according to mood, by adding drop by drop of water. This is often a starting point for me in terms of a cocktail too as I'll find different notes opening out as the whiskey dilutes. You often find higher proof Bourbons, the advantage being the shorter ageing, and also the occasional raising in proof, but they're often the pricier drams.

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