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Issue 113 - Flavour Games

Whisky Magazine Issue 113
July 2013


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Flavour Games

With the increase of flavoured whiskies on the shelves, we report on the various players in the market

Tough looking guy sits down next to me at the bar, grunts, then says, ‘Do you have Red Stag?' Yeah, I guess flavoured whisky is a thing.” So tweets Los Angeles-based food and whisky blogger Steven K. Ury.

“For the record,” Steve tells me, “I have no problem with flavoured whisky, as long as I don't have to drink it.” When Red Stag Bourbon hit liquor store shelves in 2009, whisky makers and drinkers took notice. An instant best seller, this was the first flavoured whisky in recent years to get real attention.

Dozens followed.

Red Stag is Jim Beam Bourbon that has been flavoured to smell and taste like black cherries. Spiced and honey-tea versions have followed in the wake of its phenomenal success.

But Scotch snobs dismiss flavoured whisky as non-traditional and therefore “not real whisky.” With a very superior tone they grumble, “Is it just me or is flavoured whisky a disturbing trend that's dumbing down proper drinks into something simply frightening to sip?” But when does a tradition start? For most of the five centuries of recorded Scotch whisky history, it was unheard of not to add flavouring to Scotch. Honey, herbs, spices, fruit, even cream was used to make harsh whisky palatable.

When they settled in America, emigrant Scots and Scotch-Irish distillers brought the flavouring tradition with them.

Then, further north, came the taxman.

In 1887 the government of Canada introduced a law that required whisky to be aged in barrels for at least one ye...

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