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Issue 41 - Isbourboncomingofage?

Whisky Magazine Issue 41
July 2004

 

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Isbourboncomingofage?

IsthereaperfectageforAmericanwhiskey–andaredifferentageexpressionsdrivingthemarketorindangerofharmingit?

Theworldofbourbonfacesamajordilemma–howdoesitreverseyearsofdeclineandmakesuchaprouddrinkacceptableagainbutdosowithoutsacrificingtheveryqualitiesthatmaketheproductsospecialinthefirstplace?

Noteasy.Theemphasisontraditionandheritagearewhatsetsthecategoryapart,buttheypresentapotentialstumblingblock,beingastheyarejustashortjumpawayfromwordssuchas‘oldfashioned'and‘dated.'

Withtotalsaleshalfwhattheyweresome50yearsagowhenBillSamuelsVIstartedmakingadifferentsortofbourbon,thesectorhasbeencryingoutforsomethingtokick-startarenewedinterestinwhiskey.

Andthereisgrowingevidencethatithasfoundit.Smallquantitiesofindividualbourbons,someagedforlongerthanbourbonhasbeentraditionallyandsomebearinganagestatement,areprovingtobemorethanapassingfad.

Andwithsomestylishbottledesignbourbonmakershaveshownthattheycanmovesomeoftheproductoffthebottomshelfandintothepremiumwhiskeycategory.Morethanthat,astheAmericanmarketlearnsmoreaboutScotchmaltsandunderstandstheconceptofageing,sothediscerningdrinkerisstartingtoappreciatewhattheyhaveintheirownbackyard.

Butit'sasteadyasyougoapproachfortheproducersofKentucky.Theyareacutelyawareoftherisksinvolvedinproducingspecialbottles.Afterall,ifanumberofcustomerspaytopdrawerpricesforsomethingthatisoldandthebourbonisbitteranddominatedbywood,thewholesectorwillendupsuffering.Thefirstlessonisasimpleone:olderdoesn'tnecessarilymeanbetter,andanyonejumpingintothemarketatthatparticulardeependdeservestogetburned.

Sohowoldistheperfectbourbon?Thefirstpointtonotethattheclimateo...

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