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Issue 6 - Bourbon uncovered

Whisky Magazine Issue 6
October 1999


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Bourbon uncovered

Gary Regan & Mardee Haidin Regan guide us through the process of whiskey-making American-style

It's almost impossible to write about Bourbon or Tennessee whiskey without drawing some comparisons to Scotch.

Whisk(e)y drinkers tend to have a greater knowledge of Scotch, and single malts in particular are generally regarded as the connoisseur's whisky.

Indeed, in some circles Bourbons are seen as cowboy spirits. Some bottlings are exactly that, but even these whiskeys have their place.

Take Jack Daniel's Tennessee Sour Mash. We compare it to the Laphroaig 10-year-old malt. Neither whiskey is a complex dram, but there are many times in life when absolutely nothing else will suffice.

The land of the free, for the most part, produces whiskeys that are well suited for drinking over ice, in mixed drinks and in cocktails. This doesn't mean that there are no American whiskeys that can be savoured neat, like a good malt Scotch, in a copita glass with just a drop of spring water. Indeed, a fast-growing number of bourbons honestly do rival their Scottish counterparts in terms of complexity.

But whereas many Scots might sneer if you try to order a Scotch and coke, in America the whiskey distillers themselves will buy you a Manhattan cocktail, even if it is made with a rare 18-year-old bourbon.

By law, straight Bourbon must be made from at least 51 per cent corn, but most contain much more, at least 70 per cent.
Malted barley is also used by every Bourbon maker, but to a fairly small extent, sometimes making up less than 10 per cent of the total recipe, known as the mas...

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