George Washington’s whiskey

Two years after its first batch of whiskey was distilled, George Washington’s distillery was the biggest in the country. The distillery was mismanaged by Washington’s nephew and destroyed in a fire in 1814. A project to rebuild the distillery began in 1997, and in 2007, the distillery was rebuilt. They distill twice a year and sell extremely limited releases to the public.

Washington was, at first, hesitant to jump into a new business venture—after all, at 65 years old, he had wanted to spend his retired years in relative peace, but after hearing Anderson’s proposal, as well as corresponding with a friend who was involved in the rum business, Washington acquiesced. That winter, Anderson began distilling in the estate’s cooperage, using just two stills (pots used for distillation). The first distilling was so successful that Washington approved plans for construction of a full-fledged distillery, complete with five stills. The distillery finished construction in 1798, and by 1799, it was the largest whiskey distillery in the country. That year, the distillery produced 11,000 gallons of clear, un-aged whiskey, which Washington sold for a total of $1,800 ($120,000 by today’s standards).

More on the process and the whiskey in the Washington Post.

George Washington’s whiskey

Flavored whiskeys

New York Times on the flavored-whiskey boom. I don’t think I’ve had any of these mentioned. Have you?

Whether the flood of new flavors is good or bad for whiskey’s image depends on whom you talk to. People in the industry say flavored whiskey is a gateway drink that will introduce novice drinkers to the spirit. Eventually, the logic goes, their tastes will evolve and they will make the leap to straight whiskey.
[…]
“I think it is a cynical market grab masquerading as innovation,” said Michael Neff, an owner of the Manhattan bars Ward III and Rum House. “Flavored whiskey, as a category, is not meant to create new whiskey drinkers, but to make flavored-vodka drinkers feel like grown-ups.”

Flavored whiskeys

Here are some whiskey longreads for National Bourbon Day

Every day is another dumb national day for some food or another. June is Iced Tea Month and June 10th is Iced Tea Day. And I love iced tea, but it doesn’t need a day, let alone a month. All that said, what better reason to put together a batch of whiskey links than National Bourbon Day! (PS, I didn’t discriminate between whiskey or whisky; bourbon, rye, and scotch all get some in here.)

My two favorite whiskey quotations:
“If by whiskey…”
Drink alcohol. Quite a bit. Mostly bourbon.”

These are really good guides to get you going.
Serious Eats Guide to Rye Whiskey answers what is rye whiskey.

According to the United States government, rye whiskey sold in the United States must meet these requirements:
*Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% rye.
*Aged in new charred-oak barrels.
*Distilled to no more than 160 proof, or 80% alcohol by volume (ABV). In practice, most rye is distilled out at a lower proof than this.
*Entered into the barrel for aging at a proof no higher than 125 (62.5% ABV).
*Bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% ABV).

Serious Eats Guide to Bourbon answers what is bourbon.

*Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn.
*Aged in new charred-oak barrels.
*Distilled to no more than 160 proof, or 80% alcohol by volume (ABV). In practice, most bourbon is distilled out at a lower proof than this.
*Entered into the barrel for aging at a proof no higher than 125 (62.5% ABV).
*Bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% ABV).

Serious Eats State of the Union: American Whiskey
Serious Eats Guide to Tennessee Whiskey

If whiskey takes so long to age, how can there be so many new brands?

Less patient companies can buy “sourced” whiskey and sell it until their own product matures. The High West Distillery in Park City, Utah, which opened its doors in 2009, is up front about the fact that it is curating spirits from distilleries around the country while its home-made blends of rye whiskey age in warehouses nearby. The new Louisville-based small batch bourbon company Angel’s Envy mixes pre-aged selections from a local distillery then stores the blends for three to six more months in imported ruby port casks. (The company says the wine barrels infuse the whiskey with “caramelized fruits, chocolates and a smoky undertone.”)

PS This guy is aging whiskey in a week using pressure.

Interview with whiskey sommelier Heather Greene (heavier on the fact she’s a woman than need be).

Why are women more involved in whiskey than ever before?
HG: Like we’ve talked about, women do really well with nosing and whiskey. Then there’s Mad Men and the advent of nostalgia in pop culture, and this return to sophistication and entertaining at home. More and more women are also writing at influential publications. Women are tastemakers and influencers and they are curious about this. There’s the mixology craze. Now you have mixologists very attuned to different notes and aromas that come out of whiskey and use those notes to create beautiful cocktails. Finally, in the 1970s, women started to become included in the wine world, and now there is a huge market. You get to the point where you ask: What’s next? This is the new frontier.

Interview with Bill Sammuels Jr from Makers Mark where he foreshadows the blow up earlier this year when MM reversed their decision to release a lower proof.

10, 15, 20 years from now, where do you think Maker’s Mark will be and what will it look like?
That’s a great question. I don’t know. I think I can say without question that we’re going to spend the next two years managing a limited supply. I’m almost positive of that unless Europe blows up and we follow right behind them. But if the economy doesn’t blow, I think the next 10 years, we’re going to have significantly less product than we’ve got demand. I see us staying true to our values. I see us being honest about what we’ve got, about not shopping for supplies somewhere else and sticking it in the Maker’s Mark bottle, and all of those temptations. After 10 years, I don’t know. I think a lot of it might depend on the bourbon trend. Unlike a lot of other trends, bourbon is more rooted in authenticity and reality, and it probably ought to sustain those of us that are interested in the Kentucky economy. I certainly hope so. But it might wane. You got to remember, the last time bourbon was really popular was 1918. It never really recouped after prohibition. So it took 90 years to swing into the trough and come back up and become fashionable again, and I would suggest that what Mom and Dad did in creating the first real premium bourbon had a hell of a lot to do with the fact that all distillers are basking in the success and we’re doing it all together. Everybody has got really distinct, interesting products and nobody has to apologize for anybody and there is a great feeling in that. But Mom and Dad got it started.

The best whiskey you’ve probably never heard of.”

How Obama is saving American whiskey. Sort of.

Whiskey for Pain (from 1941)

In their experiments, Drs. Wolff, James D. Hardy and Helen Goodell tried a mixture of two ounces of 95% grain alcohol in a glass of ginger ale on themselves, found that it raises the “threshold” of pain 45% for two hours. Two ounces of 90-proof whiskey will turn the same trick. If a five-grain tablet of aspirin is added, any pain can be dulled for four hours. Dr. Wolff urged his colleagues to return to the use of whiskey for “persons suffering continuously,” especially cancer victims. Said he: “It is cheaper than morphine. … Of course alcohol is habit-forming but an alcohol habit is less difficult to deal with than a morphine habit.”

On rye’s revival, the NY Times in 2006.

It used to be the signature whiskey of the United States. George Washington distilled it. Men fought over it in the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Classic cocktails like the manhattan, the Sazerac and the Ward 8 were invented for it. Humphrey Bogart swigged it. But the rise of vodka, bourbon and single-malt scotch, along with the decline of the distilling industry in the Northeast, the stronghold of rye production, turned rye into a relic.

Big brands making small whiskies.

While much of what they’re making comes off the still as standard bourbon or rye, there’s also a lot of less-standard stuff: straight corn whiskey, malt whiskey, millet whiskey, sorghum whiskey, spelt whiskey, whiskey made from mixed barley, oats, and rye, all kinds of things. The problem is whiskey is an interaction of two different processes: distillation and maturation. That maturation takes a long time to do its best work, a minimum of 4 years, a sweet spot of 10 or 12, and well beyond that in exceptional cases. Almost all American microdistilleries are under ten years old, and most of them are well under that. If they want to play around with fully matured whiskey, they’ve got to either buy it or, you know, wait.

A California whiskey pilgrimage.

Top 10 bourbons. Another top 10 bourbons. Best bourbons for Father’s Day. Best new bourbons. Another top 10 bourbons. Top 5 bourbons. Ascending Order of Bourbon. Best Derby Day bourbons. Top 12 bourbons and ryes. Another top 10 bourbons. 8 quality bourbons, best value bourbons, another top 10 bourbons, another 10 top 10 bourbons.

Slideshow on the barrels.

A word on Japanese whisky.

Interested in purchasing stock in a whiskey company?

This guy was accused of stealing whiskey he found.

Science!

You’ll need a subscription to read this actual longread about a distillery in Scotland in the New Yorker.

Want to make your own whiskey?

Here are some whiskey longreads for National Bourbon Day

If by whiskey

“If by whiskey” is a type of argument which seems to make a case, but ends up taking both sides of a position. It is named after a speech in 1952 by Noah “Soggy” Sweat from Mississippi, who found himself in a discussion about whether or not the state should legalize booze.

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

Via @asimone

If by whiskey