Counter Intelligence

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Posted in Everywhere Else, Regional, South by melissamccart on February 21, 2007

main-glass-sm.jpg On the heels of microbrews comes a sharpened interest in artisanal ryes and bourbons, legal or otherwise. 

This, according to John T. Edge, in a new series which chronicles food traditions of the South in The Atlanta Constitution.

In “High Class Hooch,” he explores the rising popularity of bourbon and rye through the lens of LeNell Smothers, owner of Red Hook (Brooklyn)’s  LeNell’s Wine and Spirit Boutique.  In it, he gives props to Black Maple Hill from Kentucky and Isaiah Morgan Rye in West Virginia as well as Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.  According to the article, interest isn’t relegated to the South– it’s all over the country.

And for those of us who need a booze primer:

Things to know, spirits to seek

• Whiskey is made from three ingredients: grain, water and yeast.

• In the South, the primary grain is corn, used in combination with malted barley, rye and wheat. The prevalence of wheat, the style popularized by Maker’s Mark, results in a softer whiskey. The prevalence of rye yields a raspier whiskey.

• Bourbon is whiskey made from at least 51 percent corn. To be called straight bourbon, it must be aged in new charred-oak barrels for a minimum of two years. Woodford Reserve is a widely available premium bourbon.

• Compared with bourbon, two things distinguish Tennessee whiskeys like Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel: They must be made in Tennessee, and they must seep through a charcoal filtration system.

• Single-barrel whiskeys are just that, bottles of whiskey sourced from a single barrel, chosen by a master distiller for superior qualities. Blanton’s was the first. Evan Williams makes a consistently good single barrel at a very favorable price.

• Small-batch bourbons are one-offs, small runs of special recipes done by larger distillers. Often a larger distiller will do batch production and aging for an artisan who lacks proper facilities. Among recent entries in this category are the Experimental Collection bourbons from Buffalo Trace, packaged as a set of three 375-milliliter bottles. The barrel in which the Fire Pot Barrel bourbon aged was heated to 102 degrees for 23 minutes to dry the wood, resulting in a whiskey with tobacco-y tannins.

• Rum is distilled from fermented molasses and, sometimes, sugar cane juice. In addition to Prichard’s (available at Green’s and other well-stocked package stores), another Southern craft distiller of rum is New Orleans Rum, makers of the Cane brand.

— John T. Edge

Check out the video here.


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