Sunday, 6 March 2011

Rules of the Blog, Part 1

Down to brass tacks: here’s what this blog is for.

When the LCBO brings a new bourbon over, it usually doesn’t get a lot of fanfare. It would be tough for the fine folks at the LCBO to properly do so – there’s only so much room in Vintages magazine, and most of it is taken up by wine and its derivations. When a spirit does get a write-up beyond the new releases, it’s usually Scotch whisky, which has a lot more cache as a collector’s drink (plus I think you British nations all stick together). However, I would love to see people buying more of the good stuff, in the hopes that we can one day have the better bottles on the shelves consistently, and maybe even get some high-end limited-release expressions up here (in other words: get me some BTAC, I need more Stagg). In order to do so, I plan on covering ground in the most obvious way I can think of: when a new bourbon is released, I buy a bottle and drink it and share my thoughts with all of you.

However, the beauty of whiskey is on the tongue of the drinker, so don’t take my word for it. While my palate isn’t yet discerning enough to give all of you a run-down of all the possible flavors and tastes available in a glass of whiskey, I’ll do my best to give a run-down of flavors and an overview on my beginnings with a bottle. I’m not trained to do this, I’m a blundering enthusiast who is, at best, copying off his betters. That said, I likely know a little more than most people checking out this site from this side of the border, and I hope my enthusiasm is enough to put up with a bit of foolishness. And anyone who happens to read this that does know about the fine art of tasting, let me know! I would love to hear from the masters.

This blog will focus on three things:

  1)  Bourbon

-          Specifically, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, as I doubt we’ll see any bourbons made elsewhere on this side of the Great Lakes. Straight Bourbon must be made in the United States, must be aged for at least 2 years, and the grain mix must contain at least 51% corn. It can’t be distilled at more than 160 proof (80% alcohol) or bottled at less than 80 proof (40%). Straight bourbon is aged in charred oak barrels and most are aged at least 4 years (if there is no age statement, it has to be at least 4 years old). If there is an age statement, the age must be the youngest of any aged bourbon mixed together in the bottle.

-          Further subdividing, I plan on at first reviewing the bourbons available currently at the LCBO, and new ones as they pop up. When that is mostly done (since it will be a never-ending job as long as the LCBO keeps introducing new bourbons!) and I have time, I eventually hope to throw up reviews of favorite bottles I have in my collection that are unavailable here, and notes on other bourbons that I’m lucky enough to try when I visit the States.

  2)      American Rye Whiskey

-          American Straight Rye has similar rules to bourbon, but needs to be made of 51% rye rather than corn. Rye is not as popular as bourbon but is slowly making a resurgence. I think several ryes, particularly Sazerac’s, are delicious and hope we get more. I’ll review these as they’re released.

3)      Canadian Whisky

-          I honestly know very little about Canadian Whisky. I always viewed it as bit artificial tasting, with its strong fruit/caramel noses and flavors, and unexciting at it’s almost-universal 80 proof. I, surprisingly, don’t know many Canadians who drink Canadian Rye – most whiskey drinkers I know drink Scotch or Irish whiskey. However, reading up on the subject shows that there are some exciting-sounding distillers out there that I’ve never tried (Forty Creek comes up a lot), so maybe I’ll eventually develop a taste for the spirit of my new home!

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