Saturday, January 23, 2010

Corn(y) history

For those not in the know, all bourbon must be at least 51% corn in the mashbill by legal definition plus corn plays a significant role in the flavor of bourbon. After corn, you have the flavor grain of Rye or Wheat to give the bourbon a spicy (rye) or sweet (wheat) flavor profile. For those starting out on their bourbon crusade, I like to suggest that in addition to picking up various bourbons, adding a corn whiskey and a wheat whiskey to the bar will help in picking out flavor nuances. For the purposes of this blog, I want to touch on corn not only because it plays a significant role on the flavor of bourbon but also because today's corn going into bourbon isn't the same corn used in your dear old Grandpappy's bourbon.

I've had numerous discussions with fellow enthusiasts about the differences of bourbon found today compared to those I find in my dusty hunting and one distinctive difference I notice in some older bourbons is the viscosity is more pronounced. When speaking of viscosity I'm referring to the thick oily nature of bourbon. If you swirl bourbon in a glass, notice how the bourbon clings to the sides and runs down the inside of the glass producing "legs". Now, I'm not a scientist nor do I play one on T.V. but viscosity is something I notice and that of course produced the question; why does my 1959 Old Forester cling to the inside of the glass, slowly producing evenly spaced legs yet my Very Old Barton does the same but at a faster pace? I think one reason is corn, or rather the properties of corn.

A friend of mine gave me a DVD called "King Corn" to watch which discussed in interesting fashion, the corn industry from planting to the numerous uses corn has in our countries food supply, which would include a distilleries mashbill. About 2/3 the way through the DVD, one person discussed the engineered changes to corn over the last 30 or 40 years from corn that contained a higher degree of protein than what is found today, almost all starch. This was an interesting factoid and one that brings up the question. Did corn from 30+ years ago, which contained more protein than found today, influence the viscosity and mouthfeel of bourbon distilled during that era, or for that matter, 100 years ago? I guess the other question would be, for those that have access to older bourbons (I'm thinking of you Stoops), do they feel more oily or have a thicker mouthfeel than today's offerings? I think it does and in conducting tastings of older bourbons with fellow enthusiasts, there's a general consensus that if not the corn, then something influenced the thicker attributes of bourbon back then. Do you agree or am I just being corny? (yah, I know, that was dumb).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A hunting we will go

Today I spent the day doing a little dusty hunting and thankfully I wasn't disappointed. A relative visiting from out of town wanted to do some hunting so we ventured out into the cold to see what we could find. While the pickings were a little slim, we did come across a couple nice treats. We of course found some Stitzel Weller Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond and Prime. The two 750ml Old Fitz BIB's are both Bernhiem whiskey bottled by Heaven Hill. The other Fitz's are all Stitzel Weller. The Old Charter 12 year is great bourbon using a high corn mashbill. I picked up some oddities; Bourbon deLuxe and Kentucky Gentlemen. We also found some JTS Brown, JW Dant BIB, Ten High and Wild Turkey in the hexagon shaped bottle. The bottles range in bottling date from 1982 to 2006. All in all, not a bad day of hunting.

Project Re-barrel VOB – Day 55

Here we are almost 2 months into the re-barrel and the changes are evident but slower now that the weather has turned below freezing at night. The color has stayed pretty consistent; still a shade darker than the reference sample. The nose has changed as has the taste. I mentioned in my previous post at Day 14 that there was a fruity quality to it. At this point of the project the oak and char is playing a more dominant role as well as leather popping through. At first taste, the rye is still apparent on the palate but now there's a bit more sweetness on the backend of the finish. I have some relatives visiting from the U.K. and I got the thumbs up from an impartial taster so it appears we're progressing nicely.

Because of the winter weather, updates on this project will probably come in at longer intervals as I expect the changes to be less dramatic until warmer weather settles in. I'll continue to dip into the barrel and if I find there's a change worth mentioning, I'll be sure to post my notes. If any of you are conducting a re-barrel project of your own, please post some comments on how you're progressing. Cheers.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

I’m not dead yet….

Happy New Year all you bourbon dorks. Thanks for your patience but over the holiday's things were busy at work as well as busy with family visits and holiday events. That's all done now so back to bourbon. Thank you Don for checking in and making sure I was ok. Unfortunately by attention to the blog gets OBE (overtaken by events). So tonight I pulled a sample from my barrel and will posting a short blog on my impressions now that the VOB has been sitting in wood for 2 months now. I also mentioned that I would be participating in a whiskey throw down over the holidays, well, that didn't happen and we can thank the 24 inches of snow just days before the party. Most people were still digging out after three days. Last, I'll be getting together with a couple of friends to do an impromptu Wild Turkey tasting that will consist of various years and proofs. I'll post some comments on that event in the next week or two. Hope everyone had a great holiday and also hope you got some nice bourbon under the Christmas tree. I'm closing out this evening with a delicious 1978 Benchmark; another fine example of yesteryear.