Flavour States

There’s a distillery in every American state but Kentucky and Tennessee are the two most commonly associated with whiskey and its production.

Hector McBeth (HM), Patrick Leclezio (PL),
Guy McDonald (GM), Shayne Dowling (SD),
Clifford Roberts (CR), Fiona McDonald (FM).

A dozen whiskies, all American – but not all bourbons ... And the results were surprising for some.

“You can put me on record as stating that I am now a convert to American whiskey,” said Magic 828 radio jock and whisky enthusiast Guy McDonald. And the reason for his positive comment was that he’d arrived stating that he doesn’t like bourbon and even wondered why he’d been invited to taste.

“That’s your first mistake!” Hector McBeth admonished his co-host of the 2 Macs and a Dram podcast. “Not all American whiskey is bourbon – there are some wonderfully complex and genuinely exciting whiskeys being made in the States.”

Because he was unwilling to test the category beyond a few big commercial examples, McDonald automatically assumed that all would be sweetly caramel-toned and vanilla flavoured. Surprising to him was the diversity of styles between the whiskeys tasted – and the flavours he experienced.

Possibly the most exciting thing about this tasting is that it demonstrated how this segment of the whisky market is being shaken up. American distillers and established brands are starting to do different things. Jack Daniel’s, for example, had three different expressions in the tasting – a retail special only available at TOPS at SPAR. One was flavourful and balanced, the second sweet forward and the third full bodied and robust.

Similarly, Maker’s Mark have deviated from their standard bottling by releasing the 46, a whiskey which has a slightly different wood regime with white oak staves being introduced to the maturation of the spirit for the first time since 1953.

“I’m really impressed,” said Patrick Leclezio.

Ultimately the takeout is that there is more to American whiskey than vanilla and caramel – and any spirit enthusiasts who are open to trying something different or seeing how this particular segment is changing, should experiment a little.