Sunday, August 19, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

Last night was the last of my bottle of Wild Turkey straight rye. There is nothing new to report about the taste experience other than to say that I will buy it again. Aside from the respect that it deserves for being one of the three generally-available rye whiskey options (along with Jim Beam rye and Old Overholt) during rye's wilderness years, it is a high-quality product.

A lot of single malt Scotch mavens talk disparagingly about American whiskey. In order to be real whisky (always without an "e"), they say, it has to be all-malt. Grain "whiskies" have no character or interest, and whatever flavor they have comes from the barrels they are aged in. (Please bear in mind that this is a bit of a caricature of what most maltheads think of grain whiskeys; but even if it is a caricature, it contains a good deal of accuracy.) Leave aside the fact that even though American whiskey and Scotch grain whisky might have some similarities in production, they are very different: Scotch grain tends to be distilled out to almost 190 proof where American straight whiskey is distilled to a maximum of 160 proof, and all American straight whiskey undergoes a secondary distillation in a pot-still-like contraption called a doubler where Scotch grain is only distilled once in a column still. Just consider Wild Turkey rye: it is hardly characterless, and anyone who doesn't get slapped around by the flavor and aroma of rye has no sensory perception. It's completely different from Wild Turkey Bourbon, or any other Bourbon, for that matter; and it would be silly to argue that the mashbill doesn't have a profound influence on the finished spirit.

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