Bourbon is one of the cornerstones of our podcast, and with this episode we begin truly exploring it for the first time. After covering our recent board-game-filled weekend, we talk through where to start, how to taste, the definitions and origins of different whiskeys, and taste our way through the 5 major whiskey countries. We hope you grab a whiskey of your own and taste along with us!
What's on our Flight (00:00)
This episode is entirely about the Flights, so we are tasting a total of 8 whiskeys across the episode! Scroll down to the topic section of the show notes to see what we are drinking and follow along.
What's On Our Minds (1:28)
We recorded this episode at the conclusion of a weekend of hanging out and playing boardgames, so we spend some time discussing the results of that in the episode. If you would like to see more, check out our Instagram, where Nelson posts summaries of the games we played!
The icebreaker questions for this episode were listener-submitted (4:21)
We start off by reviewing the submissions for last week's questions, so listen for your name if you submitted a response to the Instagram stories!
From Amram via email:
What is your #1 board game to introduce new players to for the best experience? (this would have been SUCH a good question for our last episode, so sorry we did not see it!)
Nelson: The Crew. A cooperative trick-taking game, this game is a great introduction as the mechanics are simple and familiar. We played over 5 hours of it over the weekend!
Dalton: Harry Potter: A Hogwarts Battle. This game was also recommended in E7: Deckbuilding as a great introduction game for new players as it increases in difficulty over the 7 Harry Potter books.
From IG user @abrammarks
What is your favorite movie that was made from a book, how does that movie compare to the book, and is there any movie that you enjoyed more than the book?
Nelson: The Lord of the Rings, especially the extended version, since they do such a great job of capturing the series. The first several seasons of A Game of Thrones are also examples of a great book-to-media adaptation.
Dalton: Harry Potter series, since most of the books was covered well by the movies. We noted a couple exceptions that could have been done better, including the handling of Ron and Ginny's characters. I also mention The Great Gatsby and The Magicians as two books that I preferred as movie / TV series.
Discussion starts at 21:27 in the episode
Over the course of this episode we explore whiskey from the 5 major producing countries - USA (Bourbon), Canada, Scotland (Scotch Whisky), Ireland, and Japan. If you are an experienced whiskey drinker looking to sip along with us, grab one of the 8 whiskeys that we sample below! Or, if you are new to whiskey and looking to give it a try, here are 3 whiskeys that provide an excellent starting point:
Maker's Mark (Wheated Bourbon)
Crown Royal (Blended Canadian Whiskey)
Jameson (Irish Whiskey)
To get you started, we want you to become familiar with a tasting method known as the Kentucky Chew. This method gets as many of your senses involved in the tasting as possible and will help you fully experience and remember the liquor.
Swirl the drink in its glass. Get familiar with the color, the legs (the way it runs down the glass), the clarity of the liquid. This brings your sight to the tasting.
Put your nose at the edge of the glass, open your mouth, and breathe in through both your mouth and nose. This allows you to get a sense of the smell of the whiskey without burning your nose.
Sip the whiskey and swirl it through your mouth as if you are chewing on it. This allows the whiskey to coat your tongue and insides of your mouth, bringing out the full expression of the liquor.
Swallow and smack your lips to retain the vapor in your mouth.
When finished, blow gently out through pursed lips to avoid the alcohol burning your nose.
With this method in mind, we are ready to start tasting some whiskeys!
American Whiskey - Bourbon
Tasting starts at 21:27 in the episode
Bourbon is the iconic American whiskey, and serves as a great starting point as it is the most common whiskey on our Flights! We are sampling two bourbons today: Elijah Craig's Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and Booker's Bourbon, "Booker's Bluegrass," (2016-01 batch).
There are four main rules that distinguish Bourbon from other whiskeys:
Must be produced in the USA (not just Kentucky, that is a common myth).
The mash must be at least 51% corn (we will get to what that means in a second).
The liquor must be aged in newly charred oak barrels. Any aging in additional barrels does not count towards the age of the liquor.
No additives but water (you can have "cinnamon whiskey," but not "cinnamon bourbon," for example).
Unlike other countries, there is no minimum age requirement for Bourbon. However, it may only be labelled as "straight" if aged above 2 years, and must show the age if aged between 2 and 4 years if labeling as "straight."
So, what is a "mash"? Whiskey is essentially a distilled, hop-less beer. A collection of grains known as the "mash" are prepared. Water is added to form a "Wort," then the grains are fermented with yeast. The yeast converts the sugars in the grains to alcohol before dying as the alcohol content rises. The sweeter the grains used, the sweeter the final product. The "beer" is then purified in a process called distillation, where the liquid is heated to boiling and the vapors are collected and cooled back to a liquid known as the "new make." New make is very high in alcohol, usually 60-80% alcohol by volume. New make is then stored in barrels where it ages, making the lovely liquor we known as whiskey when it is done!
Flavor Notes: Sweet, vanilla, some smokiness from the charred oak.
American Whiskey - Rye Whiskey
Tasting starts at 43:26 in the episode
Rye whiskey became popular during Prohibition in America, where most whiskey was being imported from Canada. The Canadians struggled to grow sweeter grains like corn in their harsh winters and instead turned to the hearty Rye grain for use in whiskey production. The Americans drank it up, and Rye is currently experiencing a revitalization in the American markets due to its spicy and complex flavors. We are tasting Templeton Rye Whiskey in the episode, which is known for a 100% rye mash.
For a whiskey to be called a Rye, two things must be true:
Must have at least 51% rye grain in the mash.
Must be aged in charred new-oak barrels.
Flavor Notes: Spicy, complex. Great for mixed drinks.
Tasting starts at 50:10 in the episode
Canadian whiskey is stepped in tradition. Today we are tasting Crown Royal Blended Canadian Whiskey, a great starting whiskey for any looking to explore for the first time.
Canada has the most relaxed rules of the major nations:
Must be made in Canada (go figure)
Must be aged at least 3 years
From their FDA: must "possess the aroma, taste, and character of Canadian whiskey"
Tasting notes: Crisp, gentle, easy to enjoy. Soft fruits such as apple and pear.
Tasting starts at 56:59 in the episode
The King of Whiskies. Even as an avid Bourbon drinker, I have to recognize that Scotch is the finer art. Today we are tasting Auchentoshan's American Oak (Lowland Scotch Whisky) and Laphroaig's 10 Year (Islay Scotch Whisky).
Rules for Scotch production:
Must be 100% malted barley in the mash (the flavor is largely influenced by region and soil, similar to grapes in wine)
Must be aged at least 3 years, though it is typically aged longer.
Traditionally double distilled.
Tasting Notes: Strong character, wide ranges in flavor, smokey, bold, commanding.
Tasting starts at 1:16:49 in the episode
If you want to drink whiskey, the Irish have made it the easiest and most enjoyable. We are sampling Sexton Irish Whiskey.
Irish whiskey is similar in regulation to Scotch Whisky, with a few very important differences.
Irish must also be 100% barley in the mash. However, Irish whiskeys may roast their grains, giving sweeter flavors compared to grains that are malted, then dried with peat.
Must be aged at least 3 years (noticing a trend?).
Traditionally triple distilled.
Tasting Notes: Smooth, easy, sweet, though less sweet than Bourbon.
Tasting starts at 1:23:12 in the episode
Japan is relatively new to the whiskey scene, but has been making a grand entrance. If Scotch holds the tradition and of French wine, then Japanese whisky matches the innovation of Napa Valley. Japanese whiskies are largely copying Scotch styles, but without the use of peat and are experimenting with still designs, shapes, and sizes. A spirit of continuous improvement gives the feel that the whisky is perfected, giving you only the tastes that the distiller wanted you to experience. We enjoyed Suntory Whisky's Toki in the episode.
Tasting Notes: Smooth, delicate, perfected, honey.
If you are looking for some additional references, here are some articles that may interest you:
Thanks for reading! Let us know which of these whiskeys is your favorite in the comments!