Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Lore of Whiskey

Whiskey in the US is a brown colored hard liquor sold at 80 to 100 proof (40 to 50 percent ethyl alcohol).  It is sold as Scotch, Bourbon, and Canadian.  They differ in flavor, but the difference is an acquired taste, the new whiskey drinker will not be able tell one from the other.  After some experience, and some practice getting the taste buds to recover from the fierce bite of the ethanol, you will find that Scotch has a somewhat sharper flavor, Bourbon is mellower and a little sweeter, and Canadian is somewhere in between Scotch and Bourbon.  All three make an excellent drink.Whiskey has a definite but hard to describe flavor.  It isn't sweet, or sour, or salty, or bitter. 
   Whiskey and soda water over ice (whiskey and soda) makes a very tasty drink and is recommended as a fine way to come to appreciate the flavor of whiskey.  Soda can be Club Soda, or Seltzer, which is carbonated water.  Club Soda has a touch of salt added to it, Seltzer does not.  Either make a good whiskey mixer.  The fizz and the delicate acid flavor of the carbon dioxide dissolved in water  do good things for the whiskey.  Soda bottles, once opened loose most of their fizz in a day and go as flat as tap water in two days.  The ideal way to buy soda is a six pack of 12 ounce bottles.  A 12 ounce can be used up before it goes flat.  Unfortunately six packs are expensive, about $4 a six, which is as expensive as a six pack of beer. Better economy is had in the 28 ounce bottle, which can be had for $.60 a bottle, which is about the same as a single 12 ounce from a $4 six pack.  The house brand soda (Adirondack or Polar) make as good a whiskey and soda as the pricey national brands (Canada Dry or Schweppes).  After all it's the whiskey that contributes the flavor, not the soda. 
   Then many drinkers prefer to mix their whiskey with just plain tap water rather than with soda.  My sainted mother took her Canadian with just a splash of tap water.  She spent quite some time training her sons to mix her whiskey just a right, a single rapid pass under the flowing tap.  This way you get more of the whiskey taste and less fizz. 
   The continuation of this path leads to the whiskey on the rocks, just some cubes in a short glass with a jigger or two or whiskey.  Scotch on the rocks has the name recognition but Bourbon or Canadian on the rocks is a fine warming drink on a cold winter's night. 
   Then the REAL whiskey drinkers take it neat (room temperature, no ice)  The Brits used to  make a big thing out of this, saying that only neat could you distinguish the finer flavors.  The Americans used to say this custom came from the lack of electric refrigeration in Britain. 
   Whiskey sells for anything where between $10 and $40 a bottle (1.75 liter, what was called a half gallon before metrification of liquor bottles)  Low end whiskey is quite drinkable.  Old Crow and Canadian Hunter are two good $12 a bottle brands.  The pricey bottles (Wild Turkey, Jack Daniels, Jameson, Ballentine) make excellent gifts.

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