This article is sponsored by Bottled in Bond.
When it comes to choosing a happy hour cocktail, dinner party drink or nightcap by the fire, whiskey is a popular go-to for avid entertainers and occasional drinkers alike.
Many whiskey drinkers have their favorite brands and blends, but unless you’re willing to rely on personal recommendations alone, it can be overwhelming to walk up to a bar or into a liquor store and choose a whiskey-based on the bottle alone.
We turned to the whiskey connoisseurs at Bottled in Bond Cocktail Parlour & Kitchen to find out more about this classic spirit, where it comes from, and how to choose a great whiskey based on your current cocktail preferences.
Choosing a ‘Type’ of Whiskey
“Whiskey” is a generic term that refers to a distilled beverage made of fermented grain mash. However, all whiskeys are certainly not created equal. Each type of whiskey has specific rules surrounding ingredients and the distillation process by which it’s made.
As you dive into the world of whiskey, you’ll find a diverse variety of liquors such as Irish Whiskey, Moonshine and many more. However, we’re going to start off by listing the three most popular types of whiskey, and what makes each of them so unique.
In order to be considered bourbon, the whiskey must be distilled from a mixture of grains (mash) that contains at least, 51% corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain. Furthermore, the mixture must be stored in charred oak and be free of any additives.
Now that we have the more technical information out of the way, let’s get down to the important part; the flavor. Bourbon drinkers can expect smokey flavors from the charred oak, as well as a sweetness you won’t find in most other types of whiskey.Four Roses Single Barrel is a house favorite and, while single barrel batches always change slightly, so far this blend has always been tried and true. It’s a readily available whiskey that you don’t have to hunt down.
It has a nice full nose and a smooth finish with nice chocolate notes. Nowadays, the lines between when to use bourbon vs. rye have started to blur. Thanks to it’s sweeter notes, bourbon has started making appearances in a number of classic cocktails such as the Manhattan or Old Fashioned, both of which have been made strictly with rye in the past.
As the name suggests, rye whiskeys are distilled from a mash that’s at least 51% rye. They’re also aged in charred oak, in similar processes to bourbon whiskey. Rye often requires a minimum of two years maturation time, though many distilleries choose to age it a bit longer to extract a richer, more complex flavor.
It’s also important to note that straight rye cannot be blended with any other spirits during this process. Rye is notably spicier than bourbon and features that same distinct smokey flavor, along with fruity notes, depending on the brand or blend you choose.
Known for its peppery bite, rye makes an appearance in classic libations including Sazeracs and Boulevardiers. You can also substitute it for bourbon in nearly any cocktail to add an extra bite and balance out the sweetness of your mixers. Pikesville is a great spicy blend with a round finish. Simply throw in an ice cube and sip to enjoy.
Continuing the pattern of fitting nomenclature, Scotch refers to a spirit that’s distilled in Scotland. We’ll throw you another curveball in that scotch is technically a “whisky” since it adheres to Scottish guidelines as opposed to the “whiskey” distillation rules here in the U.S. Scotch is made primarily from malted barley as opposed to corn or rye.
Once again, scotch is aged in oak casks and must be free of additives. Many consider the flavor of scotch to closely mirror bourbon, only with a sharp bite that lingers in your throat.
Most bartenders will advise that scotch is an acquired taste that’s not popular with newbies to the whiskey (or whisky) market. If you’re looking for a mellow scotch to try out, consider a sweeter blend such as Highland Park 12.
Pairing Whiskey with Food
When it comes to enjoying whiskey with a meal, Bottled in Bond has you covered. Here are some great whiskey pairing inspired by their Southern fare menu and specially-curated whiskey cabinet.
Pair roasted chicken and other poultry with a spicy blend like Eagle Rare 10 Year. This whiskey is full of notes of fall spices that pair perfectly with rustic dishes and garlicky flavors.
For a combination that’s truly unique, try the High West Bourye with BIB’s Salmon. The togarashi seasoning on the salmon offers a nicely balanced heat thanks to the ginger-molasses glazed root vegetables.
The Bourye is a combination of straight bourbon and straight rye whiskey, so you can enjoy a spicy hit from the rye that balances perfectly with a molasses-like sweetness from the bourbon.
If your sweet tooth is calling, sip on some E.H. Taylor Small Batch with a side of Kentucky Pie. This whiskey features chocolate notes that compliment the chocolate chip pie, but there is a good amount of spice that balances out the richness of such a decadent dessert.
Entertaining with Whiskey
Whether you’ve been planning your holiday bash for months, inviting close friends over for drinks or stocking up the bar cart just in case, choosing a crowd-pleasing whiskey requires a bit of research, balancing the scales and knowing a bit about your audience.
First, decide whether you’d like a whiskey you can serve on the rocks or in a cocktail. Depending on your preference, you may want an aged whiskey that offers a full flavor profile all on its own.
If your friends/family/taste testers already know a bit about whiskey, you may choose to impress them with a barrel-aged blend or bottled-in-bond specialty such as Colonel E.H Taylor Bottled In Bond, a small-batch bourbon with tasting notes of butterscotch and caramel that perfectly compliments holiday festivities.
If classic cocktails are more your style, consider a versatile spirit that will taste great in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. We recommend spicing up your beverage of choice with Rittenhouse Rye. This classic blend features a spiced palate with notes of maple and citrus.
We’ve given you a few pointers, but the world of whiskey includes a rich history and nearly endless variations in distillation and aging processes that make this spirit so unique. If you’re still feeling a bit intimidated about trying a new whiskey, or if you’re a whiskey fanatic looking for a great new bottle to bring home for the holidays, we recommend visiting the experts at Bottled In Bond.
Every Tuesday, guests can enjoy the Burger and Bourbon combo with a Bison Burger and Whiskey Daisy or Bourbon Old-Fashioned for only $20! Plus, whiskey pours are only $5 every Thursday.
If you’re feeling adventurous, explore the Collector’s Cabinet and sample new features like Lock Stock, & Barrel 16 Year Rye, A Midwinter Night’s Dram, or Baker’s Single Barrel 13 Year Bourbon.
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