The Joy of Bourbon


Anyone who has privileged the taste of Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve understands the magic in the make that transcends pleasure into sheer joy. In fact, it’s because of Pappy’s that an increased interest in the makes and types of bourbon has increased. The full flavour without the excessive sweetness and burning bite keeps customers coming back to Pappy’s and looking to find the same quality in other whisky blends. It’s also because Maker’s Mark continues to promote a changed perception of bourbon as a drink of rot-gut rye into a red-grain spirited elixir worth tasting. Sipping upscale bourbon in the boardroom has become as stylish as swirling cognac in the corporate clime, and the increased status level of connoisseurs insist on improvements in the sip.

The origins of milder, wheat-based bourbons

The origins of bourbon are sketchy and fall into the category of legend, attributing the origin to a Baptist minister who supposedly was the first to age his infusion in oak barrels that were charred. Others stories attribute the origin to a distiller, Jacob Spears, who named his extraction, bourbon. One story about the origins of a wheat-based concoction suggests that baking a bunch of different types breads inspired Bill Samuels of Maker’s Mark to update the mash bill (distiller lingo for recipe) and use wheat instead of rye; however, Pappy’s had been doing this all along.

The industry of single-barrel production

The draw to single-barrel blends indicates varied flavours as each barrel ages differently. In a single-barrel production, bourbons from several barrels are not mixed together and diluted with water before being bottled. The mix comes right from the barrel, full-aged and full-proof. Those who enjoy the special taste profile in these bourbons pay the higher price for the perk. Bourbon tasting has become as specialized as wine tasting at a winery and beer sampling at a microbrewery. All of these qualities are what create the draw to the single-barrel offerings, and the experience and taste keeps customers intrigued and returning for the joy of the experience as much for the pleasure in the taste.

The popularity among a new group of younger, more affluent consumers

Marketing techniques play on manipulating the idea of exclusivity, and anything called single-barrel suggests rare, exceptional quality. It’s a way to raise prices and improve sales, and it’s also a way to offer variety to draw in more customers. Younger crowds buy in because the resurgence current. It’s happening during their time, exclusive to their time, and the focus on variety and quality of blends suggests they live in potable renaissance that they are helping to build. It’s special to their generation, and as such, becomes and image they keep up to show they are in on this revitalization.

The contradictions between big business earthy folksiness

As with all business expansion, they risk interference with quality. The loss of quality comes from the effects of mass production where costs in production and quality control get cut. It also depersonalizes highly personalized professions that succeed often because of love and care. If globally expanding business expansion can find a way to trade on the trendy imagery newly created for this classic bourbon tradition, without destroying the art of the craft, then that would be the best way to bring these quality bourbons to the masses.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • BuzzedAldrin May 18, 2015, 11:36 am

    The origin of whiskey as I know it is thus: hard alcohol was stored in barrels for transoceanic voyages, which takes months at best, and some took years. (Interestingly, some ships would use the barrels as ballast.) When the liquor was tapped, they discovered that the wood barrel had altered the flavor of the drink, leading to the beverage we now know as aged whiskey.

    The beauty of bourbon is that it isn’t sweet like Canadian whiskey, or not too complex as compared to scotch. A mellow flavor with bold accents and most are smooth on the way down. The real beauty in bourbon is that you don’t have to spend fifty dollars a bottle to enjoy good quality – even the bottom shelf brands such as Kentucky Tavern and Evan Williams are good tasting whiskeys, and won’t bring a tear to the eye of a connoisseur if you mix them.

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