A Rye Smile

15 / 05 / 14

Myths & legends surround the origin of Bourbon whiskey though it’s Southern US roots are well documented.

Kentucky’s Scots, Irish & French settlers were know for their love of a wee dram and their ability to distil the local corn for the mash added a local “terroir” to product which was and is to many a discerning drinker’s taste.

Ageing the distillate in charred oak barrels gives the drink is characteristic red colour and distinctive smoky taste is nothing new in the world of whisky manufacture, though the indigenous “sour mash” process brought an extraordinary new element to the amber brew. Along similar lines to “sourdough” bread, each new fermentation is conditioned with some spent mash from a previous batch of fermented mash, which still contain live natural yeasts. This spent mash is also known as spent beer, distillers’ spent grain, stillage, and slop or feed mash, so named because it is used as animal feed. The acid introduced by using the sour mash controls the growth of bacteria that could taint the whiskey and creates a proper pH balance for the yeast to work.

As of 2005, all “straight” bourbons use a sour mash process. However, not all these whiskeys are the same!

Discriminating consumers are consistently seeking out more niche spirits and Bourbon’s time has come. Top of the crop is George T Stag’s Kentucky Straight. At a STAGGERING price of over a £100 a bottle it needs to be good and by GEORGE it is (see what we did there). Specialist whiskey & bourbon bars such as celebrity-backed Steam & Rye are popping up all over the place & the craze shows no sign of abating.

However, this gold rush for quality bourbon is causing something of a problem. The best spirits are aged for more than six years & the back catalogue of supply is not meeting this new & extraordinary level of demand.

In addition, specific conditions must be met in order for a whiskey to be classified as bourbon, most notably that the spirit must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. According to The Spirits Business, the industry has been experiencing a shortfall in necessary lumber for the last six months. This coupled with the growing interest amongst drinkers around the world in aged bourbon means a shortage is the only logical outcome.

Though the average consumer may not immediately feel the impact of the shortage, trouble is on the horizon.

While there is little danger of bourbon disappearing from store shelves entirely, a shortage could either inspire distillers to age their bourbon for a shorter period of time (thereby losing less of the product to evaporation) or, more likely, raise prices on the bourbon they already produce. Either scenario would prove costly for distillers and consumers alike.

We at Rare suggest you start drinking it now and we practice what we preach.

So when Belstaff called us in to help celebrate their 90th birthday, we created bespoke bourbon based cocktails for the occasion, inspired by iconic Belstaff man Steve McQueen.

Christened “The Getaway” after one of his finest movies. We used Bulleit Bourbon for its robust but smooth flavour (and of course, another nod to McQueen), Peychaud’s bitters mixed classic sour with fresh lemon juice and a drop of pasteurized egg white. Like Belstaff’s clothes, it’s a drink for grown-ups with attitude, which we’re sure Steve would have approved of with a Rye smile.