Winter weather conjures up images of cosy evenings with a warming beverage in hand. American Whiskeys hit all the right notes at this time of year, thanks to their toasty caramel, vanilla, honey and grain flavours and the famous ‘Kentucky Hug’ effect — that warm sensation you feel after a sip of good American whiskey.
If you’re new to the world of American whiskey and want to explore the flavours of this unique spirit here’s a quick buyer’s guide to getting you started. This guide with tips from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has everything you need to know about buying American whiskey and is sure to help you find a favourite in no time. Fine American whiskeys and distilled spirits are being introduced to the South African market by the DISCUS and now is as good a time as any to explore the unique spirits from the US.
Find your flavour
Whether your tastes lean towards fresh botanical flavours, or warm spices and honeyed malt, American distillers produce whiskeys with flavour and aroma notes to suit any style.
Bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, American Rye whiskey, and American Single Malt whiskeys are becoming increasingly popular in South Africa, as locals discover the broad range of fine spirits emerging from the United States.
The typically higher corn mash used in Bourbon makes for a sweet and full-bodied flavour, while rye generally creates a drier-tasting, spicier American Rye Whiskey. Tennessee whiskey, like Bourbon, is predominately corn-based, but it is passed through a charcoal filter before it is aged, resulting in a slightly sweeter, softer taste.
If you’re not one to enjoy a whiskey on its own, then try to enjoy it with your favourite foods and snacks to bring out the unique flavours of the whiskey and find your perfect pairing. Try paring American Whiskey with chocolate or biltong for an exciting combination.
American Whiskey is aged in new, charred oak barrels, imparting hints of vanilla and caramel, which perfectly complement those sweet treats or balance the salty flavours in savoury dishes like biltong.
Mix it up
Not all whiskey drinkers enjoy their favourite tipple neat on the rocks. Whiskey is also great for cocktails. Trying out a few different whiskeys in cocktails and pairing them with different mixers is an easy way to find a whiskey you love and develop a taste for the golden spirit.
The complexity and versatility of American whiskeys make them ideal for cocktails. They pair beautifully with winter citrus fruit juices in classic American cocktails, such as Bourbon in the orange-scented Seelbach or lemon-honey Gold Rush, and American Rye Whiskey with fresh grapefruit juice and grenadine for a classic Blinker cocktail.
Try these top tips for perfect cocktails any time of the year:
· Keep it simple: you do not need a multitude of ingredients to make a great cocktail. The timeless classics use only three or four ingredients.
· Always use fresh ingredients: freshly picked botanicals and freshly squeezed juice for authentic flavours and aromas.
· Make your own simple syrup by heating equal parts of water and sugar, then experiment with flavours by adding citrus zest, spices, herbs, tea, or even puréed nuts to add a new dimension to your cocktail.
· Use good quality ice. Bartenders are adamant that the quality of the water and ice used in cocktails makes a noticeable difference to the drink.
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