Stoic eagles. Marilyn Monroe. Cracker Jacks at a baseball game. We’re talkin’ about ‘Murica, of course. Now, cue up the "Star Spangled Banner," because we’re about to add one more thing to that list: Single Malt Whiskey.
That’s right. What was once a Scottish tradition is now America’s game. Today, this Spirit is a new force to be reckoned with, as it uses distilling methods similar to the Scottish, but adds a dash of that American gumption with innovative techniques.
Turns out, when it comes to U.S. Single Malt Whiskey, there are no hard and fast rules. Yet.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of Single Malt Whiskey. Such a noble venture. Just don’t look to the nation’s major distillers for it. It’s the small American crafters that are producing these maverick Single Malts. And they’re paying homage to Scotland by using similar distilling techniques and the same base ingredient: barley. So then what exactly makes it so gosh darn American? Local ingredients, friends. And gives their Whiskey some rootin’ tootin’ homegrown flavor.
The Scots have peat to make their Whisky taste smoky, but New Mexico’s Santa Fe Spirits has smoked mesquite to create its smooth Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey. Taking a cue from the Scots, Sante Fe went for what they had readily accessible locally. And mesquite just so happened to fill the bill.
And speaking of smoked, FEW Spirits makes its FEW Single Malt Whisky by air drying most of the malted barley naturally and smoking the rest over cherry wood. That's where the "earthy" notes come from.
As for Westward American Single Malt, they use Pacific Northwest two-row barley in their mash and then age it like Bourbon in new American Oak after it’s been twice-distilled in copper pot stills.
Another common attribute with this new American Spirit? It’s aged in new charred-oak barrels, cutting down the aging process from ten years to two.
Because Americans don’t wait for nothing. Including a reason to drink.
Bottoms up, ya’ll.
1) The American Single Malt Whiskey Commission doesn’t want you to think U.S. Single Malt is a total free-for-all — even for the land of the free. U.S. Single Malts need to be"made from 100% malted barley," "mashed, distilled (at least 160 proof), and matured" in oak casks no greater than 700 liters in America, and "bottled at 80 proof or more."
2) Sales for Scotch Single Malts continue to skyrocket today, especially in good ol’ 'Murica. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States says sales practically tripled from 2002-2015.
3) Hot and humid temps amp up the aging process much faster than those in colder and drier air. And because there is so much variation of climate within the U.S., that will vary a lot in different parts of the country — more so than in Scotland.
4) Today, there are more than 1,315 craft distillers in America. Meaning, you’ll find one in every state. Someone say, road trip?
5) Back in 2012, Balcones Distilling won the five-year Best in Glass Competition for its U.S. Single Malt, making it the first American Whiskey to nab the award. Those Scots got nothing on us.
6) Marrying the worlds of craft Beer and American Whiskey, the crew behind House Spirits Distillery’s Westward American Single Malt Whiskey ferments their barley with American Ale yeast. That’s a brew-tiful combo, right there.
7) Let’s dispel a little rumor shall we? People tend to think that Single Malt Whiskies aren’t blends. But guess what? They are. Single Malt Whiskies are the result of many barrels blended to create a Whisky. They just happen to come from a single distillery.
What's in the box
3 American Whiskeys
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Westward currently offers several distillery experiences where you can learn everything from how to turn Beer into Whiskey, to how to craft the perfect cocktail.
Corn Whiskey is a commercial product that must contain at least 80% corn, be distilled at less than 80% ABV (160 proof), and, if wood-aged, may be aged in either used or new un-charred barrels.
Moonshine Whiskey is distilled from a varied mix of corn and sugar and is aged in Mason jars and jugs for the length of time it takes the customers to get home.
An un-aged American Whisky is often called “white dog.”Sour Mash is the fermentation process by which a percentage of a previous fermentation is added to a new batch as a "starter" to get the fermentation going and maintain a level of consistency from batch to batch. A sweet mash means that only fresh yeast is added to a new batch to start fermentation.
Bourbon rules refer to manufacturing methods rather than location. Bourbon must be matured in new and charred American white oak casks for at least 2 years. If the bottle has no age statement, the Bourbon is at least 4 years old. No coloring or flavoring of any type is allowed, and the mash bill must contain at least 51% corn.
FEW’s Master Distiller Paul Hletko overturned century-old prohibition laws to become Evanston’s first distiller of grain spirits within the city limits.