Kentucky is the birthplace of quintessentially American whiskey and for a slice of Americana, this is a perfect introduction to distilled spirits made mainly from ‘sweet corn’.
The trend for old-school, classic cocktails has helped spur the boom in bourbon, sipped neat or mixed. Sweeter and more versatile than Scotch whisky, by law, bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn and aged in new, charred white oak barrels for at least two years. Other grains such as barley, malt, rye and wheat make up the recipe, and the mash pulls its flavour from the new oak casks which impart woody sweetness, vanilla notes and a creamy sweetness.
One of Kentucky’s greats, Maker’s Mark (£29.50, 70cl, 45% abv, Sainsbury’s) enjoys a cult following and its distinctive red wax seal signals the rich caramel hue. A smooth operator, the mixture of 70% corn, barley and red winter wheat offers aromas of spiced ginger, cocoa and vanilla with butterscotch, warm leather and spice on the lush finish.
Woodford Reserve (£31.50, 70cl, 43.2%, Waitrose), which hails from America’s oldest and smallest distillery in the heart of the bluegrass region, tastes quite different. Hand-crafted in small batches and triple distilled (same as Irish whiskey) in copper pot stills, it’s fragrant and fruity with butterscotch, toffee and caramel flavours finishing with lingering soft spice and a hint of chocolate.
A rich bronze whiskey, from the heartland of Bourbon County, Buffalo Trace (£20, 70cl, 40% abv, Tesco) smacks of oak, vanilla, spiced leather with warm molasses on the long, oaky, dry finish. A classic, it’s been made the same way for more than 200 years by the country’s most decorated distillery.