《Wines of the World》In Search of Boutique Bourbon

It was mentioned last time that Bourbon is not a mainstream in Hong Kong, and therefore it is difficult to find whiskies by smaller scale, boutique distilleries in the city apart from major brands such as Jack Daniel and Jim Beam.

Unfortunately, these entry-level brands don’t make much of an impression on drinkers and might even lead to some misconceptions on Bourbon whiskey.

There are two major misconceptions are Bourbon is bland and inferior to Scotch whisky, and it is mainly for used for mixing cocktails

Most people have the impression that Bourbon is sweet not only because the main ingredient is maize, which is high in sugar but also due to the fact that entry-level brands are easier on the taste buds, thus reinforcing the impression of sweetness.

But in fact, what makes Bourbon sweet is the barrel. According to US regulations, Bourbon must be aged in freshly roasted barrels, and the direct roasting of the barrel will create caramelized sugar. Furthermore, the level of roasting will directly affect the colour and flavour, giving Bourbon a deeper colour and an obvious sweetness.

On the other hand, Scotch whisky does not necessarily use a new barrel and direct roasting is not required, the barrel will carry a strong aroma of smoke if smoked dry.

Therefore, the barrel plays the most important role in the aging process. In fact, all boutique Bourbon distilleries offer special aging editions such as Small batch, Single barrel, Barrel select and so on.

If you want to have a glimpse of the world of boutique Bourbon, it is recommended to start with Small Batch, which is relatively easier to find. Small batch means that the Bourbon is produced with a handful of good quality, and then careful mixed. Since it is a limited production, the quality is very high with good variations.

So why is Bourbon always used for mixing cocktails? This is because Bourbon has a stronger flavour than Scotch whisky and can complement the sweetness of the cocktail without being overshadowed. But of course, the Bourbon used for mixing won’t be from the premium category.

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