Written by: Petr Tùma
From over a hundred bourbon distilleries
that towered over Kentucky's bluegrass before America's prohibition
era, only nine remain. But fortunately each produces several brands,
so there's a good selection.
Not only was this caramel-colored liquor born there 200 years ago,
in 1965 a federal law stipulated that only distillate produced in
the US can be called bourbon. Then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, who
spent as much time in the company of Jim Beam as Bill Clinton spends
in the company of Wild Turkey to this day, played an active role
in the passing of this law, which is still in effect today.
But for bourbon to be real bourbon and not any of the many whiskeys
(the letter at the end of the word sets American whiskeys from European
ones), it must meet several criteria. Remember the next three sentences
and you can show up any bartender whose bottles of amber-colored
beverages are shelved behind him merely as decoration. The mix of
grains used to make bourbon - corn, rye, and barley - must contain
at least 51% corn, and the clear distilled liquid must age at least
two years in new oak barrels charred black inside. If the time it
takes the bourbon to acquire its purely natural color is less than
four years, that must be stated on the label. Connoisseurs of fine
drinks and long-term alcoholics know that the direct proportion, "the
longer the aging in barrels the better the potion," far from
applies in this case. The ideal aging time for bourbon is 6 to 8
years, and it's mainly just the Japanese who drink bourbon that's
aged 12 years or more, as they think it's the same as with Scotch.
But bourbon that's been in the barrel too long absorbs bitterness
from the wood and, although its alcohol content has increased, it's
no longer right. Roll a sip of this potion around in your mouth,
let its caramel flavor tickle your palate, and its strength will
cut your tongue like a sharp reproach from your wife: "...are
you drinking again?" It's better to swallow and let the almost
vanilla taste fade away.
Although today all American bourbons are de facto produced in the
same way, small differences, passed on from father to son over the
years, play large roles. Each brand tastes different - milder, duller,
or coarser, with an overriding aroma of corn or wheat. You just have
to pick the right bottle. If you want to prove you're a real connoisseur,
pick one marked "single barrel", the finest bourbon. It
hasn't been blended with anything, and the only thing that could
ever have been added to it is pure water from a local limestone subsurface,
in order to cut its fiery nature.
The author is the deputy
editor-in-chief of Esquire magazine.
Photo: Vìroslav Sixt
Not only for professional bartenders. This five-piece stainless
steel set from Blomus contains everything you need for
preparing cocktails: tongs, knife, opener, and sifter.
Price: CZK 1,642
Available at: Blomus, Karlínské nám. 9, Praha 8
It was born in 1874 at a banquet organized by Winston Chruchill's mother and
it immediately became a hit. You'll need bourbon (2 1/2 parts), sweet vermouth
(1 part), and two drops of maraschino cherry juice. Pour it over ice without
stirring and garnish the glass with a cherry. A variant is the Dry Manhattan,
for which you use dry vermouth and add a green olive. In any case, a Manhattan
must always be clear and icily refreshing.
Photographed in cooperation with hotel Radisson SAS Alcron
Probably the longest-aged bourbon, it boasts the marking, "The finest bourbon
of all times". It'll capture you with its aroma of honey, raisins, dates,
and butter every time. Many awards from London to San Francisco also speak of
its high quality.
Price: cca 900 Kè
||Four Roses Single Barrel
Its high price of over a thousand crowns is balanced by its pure flavor, which
can be attributed to its having fermented in century-old cypress vats. Moreover,
it boasts the "single barrel" designation.
Price: cca 1100 Kè
Six-year-old bourbon with the highest wheat content. Like Jack Daniel's, it's
filtered through sugar maple charcoal, which is why it's much sweeter and milder.
During Prohibition it was the only alcohol sold with a doctor's prescription,
which also says a lot.
Price: cca 500 Kè
This isn't classic bourbon, and it doesn't come from Kentucky either, but it's
real American Tennessee whiskey. It's amber-colored and has a slightly woody
flavor with a fruity aroma. Its double-distilling through charcoal is unique.
Price: cca 600 Kè
This third-best-selling bourbon in the US was first produced in 1789 as a spirit
from a mixture of corn, barley, and malt. Its full, rich aroma extends from
oranges, honey, and vanilla to nutmeg, tobacco, and port wine.
Price: cca 600 Kè