Seven years ago, we kicked our journey off in the humble confines of an Atlanta kitchen. We didn't know it then, but our first product, American Spirit Whiskey, was Atlanta's original Post-Prohibition whiskey brand and would soon gain a following around Atlanta as a perfect whiskey for those just getting into the category and others looking for an alternative to the common vodka. As the winds of change started to move Georgia's distillery laws in a favorable direction, we decided to start looking for a place to call our own - a place to locate our own distillery in the heart of our hometown making the spirit we'd loved since our days at the University of Georgia.
Do y’all remember Atlanta’s original craft breweries? We’re talking Marthasville, formed in 1994; Atlanta Brewing Co., formed in 1994 and later renamed Red Brick Brewing Co.; Dogwood, formed in 1996; and of course, Atlanta’s biggest craft brewery to date, SweetWater, formed in 1997.
These were Atlanta’s craft beverage pioneers, paving the way for the incredibly rich and diverse craft beer scene we enjoy in Georgia today. Without their hard work and determination, Georgia’s libations landscape would be significantly less interesting. And we here at ASW Distillery would likely not have had a remote chance of trying to help put Atlanta on the map for craft whiskey.
In 1920, a young Atlanta alderman by the name of William Hartsfield began reading speculative literature on the future of what many believed would become a way to transport mail faster. A few visionaries spotted the much more wide-reaching implications of this newfangled technology, the airplane. Hartsfield was one of them, and soon learned of the United States Postal Service’s plan to locate a refueling hub between its New York City and Miami airports for mail planes.
When you were in kindergarten, you likely weren’t a regular bourbon drinker. In fact, you probably didn’t yet know much about bourbon. This makes sense, as teachers are busy teaching you the basics of counting and cooperation, leaving little time to instruct you in the finer spirits of life. As you matured through the years like a fine bourbon in new charred American oak barrels, you likely developed a taste for Scotch, or bourbon, or rye whiskey. (We base this assumption on the fact that you’re here, and all we write about is whiskey.)
At sunrise in December 1861, with soldiers staving off pneumonia, Union General Robert H. Milroy led his troops across a snow-covered rocky meadow against an entrenched Confederate force. Even as the sun slowly flared to life amidst the iron clouds, the wind at the crest of Allegeny Mountain in Virginia’s western barrens kept up its relentless howling. Against the piercing gale, Union troops advanced throughout the morning. But as the clock tipped past noon, Confederate troops unleashed a barrage of artillery fire that drove the Union soldiers into retreat on Cheat Mountain. The war would continue — largely in stalemate — for almost four more years.
--On some American craft distillers' lobbying efforts to convince the TTB to create an "American single malt" class of whiskey, to be comprised of only malted barley and made in pot stills. http://forward.com/culture/food/345479/towards-a-kosher-definition-of-american-single-malt-whiskey/?attribution=home-conversation-headline-2
--The story behind Nashville's Greenbrier Distillery - best known for Belle Meade bourbon. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/2-brothers-revived-familys-tennessee-161500716.html
--Lost Spirits Distillery has plowed ahead with flash-aged rum and rye. More here: http://marketwatchmag.com/lost-spirits-distillery-july-2016/
--University of Kentucky, Wilderness Trail Distillery Collaborate to Convert Stillage into Useful Materials: http://www.azom.com/news.aspx?newsID=46006
If you’ve followed us for a while, you know how much we dislike puns. They’re cheeky. They’re smarmy. They are, for lack of a better word, punny. Puns wore out their welcome long before Shakespeare, and then he went on a 37-play bender devoted almost entirely to their use. They are, for all intents and purposes, a comical anachronism. We hope everyone — most especially, our friends—comes to dislike puns as much as us.
--A jaunt through Islay & the history of its formation & whisky distilleries by The Guardian: http://buff.ly/29XoR21
--An interesting new rice whiskey by the name of Kikori. The NY Times says it has hints of ginger: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/06/dining/kikori-whiskey.html?_r=0
--What does a red-oak-smoked corn malt whiskey taste like? Apparently, somewhat like BBQ, or the perfect aperitif to it. http://thewhiskeywash.com/american-whiskey/whiskey-review-revelations/
--Americans are becoming more experimental in their Scotch selections - a good sign for American single malts, from Fortune Magazine http://buff.ly/29FqXYU
--From Popular Science: What Does The Deadly Oak Epidemic Mean For Whiskey? There's a deadly disease affecting oaks of California and the Pacific Northwest. As a distant cousin of the disease that cause the Irish Potato Famine, it's not new, but it's spreading and means business. http://buff.ly/29SoSbz
--On American single malt whiskey, including the superb Old Potrero rye malt by Anchor Spirits. Which reminds us, we've got a rye malt on the way, due out next year. http://buff.ly/29S9edC
Hope everyone had a great 4th! Now that we're back, let's get this whiskey knowledge train back on the tracks.
--The Daily Beast, on the main source of many craft rye whiskies you'll find state-side: Canada. Specifically, Alberta, where they've been making great rye for years. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/28/your-local-craft-whiskey-may-really-be-from-canada.html
--On the Pattison Crash the decade after the 1896 bankruptcy of Scotch whisky speculator Pattison, Elder, by the Whiskey Wash http://buff.ly/2944eS4
--On proofing down whiskey (adding water to it) to achieve consistent flavor profiles and avoid saponification (water bringing out fats from suspension and creating a soapy taste), by the Whiskey Wash
--And in case you missed it on Crafted with Characters, we cover a similar topic in: Whisk(e)y: Neat, with water, or on the rocks? http://bit.ly/neat-or-water
--We also discuss the history behind the whiskey (with an "e") vs. whisky (with the "e") debate here: http://bit.ly/e-or-no-e
--On the re-emergence of artfully blended whiskey, including craft pioneer High West's Bourye, from Bloomberg http://buff.ly/29dyD1y
--Tastebuds & whiskey, WFPL on the differences in the way that women and men taste whiskey: “Pikesville Rye...topped the women’s chart...Elijah Craig...was the men's pick” http://buff.ly/29gYbIZ
One rather balmy December day nearly eight years ago, celebrated New York Times author Eric Asimov published an in-depth piece comparing a number of 12 year old Speyside Scotches. Within hours, single malt enthusiasts the world over had left him angry messages.
Was it because he’d rated The Glenlivet above Macallan? Or had he perhaps done the unthinkable and added ice to the tasting?
Neither, it turns out.
Imagine yourself cooking chili. You add meat and onions, then tomato. As a self-proclaimed Master Chili Chef, you naturally add salt to taste as the chili cooks. You sprinkle some salt into the pot, ladle some from the pot to taste, and decide it needs more salt. So you go to add a dash more salt and…the shaker’s top falls into the pot.
--The Whiskey Wash on a vital part of the distilling process: yeast. "“Today, most Scottish distilleries use one of a handful of similar yeasts from the 'M' strain.” More here: http://buff.ly/1OuvM4N
--Irish whiskey & Scotch continue to surge: up 159% & 85%, respectively, since 2010. More on the industry by Forbes at: http://buff.ly/23gimfm
--Great Crave piece on Islay: The Island Built on Scotch and Sheep - http://buff.ly/1Udu5pw
--And in case you missed it, here's our take on that same island of Scotch, sheep, and drams: http://bit.ly/notes-on-islay
--In less rosy news, speculation on what Britain's recent exit from the EU means for Scotland's most famous export. In a nutshell: tariffs on Scotch may go up, reducing demand on the European mainland. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/brexit-whiskey-whisky-scotch-bourbon-shortage-alcohol-spirits-175839745.html
--Speaking of islands that produce Scotch, here's a nice primer on The "other" Islands of Scotch (Jura, Orkney, and the like), with mentions including Highland Park and Scapa Distillery http://buff.ly/28JpvS1
--An interesting post from one of the bourbon industries scions about the falsity of Jack Daniel's 150 Year Anniversary claim this year: http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2016/06/today-jack-daniels-celebrates-its-fake.html
--Whisky from Down Under! Limeburners is superb - from both our experience with our Master of Malt advent calendar this year & Whiskey Wash's recent review: http://buff.ly/28WFAWM. Curious about whisky from other strange global locales? Look no further than Crafted with Character: http://aswdistillery.com/crafted-with-characters/7-countries-youd-never-guess-make-great-whiskey
--With women leading the resurgence of bourbon, it's great to see women forging new paths with distilleries as well, like Republic Restorative in DC in this exploratory post: http://buff.ly/28S1tkj
--On the role copper plays in distillation, from the great folks over at Whiskey Wash: http://buff.ly/295xzeb
Casks are like the middle children of the aged spirits world. They don’t have the upscale industrial aura of the shining beacons of the spirits world — the stills that produce the spirits. Nor have they the multi-sensory appeal of the finished whiskey.
But casks play a huge role in helping shape the final flavor profile of not only spirits aged in them, but wine and beer, too. They can impart flavors as wide-ranging as vanilla, coconut, and oak, and — when charred on the inside — help charcoal filter the spirits into smooth-sipping glory.
--Can Ireland Become The Center of the Whiskey World? The Daily Beast weighs in: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/11/can-ireland-become-the-center-of-the-whiskey-world.html
--If interested in the above story, try the history of Why Scotch Boomed while Irish Whiskey Wilted, our own well-research writeup on the topic. http://www.aswdistillery.com/crafted-with-characters/why-did-scotch-succeed-while-irish-whiskey-wilted
--Booze and The Bizarre have always found common ground, a trend in no way limited to the US. As the Associated Press reported earlier this week: Ukraine Says Border Guards Found Bootleg Alcohol Pipeline. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/ukraine-says-border-guards-found-bootleg-alcohol-pipeline-n587156
--Interested in investing in whiskey. There's a new way to do so, through the first Whiskey-based Exchange Traded Fund. Business Insider on the scoop: http://www.businessinsider.com/whiskey-etf-2016-6
--Nice roundup of the 14 best craft distilled whiskeys under $50, incl. Wasmunds / Copper Fox & Catoctin Creek, from the ever-prescient Eater http://buff.ly/23dO50U
--“New [craft] malteries might use a combination of box-malting and floor-malting techniques” - A Whiskey Wash article on the ascendance of malteries as whiskey has grown by leaps and bounds http://buff.ly/21oiS9P
--“Disarming preconceived notions of what rum is, or ought to be (aside from a sugarcane distillate ), turns out to be a decidedly difficult task: rum, in fact, exists as one of the most conceptually-loaded liquors in all the Seven Seas.” http://www.eater.com/spirits/2016/6/10/11903514/whiskey-scotch-bourbon-rum
--If interested in whether rum can become the next bourbon, in face off the odds described by the Eater article above, check out our send-up of the subject from last week: http://www.aswdistillery.com/crafted-with-characters/is-rum-the-next-bourbon
You may be aware that our double pot still system hearkens back to the traditional Scottish and Irish whisk(e)y* stills, in large part to allow us to experiment with high malt mash bills (recipes). If all goes well, we’ll blaze new trails in whiskey profiles and expand whiskey drinkers’ perceptions along the way. At the same time, we’re firm believers in knowing full well the traditions and distillers to whom we’re indebted.
One of the more interesting questions from the last century in whisk(e)y is why Scotch succeeded, while Irish whiskey — until recently — wilted. Namely, why did Scotland’s top export experience a whisky-driven boom throughout many years of the 20th century, while Ireland’s industry withered down to a paltry 4 distilleries in the 1960s?
--Given that our stills can, by design, only make whiskey, brandy, and rum, we thought we'd weigh in on whether #rum is the next #bourbon, a question that we've gotten quite a lot recently. http://buff.ly/1PhfPK6
--Long before Jack Fire, we had An Dram Buideach - Vine Pair's primer on the original flavored whisky: Drambuie http://buff.ly/24u8tK7
--Piece on a top-shelf #bourbon of yore, Old Crow. Some of their old barrel racks line our distillery by The Whiskey Wash http://buff.ly/213R3Ds
--The birth, death, and rebirth of tiki bars, by The Daily Beast: http://buff.ly/1PhgD1y
--The Rise of Bourbon: Hotels Are Jumping in Full Barrel, by US News http://buff.ly/1tmG4uv ...We've certainly found this to be the case in Atlanta.
--Want to invest in whiskey? Soon, you'll be able to through a whiskey Exchange Traded Fund. http://www.businessinsider.com/whiskey-etf-2016-6
Before bourbon became bourbon in the 1820s, before the American Revolution began, even before George Washington got his wooden teeth, rum was America’s favorite spirit. (Come to think of it, could rum’s high sugar content have played a part in GW’s wooden grill? He was a fan of Barbados rum, after all.) Given that our stills can, by design, only make whiskey, brandy, and rum, we thought we'd give our thoughts on whether rum is the next bourbon, a question that we've gotten quite a lot recently.
--A Forbes article on the scientific evidence supporting the notion that women are better whiskey-tasters than men: http://buff.ly/1THx0X8
--An in-depth piece on how frontier settlers made #whiskey before #bourbon was a thing. http://buff.ly/1XK1HzO
--Nice peek at The Next Frontier of Whiskies Inspired by Beer, including mention of one of the American single malt pioneers, Westland Distillery out of Seattle http://buff.ly/1PdvjnO
--Interesting Quartz look at Park City, Utah's High West and how they're trying to engrain a blending culture similar to Scotland's into the fabric of US whiskey culture. http://buff.ly/1PqPEWA
--An enlightening glance at the earliest history of #Scotch by UK's @Telegraph http://buff.ly/1TNe5Ko
As we close in on the date we run our first bourbon through the stills, we thought it would be worthwhile to explore what exactly bourbon is, because lore and truth about our official spirit seem to have diverged in the snowy woods of time. With your permission, we’ll take the less-traveled road of truth on this one.