….Kevin’s book is a trove of new information. Turns out, Hollywood portrays a limited view of the spirit that is a symbol of freedom worldwide. I spoke with Kevin about the book and here’s some of what we talked about.
I used to have a fantasy of setting up a moonshine still just to have my own source of booze, but the process is so complicated it seems like I need to be a chemist to do it. Why do people take the time to make Moonshine when it’s easier to make other forms of alcohol?
Kevin Kosar: Good question. Well, I guess I’d ask in response, why do folks bother to learn to fly fish and spend boku bucks on rods and equipment when they can go to a good market and buy perfectly good trout and salmon? It’s just the way people are — they like to mix their hands with nature’s bounty and produce something, whether it is knitting a scarf or wood-working one’s own furniture. Making spirits is challenging, but the rewards of getting it right are great. Seeing clean, fragrant liquor coming off the still after days of fermenting and toil is a joy.”
The discussion was spurred by the publication of by “Straight Up,” by Afshin Molavi of Oxford Analytica and and the New America Foundation. The article was recently published in Foreign Policy journal, and currently may be read free of charge at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/09/03/straight_up_johnnie_walker_global_middle_class.
In “Straight Up,” Molavi, who also participated in the radio show, considered globalization through the lens of Johnnie Walker whisky.
You may listen to or download the broadcast at: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/keep-walking3a-johnnie-walker/5099380.
AlcoholRevews.com’s postings on Johnnie Walker may be found at: http://alcoholreviews.com/tag/johnnie-walker/.
AlcoholReviews.com had the pleasure of sitting down with Richard Foss, author of Rum: A Global History (Reaktion, 2012). Naturally, we met in a bar, the classic Tune Inn on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Foss clearly enjoys tasting new rums, and he is learned in what rum is and how it has changed over the centuries. But his real passion is the anthropological aspects of rum—in short, what do and did people think and feel about it? How does and did it fit into their cultures?
His website, aptly named http://RumHistory.com, is a growing shrine to his rum discoveries. For example, Foss’s website carries a copy of the anti-rum tune, “Father’s a Drunkard, and Mother’s Dead.” (Such a happy ditty!)
Rum: A Global History covers the who/what/when/where of rum with with wit and charm. The illustrations are terrific. We blew through this book in a few nights, and it easily earned a permanent place in our beverage book library.
Highly recommended for the rum lover or anyone with an interest in the history of drink.
AlcoholReviews.com had the pelasure of sitting with Becky Harris, the distiller at Catoctin Creek, and Bill Thomas of the amazing whiskey bar, Jack Rose. The mellifluous voiced and always delightful Kojo interviewed us about whiskey for an hour. It was quite a conversation, and one caller told us that his grandmother made hot toddies with whiskey, Marmite, and cod liver oil. You can listen to the full show it for free at: http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2011-12-07/whiskey-primer.
Editor’s note: We’re republishing this article from 1997 because the old copy still gets so much reader traffic. Mr. Bedford died in August 2009.
A Private Tasting with Jimmy Bedford, Master Distiller at Jack Daniel’s
I stood alone on the sixth floor of the Marriot Marquis next to the brass keydrop. Travelers from around the world swarmed about me, checking in and out. Outside cold winds howled through Times Square. If ever there was a day to be tasting whiskey…
A week earlier an unbelievable email had popped up on my screen- an invite to have a private tasting with Jimmy Bedford, Master Distiller at Jack Daniel’s. What better way to learn about Jack Daniel’s two super premium whiskeys, Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey?
Out of the horde he stepped, the man whose photo I had seen so many times before. A kindly PR fellow, Clay Dye, from Dye Van Mol & Lawrence, introduced us and took us to a quiet area in an adjoining restaurant, where we sat and got the lowdown on Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Whiskey.
Most of AlcoholReviews.com’s readers are likely familiar with Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Black Labeled Whiskey. Our readers are also likely aware of the difference between Tennessee whiskey, which Jack Daniel’s is, and Bourbon. In terms of the production process, whereas Bourbon is distilled and then sent to barrel to age, Tennessee whiskey is distilled then filtered, then aged in barrels. In the case of Old No. 7, the whiskey is run through 10 feet of charcoal made from hard sugar maple before being aged in charred white oak barrels, which are, Mr. Bedford noted, used just once.
Mr. Bedford impressed the difference between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey on me by allowing me to sample raw spirit just after distillation (call it proto-Bourbon), and raw spirit that had been charcoal mellowed (call it proto-Tennessee whiskey). The difference was obvious, what was once fine white lightning was now much softer.
Gentleman Jack (80 proof) takes the Jack Daniel’s formula for Tennessee whiskey and incorporates and extra step- a second charcoal mellowing AFTER it has been aged. The result? Well, Old No. 7 is fair copper and has a fireball candy spiciness on the tongue, along with a nutty taste. Gentleman Jack is much smoother, much softer, exhibiting more barrel and charcoal flavors, along with faint currant and hazelnut notes. It’s quite good. (Rating****)
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel is an intriguing product. Unlike Old No. 7 or Gentleman Jack, each bottle of Single Barrel comes from (you got it) a single barrel, chosen by Mr. Bedford for its excellence. So that makes the whiskey in a bottle of Old No. 7 or Gentleman Jack a blends? “No,” Mr. Bedford rightly noted, “They are intermingled whiskeys. Blends usually are whiskeys that are made from the products of many distilleries. We don’t do that. Our No. 7 and Gentleman Jack are made only from Jack Daniel’s whiskeys, intermingled to create a consistent taste and quality.”
The Single Barrel (94 proof) that I sampled was much darker than the other JD whiskeys. Six to seven year in the barrel left it a deep copper-red color. In the mouth it was much more intense, and far fuller in flavor. The grain, caramel, vanilla and charcoal flavors were wonderfully balanced, and it was clearly the best of the the three. Bedford’s thirty-some years at Jack Daniel’s was born out by the quality of this whiskey. (Rating ****)
Before our time together ended, Mr. Bedford mentioned that in addition to buying bottles of JD Single Barrel, folks could also purchase a whole barrel. For about $8500 you could stop by JD’s Distillery, and go into their storehouse to pick a barrel. The barrel would then be drained into about 240 fifth bottles, and shipped to you along with a customized sticker and a brass plaque and framed certificate of ownership. When I asked how many folks took advantage of this opportunity, Bedford smiled. “Well, so far we’ve sold about 600 barrels. We’ve even had some repeat customers.”