Back to the Austrian Whisky & Spirits Festival in Linz! I talked at the booth of Beam Suntory with Marcel Schuster, Rare Collection Manager Austria, about the fusion of Beam und Suntory back in 2014. I asked him how these two big – but still family owned – businesses get along. The fusion might have ended in a complete other way, if one or both companies weren’t family owned. Despite the fact that one is a “typically” western business and the other one a “typically” eastern business they had in common, that their philosophy regarding ownership is very similar. I guess it was a smart move for both of them, as for example Beam manages the sales in Europe for both companies now.
I hadn’t decided yet, which Masterclass should be the next, but I couldn’t refuse the invitation to the Bourbon Legends Masterclass at the top floor of the hotel in the “Kepler Suite”. This Masterclass became very private as we where just two, Marcel not included. Nevertheless Marcel took his time and we got a nice overview – we skipped the process of “How Whisk(e)y is made” – over the products from Beam’s Rare Collection.
Being on a Whisky venue it wasn’t a surprise to see Saskia Konz with her bagpipe. But we were able to hear her playing even on the top floor, which was kind of cool (okay, the window was open…). We spoke not only about Whiskey but also cocktails. Lots of barkeepers around the world love Bourbon to create various cocktails. Of course we talked about the flavoured Whiskeys, not everyone is a fan of these, some even think “it’s from the devil”, but there is surely a market for them. I’m not a big fan of them either.
Besides the climate in the United Stated – hot summers and cold winters , which may or may not be the reason for the saying “One year in the US equals four years in Scotland” – there is something else which may influence the Whiskey, and that is yeast. The yeast is something the distilleries are proud of. They even take a small portion home in case something happens to the distillery. Quite a different approach as in Scotland. There you’ll find yeast laying around like sand at the local hardware store. Doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate what the yeast is doing, just another approach.
In case you didn’t know, but in the US the New Make is called White Dog. Mostly common used is the Column Still, but for Small Bachtes sometimes Pot Stills are used. Bourbon has to be matured in new, unused oak – mainly american white oak – casks. You can taste this – mainly in the younger Whiskeys – because they tend to incorporate more oak flavours than their Scottish counterparts. The White Dog doesn’t have to be matured for a specific time, except the distillery wants to call it Straight Bourbon. In that case the White Dog has to be matured in the previously mentioned casks – barrels that is in the US – for at least two years. If the Whiskey is younger than four, it has to have the age on it. Furthermore no additional colour or flavour may be added if it is called Straight Bourbon. Subsequently Kentucky Straight Bourbon has to be made in Kentucky (distilled, matured, bottled).
Makers Mark (n.a.s.; 45%)
Nose: harsh and woody, little bit of freshness and some sweetness, some leather and corn
Palate: very sweet, smooth, spicy, freshly baked loaf
Finish: quite short
Body: smooth & well rounded
Basil Hayden’s (n.a.s.; 40%)
Nose: rye, sourly-sweet, fresh
Palate: fresh grinded pepper, peppermint(!)
Body: smooth & velvet
Knob Creek (n.a.s.; 50%)
Nose: spicy, sweet, some oak wood, cinnamon(?)
Palate: bold, vanilla, nutty
Finish: long & warming
Body: bold & full
Booker’s (n.a.s.; 63,7%)
Nose: lots of oak wood, sweetness from vanilla
Palate: chocolate & banana, dry
Body: full & intense
Jim Beam Signature Craft (12yo; 43%)
Nose: fresh & light, some oak wood, restrained sweetness
Palate: pepper, but very velvet & sweet
Finish: very long & numbing
Body: smooth & full