Bourbon and beyond: part two

14 August, 2018 by tallenby

Exciting, creatively limitless and growing, the American whiskey freight train shows no signs of slowing down – and you don’t have to look far to find local bars making the most of it.

In this feature from BARS&clubs Winter (republished in two parts for Whisky Month), we take a closer look at the growing influence of this booming category. Read part one here.

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SECURING THE GOOD STUFF

With demand for American whiskey so high, it’s often not all that easy to get your hands on a special drop –as many bar owners and managers would attest. Over at NOLA, Fischer couldn’t rely solely on suppliers and distributors here in Australia to build his gigantic back bar collection.

“It’s very hard to source rare American whiskey out of the mainstream,” he told BARS&clubs. “There’s a couple of Australian companies that do very well, but mostly the mainstream whiskies. But through the main suppliers, it’s only the bigger players that they can supply, plus the reserve stocks.

“So we fall into a problem where lots of the rarer whiskies never make it to Australia because the domestic demand [in the U.S.] is just so high. So we’ve developed a direct relationship with a lot of larger bottle shops in the States now – but there’s still a lot of hoops to jump through to get the products in.

“To add to the back bar, we’re having to go external and we’re having to go expensive. We’re looking at a lot of special bottlings, probably $500 plus – and also looking for more space to put everything!”

One line of rare whiskies that is distributed here in Australian by a major player is the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, a cross-section of limited edition liquids of various ages, proofs and styles. The allocation for 2018 – which was released in late March, and only available in extremely limited numbers for loyal accounts of the distillery’s flagship bourbon Buffalo Trace – featured the highly-sought Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year-Old and Weller 12 Year-Old.

“Hailing from the most award-winning distillery and as a heavily awarded range itself, the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection’s demand always outweighs supply globally,” Johnstone told TheShout at the time of the release. “It’s great to see that Australia has had so many bottles come through the allocation this year, which we only hope will grow in the future so that more whiskey aficionados are able to enjoy these incredible drops.”

With the thirst for American whiskey in Australia showing no signs of abating, it’s clear that demand for rarer and more exciting products will continue to grow – which is all well and good, if you can source them.

ACCOUNTING FOR AMERICAN WHISKEY’S ‘LOWER’ REPUTATION

“I think it was just seen as a cheap brown spirit, because products like Jim Beam White Label or Cougar were all we could get,” Fischer says. “Back in the 90s you couldn’t get any of the good bourbons, they just didn’t bring them out here – so people had this image in their head that bourbon was very entry-level stuff. That’s very much changing now though, and a lot of that had to with culture coming through TV: show like Boston Legal and Mad Men, fuelling some of the interest in dark spirits. The hipster movement helped it too, creating some very selective and educated drinkers who are getting caught up in the nostalgia of the product. It’s leaning away from being an old person’s drink now – it’s very, very cool.”

CLASSIC RYE COCKTAILS WITH NOLA’S PETE FISCHER

The Red Hook

“A modern classic created in 2003 by Enzo Errico of Milk and Honey in New York City”

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Rye whiskey
  • 15ml Punt e Mes
  • 10ml Luxardo Maraschino

Method: Stir and strain in a chilled coupe or martini glass.

The Blinker

“First appeared in 1934 in Patrick Gavin Duffy’s The Official Mixer’s Manual.”

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Rye whiskey
  • 15ml fresh grapefruit juice (white grapefruit, preferably)
  • 5ml pomegranate spirit

Method: Shake and strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.