July 28, 2013

The White Lie

Every Saturday night the gang went clubbing, but never before a fresh spray
Dilemma: To be true to truth (like a good wanna-be-Buddhist) or support distillers at the expense of said truth? When you decide to get in the business of Whisk(e)y making, you're assumedly aware that you're up against some serious players that know their stuff. They make it a specific way (i.e.: painstakingly waiting years for oak barrels to work their magic) for a bloody good reason. It's obviously not the most expedient way to produce alcohol but since 'life IS suffering' we wait.

Jeb had big plans, then the blindness came
Making Whisky ain't no different than making any other widget people crave. You look at supply and demand and you ramp up or crank down your production. If demand gets Cheech & Chong high then you're gonna have to find a new way to feed the monkey. Enter "New Make" un-aged white whisky, otherwise known by many an Alabamian as Moonshine. There's a reason you don't see moonshine lining the shelves… it tastes like shit. No oak aging equals no likey. It's not that difficult to grasp; you distill a spirit, you age it for flavour, you bottle it, you become the town hero.

In Sephora stores everywhere this fall
Seems to me, some peeps think they can pull the ole lipstick on a pig / this 'da bomb'-'ski trick with some sexy buzz words and beauty hand drawn labels. "Craft" typos aside, this "Crap" isn't worth the trip to the booze-mart via your local LRT. (Am I being too honest now?)

I appreciate the concept of New Make moonshine, really I do: make booze as fast as possible so you can get wasted. It's kind of like making beer in your basement. It'll get you drunk, but all your buddies wish you would just splurge on the Lakeport once in a while. I suppose on some level these spirits are getting away on a technicality. Because they aren't aged for the min. required 3 years, they can't be called whisky, but the marketing is sure making the kissing cousin connection plain as day.

"The Good"
True Whisky is all about the aging. That all important wood barrel breaths life into the spirit. It defines it. As whisky sits in a barrel over the years it expands and contracts in and out of the wood with each season and temperature shift. The whisky literally sucks flavour out of the wood. Take a deep breath and fill your lungs with air… that's whisky in the summer. Now exhale… that's whisky in the winter. Now do that 10 times and you've got ten years of whisky deepening it's relationship with the wood. This is the true 'Craft" of whisky making. Patience.

"The Bad"
Is there a place for moonshine? Well 285,000 cases of the stuff were sold last year in the U.S. so I guess the answer is yes, right along side my carton of O.J. and soda pop. Because it's a new product (on the legal market) sales will spike. Long term I can't see people spending $40 on something that tastes this bad when actual aged whisky is coming in at a cheaper price point. The only value I see in New Make is as an educational tool during tastings as a 'before' snapshot of whisky.

Most new distillers will produce vodka or gin while their whisky matures. It makes sense, those spirits take little time to make and require no aging. They have bills to pay so the gin gets them through the first 3 years. It's a gamble: create a brand and tie your product's quality to said brand. If people like it, you're golden. If you cut corners and produce based on your bottom line, then you'll be folding your cards. It's a game of patience. Pump whatever you can into the market and hope it sticks, or wait it out and reveal something true to the spirit. Because with real whisky, you just can't fake it.