January 16, 2013

A single-malt whiskey from Waco, Texas beats all the Scottish competition blind-judged by British experts.

Single-malt whiskey distilling is now a big deal in the United States... despite the impediment of "a federal law, enacted in 1938, requiring that they be at least partly aged in previously unused oak barrels."
Unfortunately, malted barley is delicate and prone to lose its flavor in new oak, which is why Scottish distillers prefer barrels that once held sherry, port or bourbon.

To compensate, American distillers often start with a more robust, flavorful mash than a typical Scotch, which can better stand up to new oak, flavor that continues to shine through after the whiskey is bottled.

They also rely on America’s higher temperatures, and bigger temperature swings, to speed the aging process. “A hot day in Scotland is 75 degrees,” said Mr. Tate, of [contest winner] Balcones. “Seventy-five degrees isn’t even a hot day in January here.”

As a result, even Balcones, despite its peat and smoky notes, is unlikely to be confused with an Islay Scotch. “A lot of what we do is riffing on old traditions in new ways,” Mr. Tate said....
That's America! Full of innovation and ingenuity... and stupid, overreaching federal regulation.

58 comments:

Kimberly said...

Yowza. Considering that the Balvenie and Macallan are two of my favorites, I'll have to try these. And I'm not really surprised to see that Texas (and Kentucky, also mentioned in the article) know what they're doing when it comes to good booze.

ndspinelli said...

In Waterloo, Wi. is Van Holten Pickle Co. For almost a century that company made pickles in oak barrels. In the 1980's the govt. made them change to plastic barrells. There were no health problems from this process. It's pickled cucumbers for chrissake. But, the "wood can house bacteria" clause was enforced. And, having eaten their great pickles before and after I can taste the difference. What hoeseshit.

Molly said...

I decided to check in with my favorite word authority, Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large of the Oxford English Dictionary, and this is what he said:

“As an aficionado of whisky and whiskey, I do have deep feelings on the usage, which is pretty much that the Times style should be changed. This isn’t a case where a small group of fanatics are insisting on some highly personal interpretation of an issue that is not adhered to by anyone outside their cult. It’s almost universally the case that the word is spelled ‘whisky’ in Scotland and Canada, and ‘whiskey’ elsewhere, and that, as you have seen, people really do care about this as an important distinction. I’d also observe that the O.E.D. points this out in its entry. So I would encourage you to adopt this distinction in the style book. I have no problem with using ‘whiskey’ as a the main generic form, if there’s no indication of location.’’

The above quote taken from http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/04/whiskey-versus-whisky/

edutcher said...

They've always had civilized killin' in TX, and what goes better with that than civilized drinkin'?

jacksonjay said...

Waco, Texas
Dr Pepper
Snickers
RGIII
Lots of Baptists
Whiskey ??


Brew Master said...

Ahhh, Single Malts. My favorite is 18 yr Glenfidditch, but a 15 yr Maccallan will do in a pinch.

Our local distillery has yet to get on the single malt bandwagon, although I will prod them about it next time I'm around.

They do give some of us beer brewers a good deal on used barrels for fermenting/aging.

The Farmer said...

I'll have to try this. I've just started getting into whiskey over the past few months. When the heck is Binny's finally going to open their store in Madison? I'm getting tired of paying for shipping.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

A rise in American whiskeys coupled with a surge in gun and ammo sales.

What could it mean????

:-)

The Farmer said...

Brew Master said...
Ahhh, Single Malts. My favorite is 18 yr Glenfidditch, but a 15 yr Maccallan will do in a pinch.


Those are really different whiskeys aren't they? Never had the 18 yr Glenfiddich but the 12 year is fantastic.

X said...

my home town and single malt is my favorite drink. I'll have to pick up a bottle today and try it. thanks althouse. I'd buy one through your amazon portal, but stupid regulations and all.

Waco aka,
6 Shooter Junction
The City of Churches
The Heart of Texas

The Farmer said...

$65 a bottle! Pass!

Brew Master said...

A friend brought over a new one to me as well during the holidays.

Cask Strength 10 yr Laphroaig. Opened that sucker up and the house smelled like a campfire. On the nose it was very tingly/hot. Going down though it was some of the smoothest I've ever had.

But, the smoke smell, wow.

Brew Master said...

The Farmer said...

Those are really different whiskeys aren't they? Never had the 18 yr Glenfiddich but the 12 year is fantastic


The longer it is aged in the barrel, the more characteristics it picks up, generally making it more falvorful and smoother. They really do change quite a bit over the different ages. A 12 year is quite a bit more harsh than an 18.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

$65 a bottle! Pass

Wimp! The best things in life aren't free or even cheap. Good Scotch and Whiskey are two of those things you need to splurge on. A nice steak isn't bad either.

bagoh20 said...

I read these blind comparisons all the time where something like a $6 bottle of wine (or even $3) beats out a bunch or high priced stuff.

It has no effect on those who prefer the higher priced stuff. You have facts telling you that you are full of shit. A judge may even have decided himself that he is full of shit, yet the next day the facade continues on unabated. Being a lowlife and a cheapskate myself, I find this comical and satisfying.

X said...

Laphroaig and Lagavulin. great scotches.

Tim said...

No doubt it could be a very fine whisky, in the Scottish tradition, but if it isn't made in Scotland, it isn't "Scotch."

Also, given the wide variety and expressions of Single Malt Scotches, there is no such thing as "the best Scotch."

There is, at best, the Scotch one likes best.

And, depending upon the seasons and mood, that differs for me.

My own general favorite is Lagavulin 16; if all Scotch is an acquired taste, Lagavulin (and the other Islay single-malts) is especially so.

The Farmer said...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Wimp! The best things in life aren't free or even cheap. Good Scotch and Whiskey are two of those things you need to splurge on. A nice steak isn't bad either.


My threshold is $45. I get all my whiskey advice from a buddy who runs a shop in Scotland. He advised me that paying more than that is almost never worth it.

Also, that single malts are not necessarily superior to blends, and that aging doesn't matter nearly as much as people tend to think.

Brew Master said...

bagoh20 said...
I read these blind comparisons all the time where something like a $6 bottle of wine (or even $3) beats out a bunch or high priced stuff.


This is happening more and more as the culture spreads. More barriers fall, and more options are taken as viable alternatives.

It is always about drinking what you like at the most base levels. Some people are wedded to tradition and like to drink high priced items because they like to be seen drinking what is 'right', regardless of taste, as is there choice. Those types will always be around, but no longer dominate. The revolution in the US over the last 20 years in wine/beer is apparently going to hit scotch/whiskey as well.

When drinking for pleasure, price is not the indicator of what is good, your own palate is the final say.

The Farmer said...

Tim said...
My own general favorite is Lagavulin 16; if all Scotch is an acquired taste, Lagavulin (and the other Islay single-malts) is especially so.


Haven't tried it yet but Bowmore is one of my favorites. How does it compare?

The Farmer said...

Oh, and DBQ - I got a trimmed beef tenderloin at Copps for $17 a couple weeks ago.

Tim said...

Brew Master said...

"Ahhh, Single Malts. My favorite is 18 yr Glenfidditch, but a 15 yr Maccallan will do in a pinch."

Oh, I much prefer the Macallan 15. The vanilla - caramel notes are exquisite - just wonderful. My second favorite Single-Malt.

The Farmer said...

Brew Master said...
The longer it is aged in the barrel, the more characteristics it picks up, generally making it more falvorful and smoother. They really do change quite a bit over the different ages. A 12 year is quite a bit more harsh than an 18.


But the 12 year Glenfiddich is ridiculously smooth! I know I'll end up pulling the trigger on the 18 yr eventually though.

Brew Master said...

Farmer,

Even I have a hard time justifying the expense of the 18. However my brother in law was nice enough to buy me a bottle for Christmas. That should keep me happy all year, as I consider it a rare treat.

And yes, the 12 is very smooth, but the 18 is smoother.....

Tim said...

@The Farmer,

I assume you mean Bowmore 15?

Allowing these are matters of taste, I think the Bowmore is probably a bit smoother, a touch lighter; in that regard, it is closer to other Single-Malts, and less distinctive, than the Lagavulin.

It is nice (I think nearly all Single-Malts worthy, more or less), but if you are looking for something really distinctive in the Islay form, either Lagavulin or Laphroaig would be the way to go, I think.

X said...

Tim, based on our mutual love of Lagavulin 16, I am going to have to try the Macallan 15 you recommend. thanks.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I assume there's no federal regulation prohibiting the use of cat urine.

Tim said...

Regarding costs, yes, fine Single-Malts are not cheap.

But, for me, they aren't for drinking in volume, or for mixing, ever.

So, a fine bottle, rotated through my collection, can last me close to a year or so.

For cocktails, it's Bulleit Rye for Manhattans, or Cazadores Reposado for Margaritas.

traditionalguy said...

Waco is the home of Baylor University that is the preeminent Southern Baptist college.

So why does distilling great whiskey find a home there. Simple, because the Baptist family's prohibition on all alcohol until leaving home creates a need in young men to discover what they were missing and that leads to their becoming world class experts at all alcoholic brands.

Lying 70 miles south of Ft Worth, Waco is also famous for the Texas Ranger Museum, David Koresh's cult , R G III, and the best chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes in the world.

Now if the Baptists will serve single malt scotch along with the chicken fried steak, they will have something.

Ann Althouse said...

"'$65 a bottle! Pass' Wimp! The best things in life aren't free or even cheap. Good Scotch and Whiskey are two of those things you need to splurge on."

Here's how I justify buying expensive single-malt scotch. You're going to drink less, so that's less alcohol and fewer calories. It's a plus. You're not getting less for your money, because you're getting an elaborate taste experience that repays slow sipping. You are better off in every way compared to buying a big bottle of gin or vodka.

And it's a lot cheaper, by the glass, than reasonably good wine (and forget about great wine).

Tim said...

Mitchell the Bat said...

"I assume there's no federal regulation prohibiting the use of cat urine."

That depends.

If it is semi-automatic, wrapped in black plastic and high-capacity, Obama will soon issue an executive order outlawing it.

Otherwise, criminals will still use cat urine.

Tim said...

"You are better off in every way compared to buying a big bottle of gin or vodka."

Same is true for cat urine over a big bottle of gin or vodka.

Jus' sayin'.

Levi Starks said...

And they've done it in spite of crippling 1938 federal regulations requiring the whisky be aged in "new oak barrels"

Corn don't grow at all on Rocky Top, The dirt's too rocky by far, And that's why all the folks on Rocky Top Get their corn from a jar ...

Tim said...

X said...

"Tim, based on our mutual love of Lagavulin 16, I am going to have to try the Macallan 15 you recommend. thanks."

You are more than welcome - but fair warning: it is a completely different Single-Malt, almost diametrically opposed to Lagavulin's profile.

Try it at a fine bar first, to save the $60 or so for the bottle.

But you knew that already...

jacksonjay said...

@traditionalguy

Mary's Cafe in Stroud was voted the best chicken fried steak in Texas, therefore best in the world!

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott M said...

Someone will mention the paper/hemp federal debacle in 3...2...1...

X said...

traditionalguy said...
Waco is the home of Baylor University that is the preeminent Southern Baptist college.

So why does distilling great whiskey find a home there. Simple, because the Baptist family's prohibition on all alcohol until leaving home creates a need in young men to discover what they were missing and that leads to their becoming world class experts at all alcoholic brands.


trad guy, you might be interested in reading some of The Iconoclast published by WC Brann. he was killed in a gunfight with a Baylor supporter.

and the best chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes in the world.

please tell me you are not referring to George's. there is a world of difference between a CFS deep fried vs. a CFS fried in an iron skillet. other than my grandmother's, the best CFS is currently at Matt's Rancho Martinez in east Dallas. and it's almost time for lunch.

MadisonMan said...

I will recommend (again) the Queen Jennie from the Old Sugar Distillery here in Madison.

TMink said...

I am more of a whiskey drinker, and my regional allegience is to Dickel. But I need to try this Waco whisky!

Trey

elkh1 said...

That particular "stupid, overreaching federal regulation" must be lobbied by oak barrel makers.

bagoh20 said...

Unless you have done a blind taste test yourself, you don't really know what you like, at least in terms of taste.

You may actually prefer Walmart generic in the 5 gallon bucket. You could spend all the saved money on Walmart truffle oil in the one quart tub. It's great on Pop-tarts.

The Farmer said...

Tim said...
@The Farmer,

I assume you mean Bowmore 15?

Allowing these are matters of taste, I think the Bowmore is probably a bit smoother, a touch lighter; in that regard, it is closer to other Single-Malts, and less distinctive, than the Lagavulin.

It is nice (I think nearly all Single-Malts worthy, more or less), but if you are looking for something really distinctive in the Islay form, either Lagavulin or Laphroaig would be the way to go, I think.


Bowmore 12 yr. is what I've been drinking.

Less distinctive! Like I said, I'm new to whiskey, but that Bowmore practically tattooed my tastebuds. It was like drinking a good cigar! It's hard to imagine anything more distinctive! I'll keep my eyeballs peeled for the Lagavulin and Laphroaig.

@Brewmaster - I'm going to drop some hints re that 18 year Glenfiddich. Birthday's coming up and there's always Father's Day too.

@Althouse: Agreed - I just need to be convinced that a $65 bottle of whiskey is significantly better than a $45 bottle of whiskey. From what I've been told by people who know a lot more about it than me, it's not likely.

Also, if any of you are into blends, check out the Compass Box King St. Artist's Blend.

Astro said...

No surprise to me. I've thought for a long time that Scottish whiskys are over rated compared to certain other whiskeys. I'd take a relatively inexpensive Irish like Tullamore Dew over the best Scot single malts. Here is the US, the small batch Knob Creek is quite good.

The Farmer said...

And if you live in WI and like rye, they just recently started selling Templeton up here. Great stuff.

Tim said...

"...they just recently started selling Templeton up here. Great stuff."

Concur. But it's more expensive than the Bulleit Rye, which is a really good Rye at less than $25 per 750ml. And, for making Manhattans, it is more than good.

Mitch H. said...

Astro, isn't Knob Creek bourbon? I've found that you can't really compare bourbon and bourbon-esque Canadian whiskeys with scotch and scotch-esque Irish whiskeys. Me, I can't stand scotch, it tastes like somebody used an old spice rack for a filter. Helps that good bourbon is a hell of a lot cheaper than scotch in general, let alone allegedly good scotch.

Tim said...

"I'd take a relatively inexpensive Irish like Tullamore Dew over the best Scot single malts."

LOVE Tullamore Dew. One of my favorite Irish Whiskeys. I also like the Bushmill's Black Bush, as well as the Redbreast. Knappogue Castle Single-Malt Irish is also very good, if not somewhat esoteric.

The Buena Vista (in S.F.) also uses Tullamore in their Irish Coffees; very nice.

ndspinelli said...

Althouse, one doesn't need to present a case for indulging in a small extravagance. I'm not a spender @ all. Hell, I hardly ever shop, except for food. But, if I want to spend $24 pound for some fresh halibut[half that in San Diego where I'll be next week], or $40 for some small batch Four Roses, I don't bat an eye. I worked hard all my life and dammit, I deserve it!

The Farmer said...

Tim said...
"...they just recently started selling Templeton up here. Great stuff."

Concur. But it's more expensive than the Bulleit Rye, which is a really good Rye at less than $25 per 750ml. And, for making Manhattans, it is more than good.


It's fine for Manhattans I guess but I really don't like Bulleit rye. It tastes more like bourbon than rye to me.

Alex said...

bagoh - I can easily tell the difference between cheap whisky and the better stuff like Gentleman's Jack.

drozz said...

it's the judgement of paris all over again

FleetUSA said...

As the good Professor notes, if you pay more you drink less and savor it.

Hence, the best IMO and smokiest is 25 year old Laphroaig from the isle of Islay.

Just the whiff of one small ounce is ecstasy to be imbibed on very special occasions.

Alex said...

I just ordered a bottle of the Texas single-malt for $65.

Rusty said...

Alex said...
bagoh - I can easily tell the difference between cheap whisky and the better stuff like Gentleman's Jack


Drink enough Kesslers Deluxe and it won't matter.

Chip Tate said...

Thanks for the post and all the good comments.

I will add only one point to the price debate. Many folks forget to look at the ABV of the whisky they buy. Most whiskies on the shelf are at 40 or 43% ABV. Others, like our single malt, are bottled at significantly higher ABVs. Given that most whiskies come out of the cask at between 58 and 64% ABV, the final level of alcohol in the bottle is dictated by how much water the distiller adds. Most distillers choose a lower bottling proof to save money and or charge less for the bottle, but it just means that there's less actual whisky in the bottle you're buying. I prefer to let you add your own water, if that's your preference.

Take home message: water is cheaper than whisky. Take this in to consideration when comparing bottle prices.

Thanks again!

Chip Tate
Founder and Head Distiller

Sam L. said...

Texas! Best place in the WORLD!

Eric Powers said...

Good for Waco, American single malt could become the next big thing. http://boozeandsuits.com