We’ve been hard at work transforming Castle Street Café into No10, and part of that work has me building an American Whiskey list that should delight any American whiskey lover, even while piquing the interest of others who may not know the category well.
What is American Whiskey? There is bourbon, there is rye, and then there are rye-heavy bourbons, corn-heavy ryes, and bourbons with little or no rye in the mash bill, but a good amount of wheat
grain (wheated bourbons), and ryes made up of little other grains (high ryes), these are all either bourbons or ryes, and straight, if aged long enough and assembled from barrels that are drawn from the same distillation, which means single barrel and small batch are straight whiskies, although not the only ones.
It is an exciting time for American whiskey. Small-scale distilleries are popping up in crazy numbers, even while most of American whiskey is being produced in distilleries own by only a handful of multinational conglomerates (well, there is at least one big independent). The types and varieties of American whiskey has never been broader and—especially with the small and local distilleries—more willing to try new grains, new formulations, new tastes.
There are now American whiskeys using only oats, or beer wash as the grain base, and other whiskeys that don’t have the proportions and ratios of corn or rye required to be called bourbon or rye. Some of the N010 offerings violate the bourbon and rye definitions by aging the liquor in other than virgin-charred American oak barrels. Certain whiskey styles—Scotch is the best example—are also now being made in the States, but No10 remains focused on the intrinsic American whiskey styles and the interesting variants thereof.
Prices for American whiskey have continued an upward climb and today high-end bourbons—the proverbial Papp van Winkles, for example—have become out of reach, both in regard to price and in terms of available inventory. This trend continues and the market is seeing a migration of well-considered mid-market bourbons and ryes toward higher and higher prices.
The main intention of the No10 American Whiskey shelf is to highlight the excellent whiskies that remain reasonably priced, although some of the selection is already falling victim to market demand and the constrained inventory to which aged liquors are susceptible.
When a market is strong, so is the temptation by some to profit from that market without doing the work: quite a few of the newest ryes, for example, come in great-looking bottles and carry names and stories that suggest ancient roots, but a taste tells the tale: severely underaged whiskey that is liable to put people off the category. These sorts of efforts are very much not part of our list.
Age statements are hard to come by, but diligence pays off; mash bills can offer the whiskey lover flavor guidance, and we’ve also included tasting notes for each of our offerings. I can speak from direct experience about many of the whiskeys on the list, but there are some that I’m looking forward to getting to know. Some of the tasting notes are mine, while others reflect a compiled consensus from trusted online and print whiskey reviews.
Here is one of seventy entries in the inaugural version of the No10 Whiskey List book, and a favorite of mine, mainly because it is a well-made corn-heavy bourbon and is well-priced:
Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Producer: Four Roses, Kirin Brewery Company of Japan
Mash Bill: Mix of Corn: 60%; Rye: 35%; Wheat: 0%; Barley
Age Statement: N/A
Tasting Notes: Nose offers toast, toffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, pit fruits and oak; Palate is velvety mouth-feel with raspberries, mild honey, cinnamon sugar, oak; Finish is moderately long with more honey, cinnamon and vanilla.
Price: $6, 1 oz.; $10, 2 oz.
Come on in, ask for the No10 Whiskey List, browse, and sip. We’re planning on selling glasses in small pours (one ounce) and regular pours (2 ounces), so those with an interest in exploring American Whiskeys can more easily do so. In fact, we’re kicking around the idea of an American Whiskey Club, where interested guests would be given their own No10 American Whiskey List book that would be configured with space for a guest to add his or her own tasting notes. Come on in—as soon as we open the doors!—and let me know what you think of the list and the idea of the whiskey club.