“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” -Mark Twain
Trendsetters are apt to agree with Twain because 2014 promises to be a big year for whiskey, or whisky, depending on where you are from. Since the 15th century, this spirit has been made and used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Regardless of the reason for imbibing, whisk[e]y has definitive feel-good properties, but it can be pretty confusing for the average consumer to navigate, too. With so many different ways of distilling it — not to mention two different ways of spelling it — and brands and flavors galore, this is one trend that can benefit from a breakdown.
To “e” or Not to “e”
Whiskey [or whisky] is a broad term for a type of spirit that is distilled at less than 190 proof, from a fermented mash of grains, and then stored in oak casks. There are unlimited varieties of whiskey, the most mainstream of which include Bourbon, Rye, Canadian, Irish, Scotch and Tennessee. Each variety is manufactured and named according to the regulations set forth by the country where it is made, hence the “e” — or lack thereof — when it comes to spelling. Spirits produced in America and Ireland tend to be spelled with the “e” while those produced in Canada, Japan, and Scotland are often without it.
The Flavor Game
In 2009, Jim Beam released a bourbon called Red Stag with a strong black cherry flavor that mixed especially well with cola. Consumers went crazy for it, leading distillers to hop on the flavored whiskey bandwagon. First came the cherry copycats, and then cinnamon. After cinnamon came honey, due in large part to a resurgence in popularity of Wild Turkey American Honey, which has been in production for decades. Dewar’s, who had previously shied away from the flavor game, even came to play with Highlander Honey whisky.
On the heels of honey appeared sugary-sweet maple flavors. Forecasters predict that maple will continue to trend for 2014 with big name brands like Crown Royal, Knob Creek, and Jim Beam already out of the gate with maple-flavored varieties. These infusions were particularly popular on fall & winter cocktail menus, since they are perfect for spiking cold-weather drinks like mulled ciders and toddies.
Luck of the Irish
A lot of buzz surrounds Irish whiskey in the month of March, but industry insiders say we can expect that buzz to continue year-round. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, this sector has exploded, with sales increasing by 17.5% in 2013 alone. These numbers are on track to continue upward in 2014. According to Jack McGarry, head bartender at The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog in New York City, when it comes to ordering, “most drinkers will choose Jameson Original,” but he aims to show them that the scope and versatility of Irish whiskey expands far beyond the tried-and-true. As a result, The Dead Rabbit has dedicated over half of their new menu to cocktails made with the spirit.
Keep the luck of the Irish with you by indulging in this easy-to-make whiskey cocktail at home!
1 Ounce Coffee-Flavored Liqueur (Such as Kahlua)
1 Ounce Irish Whiskey
½ Ounce Heavy Cream
Splash of Crème de Menthe
Pour the first 3 ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain and pour over ice, topping with a splash of Crème de Menthe.