Monday, November 26, 2012

Albany Distilling's young bourbon ready for unveiling

ALBANY -- Albany's new distillery is rolling out its second product just a month after it debuted its first. 

The Albany Distilling Company's three-month-aged Ironweed Bourbon Whiskey will make its debut at the Orchard Creek Golf Club at 7 p.m. Friday, December 7. The club is located at 6700 Dunnsville Road in Altamont. The whiskey is made from New York State grain.

Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door, and may be reserved by calling 861-5000 extension 2. In addition to whiskey sampling, food, music and cigars are promised.

Ironweed will be available for purchase beginning December 8 at the distillery, located behind Quackenbush Square in downtown Albany. Price: $44 for the 750ml bottle. Also available are bottles of the unaged Coal Yard New Make Whiskey that was released in early October as part of the fledgling company's grand opening.

The definition of whiskey, by the way, is a liquor produced from the fermented mash of grains such as barley, corn, and rye. That would include the likes of Canadian or Scotch whisky (no "e''), Irish whiskey, rye and bourbon. Bourbon, however, is a special case.

All bourbons are whiskies, but not all whiskies are bourbons. The formal definition of bourbon -- although the spirit had been around for 200 or so years -- was codified on May 4, 1964, by a Congressional resolution recognizing bourbon whiskey as "a product characteristic of the U.S. Federal Standards of Identity."

The requirements were that it be a minimum of two years old, at least 80 proof (40% alcohol), made from a mash of at least 51% corn -- although most large producers use more than 70% -- and aged in charred new American white oak barrels. Contrary to popular belief, it does not have to be made in Kentucky.

And, such Tennessee whiskies as Jack Daniel's are not bourbons. They are a niche of bourbon-style spirits that are filtered through maple charcoal, something known as the Lincoln County process. 

Labeling is an intricate process in the world of spirits manufacture. Any deviation from the aging norm needs to be clearly marked on the label. And, if a whiskey of any sort is a blend, it cannot be labeled any older than the youngest of its components: i.e., if you blend an 8-year-old spirit with a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old, you cannot call it anything but 2-year-old. Any bourbon, for example, aged at least two years can be called Straight Bourbon; anything aged under two years must have its age on the label.

Tuthilltown Spirits in Ulster County has been making bourbons for several years -- Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey, listed as "aged under four years," and Hudson Baby Bourbon, aged just three months.

Matt Jager, co-owner with John Curtin of Albany Distilling, told me today that the age of their Ironweed Bourbon will be on the back label. The first batch was made September 1 and bottled on November 1. Jager said another batch is being aged for six months in 25-gallon casks and next spring they plan to fill 5-gallon barrels that will age for two years.

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