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SAM WYLIE-HARRIS heads to the birthplace of bourbon and discovers there's nothing old-fashioned about this classic American whiskey FAMOUS for its bourbon, bluegrass music and thoroughbred horses, Kentucky is the birthplace of quintessentially American whiskey and for a slice of Americana, this authentic serve is the perfect introduction to distilled spirits made mainly from 'sweet corn'.

Sweeter and much more versatile than Scotch whisky, by law, bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn and aged in new, charred white oak barrels for a minimum of two years.

Other grains such as barley, malt, rye and wheat make up the recipe, and the mash pulls its flavour from the new oak casks which impart plenty of woody sweetness, vanilla notes and a creamy sweetness from the corn.

Questions about the difference between bourbon whiskey and Jack Daniels often arise as it's a common misconception that America's best-selling whiskey, from neighbouring Tennessee, is a bourbon. The simple answer is that after it's distilled, JD is filtered through sugar-maple charcoal - so it's a bourbon-style whiskey - but not a bourbon which takes its name from Bourbon County.

Testament to bourbon's rich heritage and legacy, some distillers have family ties that go back to the state's pioneer whiskey-making days, saloon bars and gun fights.

One of Kentucky's greats, Maker's Mark (PS29.50, 70cl, 45% abv, Sainsbury's) enjoys a cult following. A smooth operator, the mixture of 70% corn, barley and red winter wheat offers aromas of spiced ginger, cocoa and vanilla with butterscotch, warm leather and spice on the lush finish.

The dynamics that go into Woodford Reserve (PS31.50, 70cl, 43.2%, Waitrose), which hails from America's oldest and smallest distillery in the heart of the bluegrass region, are on the same par, but the taste is quite different. Hand-crafted in small batches and triple distilled (same as Irish whiskey) in copper pot stills, it's more fragrant and fruity with butterscotch, toffee and caramel flavours finishing with lingering soft spice and a hint of chocolate.

The number one bestseller in the world, Jim Beam has a stable of bourbon and whiskey styles and while Jim Beam White (PS17.50, 70cl, 40% abv, Sainsbury's) remains a firm favourite, their latest edition is hard to resist.

Try Jim Beam Maple (PS19, 70cl, 35% abv, Tesco) which is blessed with sweet, smooth maple flavours, caramel, oak and cinnamon, and conjures thoughts of pancakes and maple syrup.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 20, 2014
Words:401
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