What's bourbon

It’s a spirit made from a grain mixture that contains at least 51-percent corn – the rest being rye, barley or wheat. While produced mainly in Kentucky, bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States – but it must be aged in new American white-oak barrels that have been charred on the inside.

A fabulous cocktail base

Bourbon is the base for cocktail classics like the old-fashioned, the mint julep or the Boulevardier (a variation of the Negroni, with vermouth and Campari). Molly Superfine-Rivera, who co-owns the Montreal restaurant Marconi, is a keen bourbon aficionado since her cocktail days at famed New York bars. Her very own cocktails include Letters From a Farm (bourbon, curry-infused sugar-cane syrup, coconut water, agricultural rum, lime juice and spiced bitters).

Bourbon is also for sipping

Superfine-Rivera is convinced that Quebecers will eventually reach a point where they’ll enjoy the pleasure of tasting bourbon on its own, if only to appreciate its versatility and complexity. “Some are spicy or smoky, others hint of cereals or forest undergrowth. I help clients discover the American whiskey by mixing it into cocktails – and they’re definitely catching on.”

Authenticity and mythical vintages

Bourbon owes its renaissance to a historically authentic image. Knob Creek is a perfect case in point. It’s known for its flavourful and intense bourbon, “patiently aged and produced in limited quantities.” The trend has even triggered a veritable stampede around producers like William Weller and Pappy Van Winkle, whose best bottles sell for thousands of dollars each.

Whisky or bourbon?

Whiskies (whisky, singular) are part of a large family of spirits whose defining trait is that they’re distilled from grain. American and Irish whiskey is spelled with an “e”; whiskies that are distilled and aged in Scotland are called Scotches; in Canada, whisky is often referred to as “rye”. Bourbon is also a whisky, but is made primarily with corn. All these delectable spirits are indeed whiskies, and each has their own distinctive characteristics!


Illustrations: Valérie Bertrand