What can you say about a year in which self-styled American patriots made tea their drink of choice—nay, worse, their drink of identity? Tea! Where does tea come from? China. India. Burundi. The best you can say about this tea-partying year is that it’s almost over. And while you say it, reach for a glass of something both righteous and indigenous, American whiskey—a great bourbon, or a great rye. We’re coming to the close of a decade of incessant chatter about American decline, but—even as our wars dragged on and our global reputation grew sketchier and our economy cratered and our legislators grew ever more insupportable—one thing that America has been getting better and better at is making world-class whiskey, single-barrel and small-batch stuff of the first order. And yet, as a foreign correspondent, I have always had to bring my own with me, because—American hegemony be damned—try finding a proper Kentucky bourbon or rye alongside Johnny Walker and J&B in the bars of Kampong Cham, Cambodia, or the cabarets of Kisangani, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or even in most cafés in France.On the less expensive side: Don't overlook Evan Williams Black Label: 86 proof, yet smooth, with body and a lovely back-flavor.
You can read elsewhere about their hints of leather and clove, vanilla or citrus, and the hot and the sweet of their finish on the tongue. Sure, that’s all there, I suppose. But if the world is too much with you and you just want to know what to sip when masked gunmen take hostages, or what to turn to when those hostages are released, what bourbon is so balanced that it can serve as an antidote to watching a stolen election, and what rye is rye enough to bring you relief when you’re reminded of Kim Jong Il’s finger on the missile-launch buttons—I’m going to tell you my ten favorite, not-too-hard-to-find-in-America indigenous whiskeys, and let you match them to the occasion according to your tastes. None of them costs much more than a night of beers at most American bars. And all of them, one by one, or taken together, could immunize you forever against tea-partying.
1. Four Roses, Single Barrel
2. Noah’s Mill
3. Rowan’s Creek
4. Russell’s Reserve
5. Pappy Van Winkle, 15 year
6. Michter’s Rye
9. Sazerac Rye
O.K.—so that’s nine, but it feels like ten…
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Ten American Whiskeys that Made the World News in 2010 a Bit Less Unbearable
By Phil Gourevitch (The New Yorker: