Here come new whiskey flavors

While not as pronounced as pineapple gin, bourbon aged in maple and wine barrels instead of oak creates spicier, richer varieties.

By Jason Notte Mar 20, 2013 8:30AM
File photo of bourbon barrels at the Woodford Reserve distillery in Versailles, Ky. ( Ed Reinke/AP)Mention "flavored whiskey" to your average scotch or bourbon drinkers, and it'll likely be enough to make them jump out of their seats, find the nearest bottle of root beer vodka and crack you over the head with it.

Bourbon whiskey doesn't play that game. It's not the tarted-up top-shelf celebrity that pineapple gin and whipped cream vodka are. Centuries of tradition provide its flavor. Generations of appreciators make up its entourage.

Bourbon isn't partied with, it's contemplated and enjoyed. That said, Scientific American notes that modern, more experimental distillers are studying the wood in whiskey barrels to see just how much they can toy with bourbon's flavor.

Just about the only simple portion of a bourbon's life is when it's poured into the glass. First it has to sit in American white oak barrels that are cooked, toasted and seasoned to leach a bit of coconut flavor into the mix.

Once distilled, whiskey enters those charred oak barrels to age. Chemical interactions within the barrel gives the whiskey flavors of vanilla, caramel, spice, toast, smoke, coconut, coffee and mocha. Vapor and barometric pressure push the liquid deep inside the wood, bringing out more intense flavor notes, which makes it a really good idea to stack the barrels of the good stuff as high as you can in your multistory warehouse.

Distillers like Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Ky., and Brown-Forman (BF.A)-owned Woodford Reserve have started messing with the chemistry within those barrels a bit to create new flavors. We're not talking about cheap gimmickry like blueberry whiskey, but enhanced notes of chocolate, nut and dark cherry that Woodford Reserve achieved by aging its 2012 "Four Wood" whiskey in maple barrels that once held fortified wine.

When both Brooklyn hipsters and heritage-minded Southerners feel like "experimenting" with whiskey, they bust out the stills and start making moonshine. But bourbon experimentation is both frowned upon and actively discouraged. Beam's (BEAM) Maker's Mark got a pass when it spiced up its Maker's 46 whiskey by putting it in French oak wine barrels. However, when the company tinkered with Maker's Mark's alcohol content in February, its followers didn't show any appreciation.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council trade association, whiskey made up a whopping 70% of the $1.5 billion in liquor the group estimates the U.S. exported in 2012. That's triple the nation's beer exports and $250 million more than its overseas wine shipments. While that supports distillers who don't want to mess with success, it has also provided Buffalo Trace with motivation to perform more than 1,500 barrel-aging experiments since 1987.

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Mar 20, 2013 8:53AM
Put on a skirt if you want flavored bourbon.
Mar 20, 2013 9:56AM
The flovor of bourbon should NOT be messed with
Mar 20, 2013 10:19AM
Speaking from a legal stand-point, if it isn't matured in white oak barrels, it isn't bourbon. It's whisk(e)y. I can appreciate changes in the palate and nose that occur with changing the maturation process, but I doubt it will be called bourbon. If anything, it will be advertised in a similar fashion to how Woodford does so now - "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey MATURED IN." That is, distilled in a fashion similar to bourbon and perhaps partially matured the same way, but not bourbon. So, no need to freak out, it'll all be okay. Let people spend their money and enjoy their alcohol however they want, it is meant to be fun after all.
Mar 20, 2013 10:16AM
Age it in whatever you want...just dont call it Bourbon.
Mar 20, 2013 11:20AM
Jack is NOT bourbon, it is whiskey, which is an inferior product. Nt that it is not a fine alcohol, but it is NOT bourbon. 

Jack Daniels is not a Bourbon Whiskey. In fact Jack Daniels is almost in a class of it's own.

. It should come as no surprise that Tennessee Whiskey MUST be produced in the state of Tennessee, and is always filtered through Sugar Maple Charcoal. Tennessee Whiskey was officially recognised as its own form of Whiskey in 1941.

The key requirements for a Whiskey to be classified as a bourbon.

The grain mixture of which Bourbon is made must contain ATLEAST 51% Corn.

Bourbon must be produced at no more than 160 proof (U.S) (80% alcohol by volume)

Bourbon must be stored at no more than 125 Proof (U.S) (62.5% alcohol by volume)

and it MUST be stored in NEW Charred Oak Containers.

Mar 20, 2013 11:40AM
WOW! More flavors. We're putting lime in beer and honey in Whiskey. I knew we were doomed when men started wearing flip-flops out to bars.
Mar 20, 2013 10:39AM
Mar 20, 2013 10:49AM
Jim Beam's been doing it for years....  it's called Red Stag.
Mar 20, 2013 10:43AM
That all being said... Has anyone tried Devil's cut yet? I'm looking for a couple of reviews before buying a bottle. To date I drink Maker's Mark, Knobs Creek or Woodford Reserve. I enjoy the complexity and flavor differences produced by techniques,  not infusions.

Mar 20, 2013 12:37PM
RUstpd ---> I am a woman and wear a skirt, yet I would hurt the man that pours fruity flavors in my bourbon! or my whiskey for that matter!!
Mar 20, 2013 12:26PM

Don't mess with bourbon or scotch. I'm a scotch drinker and wouldn't appreciate any tampering with my single malt or black label.

Screw with vodka all you want....who care's its a neutral spirit. Leave the standards alone please!

Mar 20, 2013 10:27AM
lol bourbon is to be appreciated as BOURBON... wow there's a sucker to buy almost everything some idiot makes
Mar 20, 2013 12:16PM
This is an obvious push for the young inexperienced taste buds that gulp down flavored vodkas.  All infusions,  no complexity,  neutral flavor. At least they  are discovering cocktails now, moving away from binging on shots and shooters. just another business model looking to cash in on the latest trend.
Mar 20, 2013 12:10PM

In no small way, Scotch is a flavored Whiskey. Before it is distilled the barley Scotch is made from is toasted over a peat fire. The distinctive flavor of Scotch is from the smoke.

Mar 20, 2013 1:01PM
Single-malt Scotches are matured in barrels that have previously held wine, sherry, or even bourbon. These generally add sophisticated notes and flavors, and of course have different effects based on the water, the air, the soil (peat), the barley malting, etc. Don't quite see why bourbon couldn't benefit in some cases from this treatment. It'd have to be labeled an "expression" and not specifically Bourbon, but that could be done.
Mar 20, 2013 12:52PM

While I love Crown Royal, it's not a bourbon. Neither is Jack Daniels; another BLENDED whiskey. Makers Mark is good though if you truly want a fine BOURBON, some call 'slow sippin' bourbon, try Basil Hayden's or Four Roses. Now that's fine liquor !


If you want some flavored 'whiskey', you can distil any fruit and have that particular flavor alcohol. Raspberries, strawberries', bananas' make fine whiskeys which actually are more akin to fortified wine-with a hell of lot more 'kick'.

Mar 20, 2013 3:16PM

The best drink of any kind...Is what you like or prefer..?


Don't sell out to a Fad.


Doesn't even have to be alcohol...

Mar 20, 2013 12:07PM
I will just stick to my Wild Turkey. Not the honey crap, just 101. Or, when I feel like splurging a little, I will get a bottle of Rare Breed.
Mar 20, 2013 1:24PM

I think the best Bourbon is Woodford Reserve, Jefferson Reserve is good, too I use 4 Roses to make a Mint Julep when I watch the Kentucky Derby,

I have both a 16 year old and a 21 year old Islay single malt Scotch.. I drink them neat with water on the side.

Best Vodka is Pearl from Canada. Best gin is Bombay Sapphire. I use anchovy stuffed olives in my martinis.

I worked as a bartender in college. A few of us know what s really superb.


Mar 20, 2013 3:54PM
If it ain't broke, Don't fix it.... and believe me, it ain't broke...
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