bourbon barrels

Charring oak barrels for bourbon (from the NY Times)

There’s an interesting article in the New York Times online Christmas Day edition about the growing popularity of bourbon and some great pix of the bourbon-making process. For starters there’s this Manhattan recipe by Karla Ramsey that won a recent drink-mixing contest:

2 ounces Woodford Reserve Bourbon

1 ounce each of apple brandy and sweet vermouth

2 splashes bitters

1 red apple slice and 1 cinnamon stick, for garnish

Shake the liquid with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with the apple slice and the cinnamon stick. Light the cinnamon on fire!

Yes. “Light the cinnamon on fire!”

On the other hand, and a slight cause for alarm from my perspective, the article tells how the various bourbon distillers are putting more and more effort into creating flavored bourbons, those boutique-esque concoctions they put front and center in liquor stores to try to win women over to the world of whiskey. Bourbon-and-honey, bourbon-and-cinnamon, etc. Oh well.

What I’m curious about is how did it ever come about that someone decided that whiskey would taste better if it was stored in a burned barrel? I just don’t see two guys sitting around tasting their latest brew…

Guy #1: Tastes pretty good but it needs something.

Guy #2: Maybe if we added some molasses it would give it a slight caramel flavor and color.

Guy #1: Instead, let’s try burning the inside of the barrels.

Guy #2: Why would that work?

Guy #1: Haven’t you ever tasted a burnt stick?

Guy #2: Oh. Top me off, would you.

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