Epcot Food & Wine 2010 – The Great Whiskey Debate

The Great Whiskey (or is it Whisky) Debate

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Debate spectators awaiting a "spirited" presentation

Who & What: The Great Whiskey Debate , presented by Bobby “G” Gleason (moderator for Beam Global Spirits, master mixer), Dan Tulio (Canadian Club Whisky), Bernie Lubbers (Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey), and Simon Brooking (Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky)

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Bobby "G" Gleason from Beam Global Spirits

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Simon Brooking, Dan Tulio, and Bernie Lubbers

When: Friday October 15, 2010 2:00 pm

Where: Festival Center, Epcot

What We Learned:

US Government defines whiskey as a spirit made from grain, aged in wood, and tastes of whiskey <giggle>

We’re tasted three distinct indigenous styles of whisk(e)y

Canadian Club Whisky (here & here)

  • company has been distilling whisky since 1858
    • started in Detroit
    • prohibition caused the founder to move his distillery across the Detroit River to Ontario
  • aged for a minimum of 3 years and blended after it’s distilled
  • Canadian government sets forth whisy rules
  • barrels can be used as many times as they want
    • smoother flavor from repeated uses
  • they use once-used American white oak bourbon barrels
  • ingredients: corn, rye, barley, and water
    • corn produces a colorless, tasteless, and odorless alcohol
    • rye malt and barley malt create the flavors

Knob Creek Bourbon Whiskey (here & here)

  • ingredients: corn (at least 51%) and barley (5-10%) for sugars, rye for pepper & spice
  • distilled at lower proofs (< 160 proof)
    • lower proof distillations leave more flavors
  • bottled around 125 proof
  • barrels are new every time
  • can only add water
  • must be made in the USA
  • 1964 Congress made Bourbon the drink of the USA
  • darker, the higher temperatures in Kentucky cause the whiskey to move in and out of the barrel wood

Laphroaig Scotch Whisky (here & here)

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"If it's not scotch, it's crap"

  • the term “spirit” comes from the religious origins of scotch – it brings you closer to God
  • “whisky” come from the gaelic words for “water of life”
  • scotch was started in Ireland over 700 years ago and brought to Islay Scotland
  • in 1790 there were over 16,000 illegal stills in Scotland
  • today, there are 94 distilleries in Scotland
  • before the 1880’s brandy and soda was the most popular drink
    • due to a beetle that destroyed grape stocks, scotch and soda gained popularity and became the most popular drink
  • this distillery sells some of its single malt to blending companies (Johnny Walker is the main purchaser)
    • blended scotches drive the scotch market
  • Laphroaig is made on an old farm by approximately 24 people
    • tours and tastings are available
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L to R: Laphroaig single malt, Canadian Club, Knob Creek

Tasting Notes:

First taste should be straight up, if you’d like place a small sip of water in your mouth before second taste

Canadian Club Whisky

  • tasting a 6 year old whisky
  • Nick’s notes
    • nose is very peppery
    • first taste:
      • using the tequila tasting technique – no flavors are apparent
      • bland but slightly peppery
    • second taste:
      • flavorless, bland, nothing
  • Nora’s notes
    • very sweet & caramel-y
    • slightly spicy – peppery
    • bright gold

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

  • tasting a 9 year old bourbon
  • barrel notes: vanillas, maples, gingers
  • Nick’s notes
    • more flavorful, do the “Kentucky Chew” (you don’t swish the spirit in you mouth, you chew it)
      • more complex flavors but also more alcohol “vapor” in tasting
    • the second taste was “harsh”
  • Nora’s notes
    • spicy
    • warm (“that’s Kentucky wrapping its arms around your heart”)

Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

  • use Maker’s Mark barrels
  • tasting a 10 year old scotch
  • pure malted barley
  • Nick’s notes
    • first taste: nose is so different, can’t tell if the smell is good or not (?!), smokey but “sharp smokey” … too smokey for me
    • second taste: okay, a drop of water might make it really tasty
    • flavor isn’t bad… definitely the smoothest of the three!!!
  • Nora’s notes
    • sweet
    • smoky
    • meaty
    • peat definitely changes the flavors

The Debate – each presented was asked a single question

  • How can Canadian Club help the American Economy? (asked of Dan Tulio)
    • Hiram Walker, who started the distillery, was an American chemical engineer & all profits remain in the United States
    • 65% of the Canadian Club produced ends up in the United States
    • 60% of the grains used in production come from the American Midwest
    • company is owned by Jim Beam
    • all of which helps the American Economy
  • How can Bourbon bail out Obama and Health Care? (asked of Bernie Lubbers)
    • My daddy drank a quart of Kentucky bourbon every day & read five books per week (of course it was the same five books because he drank a quart of bourbon every day) and he lived 94 years as a very happy, productive, healthy old man
  • Does Scotch represent History or Innovation? (asked of Simon Brooking)
    • Scotch has innovated throughout history
    • peat has restorative properties – afterall, they find all kinds of things wonderfully preserved in peat bogs
    • we recycle by using Marker’s Mark bourbon barrels after you Americans have used them once

Final Thoughts:

  • very skimpy pours
    • this was a real nuisance as the presenters had decent pours and they would ask us to taste repeatedly and drink toasts – we simply didn’t have enough whiskey!
  • the presentation and the “debate team” were entertaining
    • very “Alton Brown” in style
  • when we signed up it was “sold” as a Jim Beam tasting & we had expected to be tasting only Jim Beam whiskies – especially since one of the drinks offered at the US Food & Wine booth is a lemonade made with Jim Beam Red Stag
  • at the end, we were asked to vote by applause for our favorite
    • it should come as no surprise that the Laphroaig single malt was our favorite
    • in order of preference for us: (1) Laphroaig single malt, (2) Knob Creek, and (3) Canadian Club (frankly, it would be okay for mixing, but we don’t consider it a sipping whisky)

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