The good stuff doesn’t just come from Scotland or Japan, says Howard Lo.
In the context of American spirits, the term “whiskey” is an all-encompassing term that includes bourbon. The latter refers to spirits made from at least 51% corn, produced in America, has been stored in new, charred oak barrels, and distilled to no more than 160 proof.
“American whiskeys are generally made with a few types of grain, in particular, corn and rye, although some whiskeys are also distilled from quinoa or millet, ” shares Howard Lo, founder of The Secret Mermaid, a bar located in Raffles Place that specialises in American spirits. The “mash bill” refers to the percentage of each type of grain present in the whiskey.
Lo recommends a few of his favourites whiskeys and bourbons, here.
1. FEW Sprits Rye: A unique rye whiskey since it’s got a mash bill of 70% rye, 20% corn, and 10% malted barley. The addition of the malted barley in a rye whiskey is quite rare.
Tasting notes: Peppery
2. FEW Spirits Bourbon: Similar to the rye whiskey, but this time, the mash bill is 70% corn, 20% rye and 10% malted barley.
Tasting notes: Peppery and slightly sweet
3. Defiant Single Malt Whisky: Made with 100% malted barley, the ageing process involves wooden corkscrews. The distillery was founded by deep sea wreck divers who wanted something to do together when not on a dangerous mission.
Tasting notes: Peaty and sweet
4. Lost Spirits Leviathan III: This is peated at a level higher than the Islay whiskys (whiskys made on the Scottish island of Islay, which are usually characterised by their smoky flavour). It uses 100% California malted barley and Canadian peat which gives it a more foresty, grass-like smoke than the campfire smoke of Scottish whiskys. Aged in a sherry cask and bottled at cask strength (53% abv) and distilled using salt water. Lost Spirits has stopped producing this whiskey to focus on their rums and helping out other distilleries with their new reactor technology (that ages spirits to a flavor profile of 20 years after just six days!). The distiller, Bryan Davis, is known as the mad scientist of American craft distilling.
Tasting notes: Peaty and sweet
5. Lost Spirits Umami: Similar to the Leviathan but with a higher peat flavor as well as more saltwater used during the fermentation process. 59% abv. Also out of production (but still available at the Mermaid!).
Tasting notes: Peaty and briney
6. Koval Bourbon: A very unique mash bill of corn (at least 51%, required for bourbon) and then a grain that rarely used in the US, but that is heavily used in Asia and Africa – millet. Koval is known for making whisky from non-traditional grains like oat, millet, and quinoa.
Tasting notes: Mild, with a rounded sweetness
7. Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey: Around 45% corn, 45% rye, and 10% barley. What this means is it’s neither a rye whiskey nor a bourbon since neither rye or grain was at least 51% of the mash bill.
Tasting notes: Sweet, with a feathery, cotton candy-like texture.
8. Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye 92: One of the rare 100% rye whiskeys as most rye whiskeys will have a mixed mash bill.
Tasting notes: Slightly spicy with notes of banana
9. Pinckney Bend Rested American Whiskey: More corn whiskey than bourbon, it has 80% corn, 15% barley, and 5% rye. This is similar to what whiskey back in the 1800s would have been like. Aged for about a year.
Tasting notes: Sweet, punchy and reminiscent of cornbread
10. Dark Corner World’s Best Moonshine: A great unaged whiskey and a must-try to see what whiskey tastes like before entering the barrel. It’s a sweet, corn whiskey (84% corn, red winter wheat, and barley).
Tasting notes: Sweet and slightly spicy
All the whiskeys featured in this article are available in a tasting flight of three at The Secret Mermaid. Alternatively, check the board or menu for cocktails made from the featured whiskeys. The Secret Mermaid is at B1-08 Ocean Financial Centre.