For the last ten years or so, American whiskey has been going through a golden age. Sales records come one after another, with nine consecutive years of rising sales. Dozens of new distilleries are even popping up from traditional Scottish companies such as William Grants (of Glenfiddich and Balvenie) and with them a plethora of new whiskeys from classic and well-known bourbon to Organic Single Grain and smoked with apple and cherry wood.
But what is the cause of this miracle of American whiskey and can it continue? The reasons are many and complex, and we will try to break them down in this article. Many things have changed in the American whiskey industry since the 1990s. The successful microbreweries movement has given impetus and nourishment to the thinking of a new generation of distillers that have set out to create a new kind of whiskey that could compete in quality and taste with what the rest of the world had to offer. Next to these little ones, however, were found some giant companies that did various pioneering acts for the time.
In the wake of the bourbon law, many have decided to experiment with different varieties of cereals and mainly by ageing in “exotic” – for bourbon – barrels. Barrels that had previously ripened other drinks such as Sherry, Cognac, Rum, wines, etc. Barrels of different kinds of wood such as chestnut and maple. It doesn’t sound all that pioneering to anyone familiar with the Scotch whiskey industry, but in the bourbon-dominated America and its highly restrictive legislation, it was a second whiskey rebellion.
These “technical” changes quickly brought about the desired result. A whiskey that was mild in texture but with a rich and intense flavor that did not resemble the whiskey of the past. This “new” American whiskey immediately found interest and acceptance, initially in the field of professionals, writers, journalists, bartenders and later of course to the wider consumer public both inside and outside the US.
These changes in combination with other technical and economic issues not covered by this article have led to the global consumption of American whiskey soaring. But the miracle created by a generation of pioneers has been unfortunately threatened for a few months by a trade war between the US and the United States. and the rest of the world, because of the commercial tariffs instituted by the US President. Donald Trump and the retaliation imposed by the EU and other countries.
First publication in Greek: Beer & Bar Magazine, Issue 9