U.S. whiskey makers take on tradition with a twist

Tue May 17, 2011 6:33pm EDT
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By Martinne Geller

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) - In Loretto, Kentucky, Greg Davis of Maker's Mark carries on an old family tradition of making bourbon with red winter wheat to stimulate taste buds in the front of the mouth.

In Lynchburg, Tennessee, Jack Daniels' Jeff Arnett follows another tradition, filtering with sugar maple charcoal for a mellower taste.

And in Nashville, Darek Bell and Andrew Webber are using new ingredients like imperial stout and pumpkin pie flavorings to make whiskeys that appeal to newer drinkers.

Welcome to American Whiskey country. Here, start-ups like Corsair Artisan Distillery are adding an entrepreneurial flavor to a burgeoning home-grown industry that is rolling out more sophisticated products to increase sales and stand against Old World makers from Scotland and Ireland, where whiskey dates back centuries.

"We'll get to the stature (of Scotch whisky), but I don't think we'll get to the size," said Chris Morris, master distiller at Woodford Reserve, a distillery where Brown-Forman Corp makes high-end bourbon in small batches.

Woodford sits in a part of Kentucky where an abundance of limestone in the water is said to strengthen the bones of thoroughbreds and give the grass a bluish hue.

"It'll be brands like Woodford Reserve, Maker's Mark and Knob Creek that raise the stature on the back of workhorses like Jack Daniel's that opened the door and let us in," he said.

SMALL BUT SWEET   Continued...

<p>Bottles showing the barrel aging process are seen at the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee May 10, 2011. REUTERS/ Martinne Geller</p>