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From preventing sepsis on the battlefield, to soothing the gums of young babies, to taking the edge off after a long week at the office, whiskey has always offered us a cure for what ails us. In the 1577 tell all, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, historian and obvious fount of infinite wisdom Raphaël Holinshed let it be known that, “Being moderately taken, it slows the age, cuts phlegm, helps digestion, cures the dropsy, it heals the strangulation, keeps and preserves the head from whirling, the tongue from lisping, the stomach from womblying, the guts from rumbling, the hands from shivering, the bones from aching….” What he didn’t know at the time is that it can make a custom built bicycle beam with class.
Small batch bourbon is all the rage. Going from the hills of Kentucky’s Bourbon County to the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show, whiskey has a way of putting a spell on you. In 2017, Chris King Precision Components unveiled their Matte Bourbon line of components and custom frame builders went bananas.
While at NAHBS in 2017, the Matte Bourbon was a “show only” option, the colorway is now available for a limited run direct to you and me, and just like small batch whiskies, it will add a touch of gentlemanly sophistication to your well appointed ride. Santa Cruz, California’s Caletti Cycles went with a little whiskey on their gravel build for the Chris King Open House, which coincided with their new color release. John Caletti wanted to do something a little different and the Matte Bourbon inspired him.
“The paint design has a few inspirations. We’ve been wanting to explore more with the ‘dazzle camouflage’ concept which breaks up the outline and hides the shapes. It has an interesting history being developed for wartime use. We have also been using this ‘blue whale’ color more recently and really enjoying it. The color and vibe feels like home—riding near the big, dark Pacific Ocean with the deep Sea Canyon right off our shores, home to many whales. Stepping back a bit…the project was for the Chris King open house and their new color release. I selected the Matte Bourbon as it’s unique, unusual in the bike world, and wanted to do something that looked nice with it, but not try to direct match it. I figured others would do tan colors or black with orange/yellow, or just bare titanium – so I was looking to have a finish that was unpredictable. “
The Whiskey World
History holds that the first mention of whiskey was in Ireland, circa 1405. An Irish chieftain may have drank himself to death, and there was evidence of whisky in Scotland (spelled without an ‘e’) in 1494, but what has become evident is that whiskey, in any spelling, has taken the world by storm, either by sheer force of will, or elegance and finesse. From the shores of Scotland, the hills of Kentucky and across the United States to the finely tuned precision of Japan, whiskey has the world’s attention like it never has before.
While American whiskey was born in the hills outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (see the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794), the iconic Bourbon County, Kentucky, corn whiskies are synonymous with the American spirit. Bourbon can come from anywhere in the United States as long as it follows two regulations: The mash bill must be comprised of at least 51 percent corn grain, and the whiskey has to be aged in a new charred barrel. Beyond that, distillers are free to make bourbon throughout the United States, though 95 percent of bourbon is still produced in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky.
OOLA Distillery Waitsburg Bourbon Whiskey
Using Waitsburg corn and rye and Washington state soft white winter wheat, this is a study in smooth. The Seattle distillery uses bigger barrels to manage oak impacts and ages this bourbon for five years. The classic American flavors of brown sugar and maple syrup shine through without the woody harshness that can result from extended micro-barrelling. Its mellow tannins and complex layers unfold into a finish of buttery oak, toffee and again the brightness of fresh cherries. It is a bargain, too, at about $45. ooladistillery.com
While the industry has grown, there remain two names of real note in Japanese whisky: Suntory and Nikka. The common thread between them is one man: Masataka Taketsuru. When Suntory, Japan’s first whisky, launched, it was Taketsuru who was the distiller. He would eventually go on to launch his own whisky company at Nikka. As Japanese whisky (spelled without the e as a nod to its Scottish origins, where Taketsuru learned the trade) has come to the forefront of the whisky world, it’s rare to see one person be as essential to the entire spirits culture the way Taketsuru has.
Nikka Whisky from the Barrel
This bottling, often referred to as “FTB,” is a delectable bargain in the $50-$60 range. A blend of grain whiskies from their two distilleries at Yoichi and Miyagikyo, as well as malted whiskey from a wild variety of different aging casks, including bourbon barrels, sherry butts and refill hogsheads, this masterful blend reliably offers a depth of flavor that is tough to beat in the frenzied whisky market. And certainly, given the rarity of Japanese whiskies available, I recommend buying this every single time you lay eyes on a bottle. $55 nikka.com
While the Irish claim they got there first, few places remain as tied to any particular spirit as Scotland is to its whisky. Most known for peated, malted whiskey aged at least three years in oak barrels, Scotland has become synonymous with the smoky flavor profile created when peat smoke is used to dry malted barley. In a land without lumber, peat was the fuel the heated homes and fueled distillery kilns. The length of exposure to peat smoke corresponds precisely to just how “peaty” any given scotch may be.
Daftmill 2006 Summer Batch Single Malt Whisky
While the most famed scotches come from Speyside and Islay, there are in fact distilleries in the Lowlands (only nine of them). Daftmill is one, and happens to be an active farm. At Daftmill, in the Howe of Fife, they grow grain and potatoes, along with carrots and broccoli, and raise beef cattle. There are two lulls in the farmer’s life; at Daftmill, they put those breaks in winter, and then again in summer after everything is harvested, to good use, by making booze. The barley wheat grown on the farm is used for the whisky, and then that spent grain can be used again for cattle feed. The water used to cool their two copper stills goes back out to the farm as well. The whisky itself is a small production and priced accordingly. They only make one hundred barrels each year in total (in contrast to Macallan, which may make more like 45,000 barrels of whisky a year), and Daftmill selected just seven barrels to blend for an exclusive U.S. export. The 14-year-old summer batch is a beautiful golden hue, with aromas of vanilla and toffee and incredible lengthy finish coated in honey and marzipan. For serious scotch aficionados at $250. daftmill.com