Rent seeking: Alcohol edition

While reading an article on bourbon and scotch, this snippet caught my eye:

Whisky, they say, can be made anywhere in the world – even in Australia – with anything. Bourbon, on the other hand, can only be produced in the US and is the most heavily regulated product in the world, Jimmy says.

“Our federal government tells you how you have to make bourbon,” he says. “It has to be made from at least 51 per cent corn, under 80 per cent alcohol and must be put in new charred white-oak oak barrels. No flavour, no colour, no nothing can be added to bourbon. All the colour comes from ageing it in that new charred-oak barrel which can only be used one time.”

Corn* farmers and (especially) barrel makers have managed to lobby the US government for special privilege. Not that we scotch lovers should complain too much. Scotch is aged in second hand bourbon casks** – and the US regulations ensure a regular and secure supply of second hand bourbon barrels.

* my favourite blend Chivas has a corn base that I tasted when I visited the Strathisla distillery – I didn’t finish the taster and the tour guide said that nobody ever did.
** and in second hand sherry casks for some brands.

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12 Responses to Rent seeking: Alcohol edition

  1. Bruce in WA

    Was given a glass of triple wood Laphroiag last night.

    An orgasm in a glass.

  2. rebel with cause

    A bit more info Sinc: Spanish Government regulation of Sherry exports has also encouraged the switch of many Scottish distilleries to ex-bourbon casks for finishing.

    This is because in 1981 the Spanish Government banned its sherry producers from using wooden transport casks to export sherry from Spain (the Sherry region is in Spain). This ended a centuries old tradition of shipping sherry around the world in transport casks. Theses casks had formerly been used by many of the distilleries in Scotland but since the ban the price of ex-transport sherry casks is now more than 10 times the price of ex-bourbon casks, so Scottish distilleries have switched to bourbon casks. You can find more info here.

    That’s one reason why Australian whiskey’s have been popular as many local producers have access to wooden casks from our local sherry producers (or apera as it is called if made here). This gives Australian whiskey a flavor somewhat similar to that of Scotch produced prior to the 1980s.

  3. jupes

    and in second hand sherry casks for some brands.

    Limeburners from Albany in WA produce whisky from Bourbon, Sherry, Port and Muscat casks.

    Their heavy peated single malt just won a gold medal at the International Wine and Spirit Awards in London.

  4. Rabz

    So your favourite petrol is made from corn?

  5. Oh come on

    Bourbon – blergh. Tastes like a sauna.

  6. Pat O'Connor

    Wife and I spent a couple of days in Hobart last Autumn and it was a choice of visiting MONA or doing the half day Lark distillery tour. No brainer really – Lark won hands down.

  7. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    Bourbon – blergh. Tastes like a sauna.

    Wouldn’t rot my liver with bourbon.

  8. Obviously you can make bourbon however you want. You just can’t call it bourbon. Similar to “champagne” or “camembert” cheese.

    Jack Daniel’s is basically Bourbon but it’s not called that.

  9. Oh come on

    I’ve heard some of the expensive bourbons (Jim Beam Small Batch etc) are palatable, but I don’t care to find out for myself. Frankly, if I’m spending $90+ on a bottle of spirits, it’s going to be a brandy (Cognac or Armagnac, although we make fine top shelf brandies in Oz – one of our best-kept secrets, actually) or a single malt.

  10. GoTiges

    On an impulse last time through duty free I picked up a small batch bundy and Cointreau Noir (Cointreau and cognac blend). Both surprisingly good.

    Does anyone know how long they have been scanning passports for duty free purchases and what they do with the info? All those m&ms I bought were for my nieces and nephews – honestly!

  11. Bourbon tastes like “Liquid Chipboard”. I’m able to report this as I once had a sip of the stuff.

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