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Learn more about American whiskey in new festival

American whiskey is versatile and can be enjoyed neat as well as in classic cocktails

Drinkers here might be familiar with their scotch and Japanese whisky, but it is time for their American counterparts to come to the fore, if spirits distributor Proof & Company has its way.

It is helming the inaugural edition of the Proof & Company Whiskey Weekend, which will be held on Saturday and May 21 at The Great Escape cafe-bar at Golden Mile Tower. Entry is $20 at the door and it runs from 3pm till late.

The celebration of American whiskey, spelt with an "e", comes at a time when there is a confluence of appreciation for, and availability of, such spirits in Singapore, says the company's "spirits evangelist" Joe Alessandroni.

"Singapore and Asia in general are very sophisticated as far as the appreciation of malt whisky goes, but the traditions and style of American whiskey are a little bit different," he says.

Unlike its stuffier, tradition-clad Scottish counterpart, he describes American whiskey as "approachable" and "democratic" enough for the everyman.

While single malts are enjoyed neat more often than used in cocktails, American whiskeys are a bit more versatile.

"You can have American whiskey neat as well, but it is a staple in classic cocktails and some things like rye whiskey are much better in cocktails than sipping neat," he says.

  • Know your spirits

  • Scotch whisky vs American whiskey
    More than just the letter "e" separates whisky and whiskey. Whether it is from Scotland or Kentucky, it is a distilled alcoholic drink made from fermented grain mash - be it wheat, rye, barley or corn. It is aged in wooden casks, which gives it a distinct brown colour and taste.

    In the case of Scotch whiskies, variations include single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain and blended scotch. American whiskeys include corn, malt and wheat whiskeys, but the most popular are bourbon and rye.

    Scotch
    Scotch must be produced in Scotland and is made from mostly malted barley and other cereal grains. It is legally required to have been aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years and the only permitted additives are water and caramel colouring. Examples include Johnnie Walker, Glenfiddich and Monkey Shoulder.

    Bourbon
    Bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. A strict set of rules has to be adhered to in order for the whiskey to be called bourbon. It must be made in the United States and contain 51 per cent corn. The corn mash makes it sweeter than rye whiskey. It must also be aged in new oak charred barrels, but unlike Scotch, there is no minimum age requirement. It must not contain any added flavouring, colouring or additives. Examples include Maker's Mark, Jim Beam and Knob Creek.

    Rye
    Rye whiskey is bourbon's older and spicier cousin and is made from a mash of at least 51 per cent rye. Rye whiskey that has been aged for at least two years and not blended with other spirits can also be called straight rye whiskey. Canadian whisky is sometimes referred to as rye whisky, even if it does not actually contain any rye, because of historical reasons. Examples of rye whisky include Sazerac and Whistlepig.

    Anjali Raguraman

  • WHISKEY WEEKEND
    Where: The Great Escape, 05-00 Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Road
    When: Saturday and May 21, 3pm to late
    Admission: $20 at the door
    Info: http://bit.ly/2r0oajC

You can sample some of the United States' finest, including Rebel Yell, Buffalo Trace, Maker's Mark and more, at the complimentary Whiskey Tasting Bar at the event.

There is also a Blind Tasting Booth on Saturday where, for $5, you will win a prize if you can identify three mystery whiskeys.

American whiskeys also have a longstanding tradition of being used in cocktails and paired with food. Hence, Mr Alessandroni says they want to recreate an American-style block party or cookout, where there will be everything from a make-your-own mint julep bar to hearty grub, including burgers from Blue Label Burgers (by Luke's Oyster Bar & Chop House) and Meat Smith .

Prominent American-style bars in Singapore, such as 28 HongKong Street, Skinny's Lounge, Manhattan and Employees Only, will also have pop-up bars at the two-day event. Each will partner a whiskey brand to serve $10 cocktails.

Additionally, there will be a Bourbon Bake Off on May 21 where participants from professional and amateur baker categories will whip up apple pies. Attendees can sample the pies, along with a shot of HighWest American Prairie bourbon and Scrappy's Bitters "Old Fashioned" ice cream for $10.

For those who wish to delve into the finer points of American whiskeys, there will be half-hour mini masterclasses by industry experts and brand ambassadors. All classes are free and are on a first-come, first-served basis.

On Saturday at 3.15pm, explore Michter's Bourbon with master distiller Pamela Heilmann. On May 21 at 4pm, explore the rye whiskey category with bartender Rusty Cerven, formerly of the Connaught Bar and The Gibson in London.

EC Proof, the retail arm of Proof & Company, will also have a pop-up store with a selection of fine American whiskeys and home bar tools on sale.

The organisers are expecting 1,000 attendees over both days.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 14, 2017, with the headline 'Taste of an everyman spirit'. Print Edition | Subscribe