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How to Use Chemistry to Age Whiskey in Days Instead of Years

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By Chris Gayomali

Maker's Mark attracted gobs of unwanted (or perhaps pre-meditated?) attention earlier this year when it announced that it would begin watering down its bourbon in order to meet the market's unprecedented demand.

A swift and severe public butt-kicking kept Maker's from following through, but the company's decision to dilute its alcohol content was apparently the result of basic supply-and-demand economics. Maker's shipped 16.9 million cases of Kentucky and Tennessee whiskey in 2012, which was up from 14.9 million cases in 2007. (Which just so happens to be the year Mad Men made its debut. Hmmm.) Decent bourbon, however, takes at least eight to 10 years to reach maturity. Maker's Mark simply failed to make enough bourbon to anticipate its soaring popularity.

But what if the aging process could be condensed using some technical wizardry? That's what's driving a new bourbon-maker called Cleveland Whiskey. Based out of its namesake city, the company's premise is to synthetically age alcohol at a much faster pace using a controlled chemical process. Instead of taking years, Cleveland Whiskey is aged to maturity in just about a week.

Founded by former marketing executive Tom Lix, Cleveland Whiskey has basically been an overnight success. Since March 1, the company has sold more than 14,000 bottles, which works out to about 1,000 bottles a week—not bad for a small-batch brewer. Lix says he plans on producing 7,000 cases of Cleveland Whiskey this year, before ratcheting things up to 20,000 cases in 2014.

The process involves highly pressurized vats, along with pieces of charred oak to infuse the bourbon with its signature character. "I took apart a couple of used barrels, and it didn't seem like the whiskey soaked very deep," Lix told Forbes. "So I started experimenting with pressure to get the spirit to soak deeper into pore structure."

The spirit ages in a whiskey barrel like normal for the first six months of its life. Then it is deposited in stainless steel tanks. Meanwhile, the barrel it aged in is cut up, processed, and put into the tank as well. Within the tank, the spirit is agitated, and undergoes a series of differences in pressure to squeeze in and out of the wood pores. "Like a sponge," Lix said. Once deposited in the tank, the whiskey takes about a week to create. [Forbes]

The important question, of course, is what does the stuff actually taste like? "Not bad" seems to be the consensus, although one blind taste-tester told Forbes that it tasted more like "an Irish whiskey than it did a bourbon."

Cleveland Magazine was more effusive with its praise:

It's dark in the bottle, a gorgeous honey-amber hue in a glass. The aroma was rich and complex. It had none of the bite or harsh alcoholic "heat" — though it is 100 proof — that usually comes with young (and therefore inexpensive) whiskey. The mouthfeel is round and silky. An added splash of water smooths it out even more. This is comparable to a very fine high end bourbon. And it will sell for a fraction of the price. [Cleveland Magazine]

With a patent pending, Lix is careful not to divulge too many specifics about the process. But he is optimistic about his chances of disrupting an industry that has more or less abided by the same basic tenets for centuries. "I believe in the Coca-Cola model," he told Cleveland.com. "Don't tell anybody anything."

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New Pop Chart Lab Poster Is a Boozy Blueprint For Making Classic Cocktails
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Pop Chart Lab's posters combine design with data, and their latest offering—a full breakdown of the ingredients in 60 classic cocktails—is no exception. From the exact ratio of gin and tonic that should go into a G & T (2 ounces and 4 ounces, respectively) to the garnishes you'll need to make a proper Tom Collins (a maraschino cherry and a lemon twist), the 3-foot-by-2-foot "Constitutions of Classic Cocktails" artwork teaches mixology basics you'd typically learn in bartending school, sans tuition fee.

In addition to mainstays like the Negroni and the Whiskey Sour, the poster also includes relatively obscure drinks (ever heard of the Golden Dawn, or the Journalist?), which you can attempt after drinking your way through your favorite concoctions. Before you know it, you'll be explaining to your friends the intricacies of why you should stir martinis instead of shaking them (sorry, James Bond), or the difference between a highball and a Collins glass. Bottoms up!

"Constitutions of Classic Cocktails" costs $37, and is currently available for pre-order. Shipping begins on Friday, October 20, 2017. (To see the poster's details up close, visit Pop Chart Lab's website and click on the diagram.)

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Attention Beer Lovers: A London Brewery Is Hiring a Professional Taste-Tester
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Beer lovers aren’t given many chances to discuss their passion for imbibing at job interviews. But a new open position at London's Meantime Brewing Company lists that expertise as one of the top qualifications. As Fortune reports, the brewery is seeking a professional beer taster to help improve its products.

The brewery’s part-time employee will “join the panel brewers as they taste, discuss, and pass opinion on a range of different beers,” according to the job listing on LinkedIn. On top of steady access to free booze three hours a week, the taster will receive a competitive salary “with beer benefits.” As the description reads: “Yes, this could just be the best job in the world.”

Meantime isn’t just considering any casual beer drinker for the role. Their ideal candidate will have a precise palate that can distinguish “chocolate malt from dark malt” and “Fuggles from Cascade hops.” They will also have an understanding of global consumer markets, a functioning knowledge of English, and an extensive beer vocabulary. The brewery is located in the London borough of Greenwich, so applicants who aren’t local should be willing to relocate.

Founded in 1999, the Meantime Brewing Company made its name on the beer scene with signature beverages like their London Lager, London Pale Ale, and Yakima Red. If you’re interested in joining the team, post 30 words on your LinkedIn profile explaining why you deserve the gig, along with any photos or videos that may help your case, with the hashtag #pickmemeantime. The company will narrow down the pool to three candidates for an in-person beer tasting before deciding their top pick. Meanwhile, you can prepare for the job by brushing up on your beer facts.

[h/t Fortune]

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