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Keep Houston Press Free
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| Booze |

The New American Whiskeys

Branch Water Tavern, the subject of this week's Café review, has a collection of rare American whiskeys behind the bar that really widened my horizons. St. George single-malt tastes like it was made in Scotland. It starts out as dark-brown ale and is distilled in a tiny copper pot still. It's aged in bourbon barrels first, then in French oak. The flavor is exceptional, but the marketing is chicken-shit.

Instead of proudly proclaiming themselves makers of a Sonoma single-malt whiskey, these geeks decided to get sneaky with a British-sounding name and a label that tries to convince people they are drinking Scotch. You need a magnifying glass to find the "Made in Sonoma, California" text.

I love the photo of Pappy with the cigar on the label of Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve, an excellent and obscure wheated bourbon named after a legendary distiller who once made the W. L. Wellers brand. Bernheim Small Batch Wheat Whiskey does a nice job of presenting its unique product in a classy-looking bottle.

I have started checking for these and other unique American whiskeys at liquor stores and other restaurants and bars in Houston. I know Anvil Bar & Refuge has some wheated bourbons, but does anybody know where else I should look?

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