I am sipping a corn whiskey from !3th Colony micro distillery (Americus Georgia). It is called Southern Corn Whiskey and claims to be from an old southern corn whiskey recipe. I have no reason to doubt this, since it is a whiskey I do find to my liking.
Without knowing so for a certainty (I have emailed them for confirmation of several of my assumptions about this whiskey), I am quite sure that this whiskey is aged in used bourbon barrels for a year or two. It is bottled in small batches, that being all they have so far produced, and is available only in Georgia right now.
At 95 proof it is a robust corn whiskey, with nice overtones of buttered corn with spicy peppercorns on it. It has the added attraction of butterscotch sweetness and a hint of cinnamon for some longer lasting zest. I will use that tired, but at times useful, spirit discriptor, 'smooth', as it was intended. This corn whiskey has no rough edges............but is not without character.
These guys at 13th Colony (refers to Georgia being the 13th American Colony) chose the right proof to sustain its flavors. In my opinion if it were 80 proof it would lose too much of its character. Still, at 95 proof it has the expected (by me at least) corn whiskey softness.
How do you, as a micro distillery, produce a decent whiskey without the investment required for years of storage in new charred oak barrels? You play to your strengths, first in your local market you enter with a known type of whiskey...........in this case (Georgia), CORN WHISKEY, and then you give it a bit more character with used bourbon barrels (useless for most purposes, but not to yours) and age it for a couple of years at most. You are bouncing off the bourbon flavors and keeping your storage requirements (and costs) to a manageable level. The temptation will be to offer an 80 proof whiskey because, compared to a 95 proof whiskey, you are giving up many bottles. But, somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind, you know that you are a micro distillery, and you must rely on the more knowledgeable drinkers to purchase your products. Cheaper whiskey with less flavor will not hold them as customers .............and, not to be discounted here, you have your own standards.............you did not enter the micro distillery business to make a great deal of money............ain't there!
13th Colony is making mostly Vodka and Gin. They entered a market that is thriving, but overcrowded with rich competitors. Can they make it? I sure don't know. Entering the Corn Whiskey market with a 95 proof offering is a gamble, but I give thumbs up for their willingness to take the risk, and for their first whiskey. Southern Corn Whiskey is an excellent opening product, reflecting high standards and a good knowledge of their potential customer base. As a neighbor, I applaude their efforts........as an honest drinker, I would not give them more than their due, they have earned my respect!