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The United States of America is a country of great cultural diversity, influenced by migrating nations from across the world. As such, its whiskey industry is a fascinating and complex one, which represents the range of regional differences found there.
The Irish were the original pioneers of American whiskey, and when they emigrated in their thousands from the old country, they brought their skills, knowledge and distillation techniques with them, to give them something to remind each other of home in the New World. This is why American whiskey goes by the Irish spelling, with the additional ‘e’, and why many traditional American whiskies closely resemble the original Irish style.
Today, there are several different types of American whiskey, and the styles and production techniques are now set out in US federal law, cementing a set of characteristics and production methods to preserve and protect the industry.
Corn whiskey, which is made from a minimum 80% corn in the mash and aged for a short period, is probably the most historic of the American whiskey styles, but others like rye whiskey, which is made from a minimum of 51% rye and aged in charred barrels, are growing in popularity among a new generation of drinkers looking for something unique, interesting and independently produced. Alongside these styles, we find Tennessee whiskey, which uses maple charcoal for sweeter notes, the softer wheat whiskies, the world-dominating Bourbon whiskies, and others which are peculiar to specific states and regions.
California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes.
Of all the New World wine countries, perhaps the one which has demonstrated the most flair for producing high quality wines - using a combination of traditional and forward-thinking contemporary methods - has been the United States of America. For the past couple of centuries, the United States has set about transforming much of its suitable land into vast vineyards, capable of supporting a wide variety of world-class grape varietals which thrive on both the Atlantic and the Pacific coastlines. Of course, we immediately think of sun-drenched California in regards to American wines, with its enormous vineyards responsible for the New World's finest examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines, but many other states have taken to viticulture in a big way, with impressive results. Oregon, Washington State and New York have all developed sophisticated and technologically advanced wine cultures of their own, and the output of U.S wineries is increasing each year as more and more people are converted to their produce.