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Spin the Bottle: Whisky in the fridge? Japanese rum? Gin baskets? And more!

Spin The Bottle is a regular 88 Bamboo column where we answer commonly searched questions about all things spirits! 
If you have any burning questions about drinks, but have been too afraid to ask, shoot us your question anonymously here and we'll do the research to clue you in! 

1. Why isn't whisky typically stored in the fridge?

Distilled spirits like whisky (and even rum, gin, and vodka) typically have higher alcohol content, which allows it to be stored outside the fridge without spoilage indefinitely. Plus, there's also the argument that by chilling your whiskey in the fridge, the cold temperatures could actually blunt the flavours and aromas of your whisky

2. What is Japanese rum? What makes it different from other rums?

While rum is typically made in the Caribbean, there are also several Japanese rum distilleries producing their own rums locally.

In Japan, and particularly in Okinawa, there's been a centuries-old tradition of producing kokuto brown sugar. As the adage goes: where there is sugar, there is... well, rum! Increasingly, local distilleries have started distilling Japanese sugar cane and kokuto brown sugar to create rum.

Many of these distilleries borrow from traditional methods of shochu (a Japanese distilled spirit typically made from rice, sweet potato, and barley), and use open tank fermentation rather than closed vat fermentation. 

One of our favorite Japanese rums comes from Nine Leaves Distillery, which uses Okinawan kokuto sugar as a raw ingredient instead of molasses or sugarcane juice. Nine Leaves 

3. What's a gin basket? How is it used in gin production?

A gin basket is a metal vessel that is used to store gin botanicals. It's hung inside a distillation still, and during distillation as the steam vapours rise and move through the gin basket, the botanicals' flavours and aromas are extracted and infused it into the spirit through vapour infusion. Typically, gin producers would place botanicals like herbs, fruits and spices into the gin basket, but avoid more powdered types of botanicals to prevent clumping as the steam passes through it. 

Producers may choose to using a gin basket for vapour infusion rather than steeping the spirit directly in the botanicals if they are seeking more subtler flavours. 

4. What is a rice polishing ratio? Why does it matter for sake?

Rice polishing ratio, known as "seimai buai" in Japanese, refers to the degree to which a rice grain used to make sake has been polished down from its original size. For example, a ratio of 70% means that the rice grain has been polished down to 70% of its original size, with 30% removed.

When making sake, it's important that the rice grains used must be polished, as the outer layers of a rice grain often contains certain proteins or impurities that might affect the final flavour of sake. More premium sakes tend to use more finely milled rice, with minimal outer portions surrounding the remaining centre of the rice grain known as the White Heart, or "Shinpaku" in Japanese. 

Sake that uses rice that has been polished down to 60-50% of its original size are called Ginjo sakes while sake that uses rice that has been polished down to 50% of its original size or below are called Daiginjo sakes.

5. What is IBU in beer?

IBU stands for "international bitterness unit", and it's a scale of how bitter a beer can be - though it has been used for food as well. A more technical definition of IBU is that it measures the parts per million of isohumolone found in beer. The isohumolone comes from the addition of hops in beer. Generally speaking, the lower the IBU, the less bitter and vice versa. The IBU of a beer can range from 5 IBU to 120 IBU. 

Some craft beer enthusiasts have argued that the IBU may not be the most accurate measure and doesn't necessarily account for the other aspects of a beer that shape its bitterness. Nonetheless, we feel it's an interesting starter baseline to get a gauge on what a beer might taste like when you're browsing the shelves. 




88 Bamboo Editorial Team

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