Corn Liquor

Right near the opening of Against the Day, the Chums have the Inconvenience parked at the Chicago World’s Fair. Dally Rideout (who we’ve shared several drinks with before) makes her precocious first appearance:

“Pa!” An attractive little girl of four or five with flaming red hair was running toward them at high speed. “Say, Pa! I need a drink!”

“Dally, ya little weasel,” Merle greeted her, “the corn liquor’s all gone, I fear, it’ll have to be back on the old cow juice for you, real sorry,” as he went rummaging in a patent dinner pail filled with ice. The child, meanwhile, having caught sight of the Chums in their summer uniforms, stood gazing, her eyes wide, as if deciding how well behaved she ought to be.

“You have been poisoning this helpless angel with strong drink?” cried Lindsay Noseworth. “Sir, one must protest!”

Against the Day, p. 27.

The elder Rideout has a definite air of wry leg-pulling, and Lindsay’s a bit too outrage-prone a victim to resist. I wouldn’t be worrying too seriously about Ms Rideout’s brain development.

My own brain meanwhile is as developed as I can hope for, so let’s get stuck into the corn liquor. I have here a bottle of Balcones Baby Blue, distilled in Texas from 100% roasted Texan Blue Corn and aged in barrels for “at least six months.”

The aroma is rich, oily-sweet, intriguingly breakfasty. Pancakes, butter, honey, cornbread, vanilla. A slightly tequila-esque note in there too. Flavourwise, being so young, there’s a lot of new-make spirit flavour, but in a remarkably smooth package. It’s extremely oily and viscous (does that sound bad? It’s actually pretty nice), sweet and creamy. Lots of nuts and corn (popcorn, cornbread, corn chips…). Plenty of vanilla too. Barrel presence is understandably minimal. It all makes for very characterful, enjoyable, easy drinking. I’m not surprised Papa Merle’s drained the ice pail.

You might be wondering where Mason & Dixon is in all this. That book is after all about 50% by weight corn whisky. Well, much of Dixon’s distillate is white un-aged spirit, fresh from a local 18th century backwoods still. By young Dally’s time, distilleries have become more recognisable modern operations, with their product deliberately aged and transported in barrels. Dally’s corn liquor has potentially spent months or longer mellowing out and picking up a bit of oak colour and flavour (see this fascinating history of American whisky for more there). So I’m going with the aged stuff here, and will return with something a little more moonshiney for M&D!

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