What do Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Ava Gardner, and Abraham Lincoln have in common? They all appreciated a good glass of bourbon whiskey!
Bourbon has been filling the cups of thirsty men and women since the 1700s. America’s Native Spirit has held steady in its position as the USA’s most treasured beverage for literally centuries (even through times of prohibition). Today, bourbon whiskey is enjoyed and admired by people all around the world. The deep amber color, the smooth yet bold flavor, the way each drop carries the smoky essence of the barrel, and the way it makes that refreshing crackling ice noise as it pours. Bourbon is an experience most want to enjoy more than once, and it only gets better with age.
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” -Mark Twain
What is Bourbon?
Bourbon is a whiskey made in the United States of America, primarily in the southern regions, and most often in Kentucky. According to federal Standards of Identity law, no alcohol can be classified as bourbon if it is not made in the USA.
The requirements and regulations surrounding the making of bourbon whiskey are strict, keeping the quality of this special drink at a high standard. Bourbon is part of the whiskey (or whisky) family as it is made from a grain mash comprised of at least 51% corn. Distillers working under bourbon laws must also ensure no colors or flavors are added to the final product, meaning that the barrel, along with father time, does most of the work.
History of bourbon
Bourbon dates back to the late 1700s in Kentucky, USA. The bluegrass state is blessed with rich soils and limestone-filtered natural water sources, meaning that the environment is perfect for making moonshine. European settlers brought their distillery techniques to this new nation and were encouraged to grow corn on the fertile farmland. The immigrants began distilling their alcohol from mainly corn mash rather than rye. This corn whisky didn’t realize its full potential until distillers began aging the alcohol in barrels in 1789. It is unclear who was responsible for this revelation, but the consensus is that a collective effort created the aging process.
The whiskey rebellion of 1794 in Pennsylvania boosted the power of the distillers in Kentucky, and the drink grew in popularity steadily until the name ‘bourbon’ became official in 1840. The origin of the name presents two conflicting tales:
● Before the official naming, the drink had been known colloquially as ‘bourbon’ after the region in Kentucky where most was distilled.
● Two brothers arrived in Louisiana from France and began shipping local whiskey down the river to New Orleans. It is said that they assumed the French residents of New Orleans would enjoy the charred barrel taste as it is similar to cognac. The brothers were right, and the whiskey became very popular on Bourbon street. People began to associate the name, ‘bourbon’ with the local whisky. Of course, Bourbon street was named after French royalty and not the county in Kentucky.
Bourbon went on to comfort civil war soldiers, survive prohibition, and take the world by storm with advancements in global shipping. By 1964 it was declared ‘America’s Native Spirit’ and protected by Federal Identity Law. Bourbon is now the star of modern cocktails and drinks, impressive displays by whiskey connoisseurs, romantic heritage activities, and historical commemorations. The older it is, the more valuable it becomes.
Forbes notes that many companies and individuals are turning to Bourbon Whiskey as an investment, likening the rare and antique barrels and cases to liquid gold. As the value of Bourbon Whiskey climbs, the hardest decision for anyone is surely: To savor it or save it?