David L.: April 4, 2016
For the last decade and a half, I have spent a majority of my time studying, drinking and selling alcohol. During my first trip to Spain, studying wine and brandy opened my eyes to a world I had never known existed. I had no idea that you could make a living in a variety of ways all connected to wine and spirits. While my first love will always be wine, I have found many other spirits which have fascinated and intrigued me…the processes by which they are made, the laws which govern those processes, the aromas and flavors that are unique to each spirit and the history connected to these things have been intertwined with my evolution in the Food & Beverage industry.
I have chosen bourbon to be my first topic of discussion. While all bourbons are whiskeys not all whiskeys are bourbon. Bourbon similar to Scotch is a specific type of Whiskey. Bourbon style whiskey can be made anywhere in the world, however, it is only classified as “bourbon” when it is produced in the United States. In 1964 the United States Congress declared bourbon to be a “distinctive product of the United States. Contrary to popular belief bourbon is not limited to production in Kentucky, though it is thought to have originated there, it can be made anywhere in the United States so long as it is made from 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. According to Amy Stewart in her book “The Drunken Botanist” on page 45 “Bourbon is an American -made corn based whiskey aged in new charred oak barrels. Must contain at least 51% corn. Straight bourbon is aged for at least two years, with no added color, flavor or other spirits. Blended bourbon must contain 51% straight bourbon, but may also contain added color, flavor or other spirits.”
As to the origin of the name bourbon there is much debate and while many believe the name originated from Bourbon County, Kentucky, the more popular belief now becomes from historian Michael Veach who is quoted in an article from “The Smithsonian” titled “Where Bourbon Really Got Its Name and More Tips on America’s Native Spirit” http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/where-bourbon-really-got-its-name-and-more-tips-on-americas-native-spirit-145879/#F3QjLcpiz6UkM0cg.99 . Veach states “the name evolved in New Orleans after two men known as the Tarascon brothers arrived to Louisville from south of Cognac, France, and began shipping local whiskey down the Ohio River to Louisiana’s bustling port city. “They knew that if Kentuckians put their whiskey into charred barrels they could sell it to New Orleans’ residents, who would like it because it tastes more like cognac or ‘French brandy’,” says Veach. In the 19th century, New Orleans entertainment district was Bourbon Street, as it is today. “People starting asking for ‘that whiskey they sell on Bourbon Street,’” he says, “which eventually became ‘that bourbon whiskey.”
Here is a link to the website Under The Label that boasts “The Best Bourbons for Under $100” http://whiskey.underthelabel.com/stories/5886/best-bourbons-under-100-cheap-quality-whiskey
So, whether you are sitting on your porch or your favorite bar or restaurant next time give our own American Spirit a chance.