Bourbon: The Facts
Bourbon is one of those drinks that go extremely well with cigars. Cheese can have wine, candy can have soda, toast can have orange juice, but Bourbon is all about getting a good smoke. Despite this fact that Bourbon and cigars are a match made in tobacco Heaven, a lot of cigar lovers misconstrue what Bourbon is really all about: it’s more than a street in New Orleans.
Bourbon is a high maintenance alcohol, one that involves several regulations. The rules and laws that govern Bourbon production are strict. In short, manufacturers must follow the below criteria in order for whiskey to get its “bourb” on.
Some people may assume that Bourbon is just the same as whiskey or that it is barley, er barely, different, but Bourbon is very distinct; it is a whiskey made of corn. By US law, at least 51 percent of a whiskey must be made of corn in order to be called Bourbon. Most Bourbons are, however, made up of even more corn: they are made up of around 70 percent and, being cornier, often tell jokes that aren’t really all that funny. The remaining ingredients in Bourbon include wheat, rye, and malted barely.
Another key component to Bourbon is age: it must be distilled and put inside white oak barrels for a minimum of two years. This, like corn content, is rarely an issue as most Bourbons are aged in barrels for around four years. Once aging is complete, nothing can be added to the Bourbon to change the color, add flavor, or enhance sweetness.
Just as California is known for wine and Colorado is known for beer, Kentucky is known for Bourbon, though it can technically be produced in any US state where distilling alcohol is not illegal. In the past it has been produced in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kansas. In addition to Kentucky, Bourbon is presently produced in Virginia.
Still, it is the Bluegrass State that is off to the races when it comes to Bourbon; it is a derby Kentucky has been winning since the 1700’s.
There is no single person credited with the invention of Bourbon - though Al Gore may claim to be the initial creator - but the history of it is known. The Bourbon name was derived from Bourbon County, a large Kentucky county founded after the American Revolution.
Bourbon County had a penchant for growing crops, and farmers soon found themselves with more corn than their livestock could eat. The extra corn was turned into whiskey, and bourbon was born.
Bourbon County was eventually divided into smaller counties and residents began to refer to it as “Old Bourbon.” When whiskey makers began shipping their liquor on the Ohio River, which served as a major port, they stamped their sealed barrels with the name “Old Bourbon.” The name stuck and Bourbon became a synonym for corn whiskey.
In 1964, the US Congress made Bourbon the “native spirit,” sealing its place in American history forever.