“I don’t much care for your law, but, by golly, this bourbon is good.”
-Harry S. Truman, To US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.
Bourbon is arguable one of the most American of drinks. In fact many trade agreements with the United States require the name “bourbon” only be used on products that were made in the U. S. The Bourbon capital is in Kentucky where most brands are made.
An annual Bourbon Festival is held each year in Bardstown, Kentucky. Bardstown has been likened with the name ” Bourbon Capital of the World”.All bourbon is a type of whiskey but not all whiskey is a type of bourbon. It’s important not to get that confused.
How to Drink Bourbon
The drink has a distinct taste that makes it great for both drinking and as an ingredient for cooking. Bourbon is a very versatile drink. It can be served straight, diluted with water, on the rocks (with ice), mixed with soda, or mixed within a variety of cocktails. With bourbons rich amber color and sweetness derived from its aging process, it is a unique drink worth having in your collection.
The History of Bourbon
The starting point of the drink is not well known. However, many attribute the creation of bourbon to two men, a Baptist preacher by the name of Elijah Craig, and a distiller named Jacob Spears. Craig is credited with being the first to age the distillation in charred oak barrels.
This process of ageing helps give bourbon its unique taste and reddish color. Spears is credited for being the first to actually name his drink “bourbon whiskey”. Despite Craig’s and Spears’s contribution to the making of today’s bourbon, it’s hard to attribute the creation of bourbon to just two men.
Bourbon is primarily made with corn, and the process of aging whiskey in charred barrels has been know in Europe for many years before Craig and Spears. Essentially any kind of grain can be used to make whiskey. So for the European settlers in America to use corn and charred barrels is a logical combination given the tools and ingredients they had available.
Craig and Spears helped contribute to the creation of the bourbon we know today in the early 19th century.
How Bourbon is Made
A typical mash bill (mash bill is another name for grain mixture) for bourbon is 70% corn. ( No less than 51%) With the rest of the mash bill being wheat, rye, and/or barley. The majority of a bourbon mash bill will be corn. The grain is ground and water is then added and mixed in. After this yeast is added and the mixture is then ready for fermentation.
The fermented mash (also known as the wash) is then ready for distillation. After the distillation process the spirit is then added to charred oak barrels where it will being the aging process. Before entering the barrels the spirit is clear.
During the aging the drink gains both color and flavor. The flavor comes from the caramelized sugars within the charred wood barrels. Generally speaking bourbon gains more flavor and color the longer they stay in the aging process. Reaching a certain level of maturity for the drink is important.
It is possible for bourbon to be aged too long which results in an unbalanced bad taste. After the aging it is then diluted with water, usually down to 80 US proof (40% alcohol by volume) and is ready to be bottled.