Before you read this post, make yourself comfortable, lean back and allow yourself a sip of your favorite drink. Did you get a glass of bourbon? Okay. Ready? Here we go…
What do a street in New Orleans, Kentucky and a drink have in common? If your answer is Bourbon, you are correct. It is the only alcoholic drink that is a distinctive product of the United States and a major part of American history and heritage. Read more about that sweet whiskey in today’s article.
Strict Regulations For A Small Drink
To be called bourbon, whiskey must contain at least 51% corn, which enhances the sweetness. This helps keeping America the number one worldwide maize producer. The average percentage is 65 – 75 % corn. There are additional strict rules that the liquor must follow in order to deserve the name bourbon. The law defines that bourbon must be aged in a brand-new (and therefore single-use), charred white oak barrel. What happens to the barrel afterwards? It may not be used for aging bourbon again, but it might be recycled for the production of Scotch or Tequila. The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits also states that bourbon made for US consumption must be distilled to no more than 80%, entered the barrel with no more than 62.5 % and bottled at 40 % or more alcohol by volume.
Straight bourbon has to be aged for at least two years containing no added flavors or colors. However, there is no minimum aging requirement for bourbon in general, meaning that corn whiskey is still considered bourbon even if it is kept inside the barrel for less than two years. This drink is of less value and must then be labeled as blended bourbon. Due to natural evaporation, 3-4 % of the drink disappears during each year of barrel aging. The story says that this portion escapes to heaven to satiate the divine drinkers above, giving it the name Angels’ Share.
Kentucky: The Heart of America’s Native Spirit
While Whiskey may be made everywhere, bourbon was declared “America’s Native Spirit”. It must be produced in the US. On May 4 in 1964, Congress adopted a resolution that made bourbon a distinctive product of the US. While bourbon can be produced anywhere in the US, 95% of bourbon is from Kentucky. Some of you might think: Why Kentucky? In the 18th century, George Washington tried to convince tax-evading settlers to move southward to Kentucky. This was incentivized by giving 60 acres of land to each Pennsylvania transplant who dedicated themselves to the production of native corn. The new settlement was called Bourbon County, inspired by the French Bourbon Dynasty which ruled Spain and most of Italy at that time. The potential of the drink has soon been recognized and distillers began selling their wares outside the region stamping each barrel with “Bourbon County”.
In 1862, Abraham Lincoln introduced a tax on liquors in order to raise funds for the American Civil War. This tax led to bankruptcy for smaller distilleries and changed the industry to bigger and more modern distilleries, which had the financial means to pay taxes in advance.
Bourbon managed to become the most sold liquor in the US until selling Whiskey became prohibited in 1913. Even though Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the Bourbon industry was struggling because people got used to other, smoother drinks. Only by 2010 sales finally recovered to Pre-Prohibition levels.
Fun fact: Today there are more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than there are people.
Bourbon: The better the storage, the longer the enjoyment
Bourbon has an indefinite expiration date as long as it is stored properly – even after the bottle has been opened. Once opened, however, some content evaporates and some flavor might be lost. In order to guarantee proper storage, it should be kept in a cool and dry area away from direct heat or sunlight and be closed tightly when not in use.
Bourbon-lovers still argue about where to store and how to drink their favorite liquor. Some keep it in the refrigerator, some prefer to drink it at room temperature over ice and others even put in in their freezer.
There is only one way to find out what is the best way for you: try it out and share your experiences with us.
Are you thirsty yet? Well, we are…