Celebrating America’s Native Spirit

Here in Weekenderville we’re partial to the warming feeling that a great bourbon delivers.

It’s quite simply one of life’s most underrated pleasures: to sit out, watching the world go by, glass of that burning dark amber in hand, and to toast life itself. Why not? Bad things happen every day – so every moment stolen from the depressing vagaries and miscellaneous drudgeries of worry is precious.

Hence we are celebrating September’s National Bourbon Heritage Month, which is now in its fifth year having been put through the US Senate by Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

His resolution, which we echo, calls for people to enjoy the liquor responsibly. So whilst we contemplate the adult pleasures that are sometimes lost in the rush toward a trotting tomorrow, let’s also consider these bourbon facts, collated by a trained team of squirrels imported from Switzerland specifically for the purpose.

While Kentucky is home to the vast majority of America’s bourbon production, bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States.

The Samuels family claims the title of oldest bourbon family still going strong, having first distilled it in 1783. Prior to 1840 the Samuels family did not produce bourbon commercially. It wasn’t until T.W. Samuels (grandson to Robert Samuels who created the secret family recipe) came along and constructed a distillery at Samuels Depot, Kentucky that the family made a business of bourbon.

When Evan Williams opened his distillery on the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville in 1783, it was the first commercial distillery in Kentucky.

It’s been said that Elijah Craig invented bourbon by aging the already popular corn whiskey, or moonshine. This is a disputed fact; many believe that bourbon was not invented, but instead evolved with many hands in the barrel, so to speak, such as those who emigrated from Pennsylvania because of the Whiskey Excise Tax.

Dr. James C. Crow developed what is known as sour mash in 1823 at the Pepper Distillery (now the Woodford Reserve Distillery). This method of recycling some yeast for the next fermentation revolutionized the way most bourbons and Tennessee whiskies have been produced since.

Although bourbon whiskey had been distilled in the Old Bourbon County area for decades, it was not until 1840 that it officially became known as Bourbon.

An act of Congress declared bourbon as America’s Native Spirit in 1964 and the country’s official distilled spirit.

Bourbon must be made from at least 51 per cent corn mash. Corn contributes a noticeable sweetness to the final product, and often makes up a much larger percentage of the mash bill in a bourbon whiskey. Other grains used to round out the mash bill include rye, barley and wheat.

Bourbon must be distilled at no higher than 160 proof (80 per cent alcohol by volume). By keeping the distillation proof low, more congeners are allowed to stay in the final product, which results in more complex flavours.

Bourbon must be stored at no more than 125 proof (62.5 per cent abv) in new American oak barrels. Note that this means that water is added along with the white dog whiskey from the still to meet this requirement.

Bourbon must be bottled at no less than 80 proof (40 per cent abv), with nothing added except pure water.

“There’s nothing more romantic than to sit on the back porch in the moonlight with a bottle of whisky, while the riddles of the universe unravel before your eyes.”

Jack Vance

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