Raise a Toast to the Granddaddy of American Whiskey… September is National Bourbon Heritage Month
In 1964, the United States Congress passed an act proclaiming bourbon as ”America’s Native Spirit”. It was signed by President Lydon B. Johnson and celebrated the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributed and continues to contribute to the United States. More recently, in 2007, the US Senate unanimously voted to make September our National Bourbon Heritage Month.
This uniquely American spirit and signature flavor of the South, born in the Kentucky, has experienced a renaissance in the last several years although it has been around for quite a long time. This distinct product of Kentucky is no longer your dad or grand-dad’s drink. From appearances on Mad Men to bourbon tastings and craft cocktails in bars across the country, bourbon has made a comeback and is no longer just a drink “snuck in” at SEC football games. This video from CNN “Bourbon Biz Booming in Kentucky” is a testament to the popularity of the spirit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEv4UVY-i8M
The history of bourbon began in the 1700’s with the first settlers of Kentucky and the pioneer days. Like most farmers and frontiersmen, they found that getting crops to market over narrow trails and steep mountains was a daunting task.
They soon learned that converting corn and other grains to whiskey made them easily transportable, prevented the excess grain from simply rotting, and gave them some welcome diversion from the rough life of the frontier.
Since then, generations of Kentuckians have continued the heritage and time-honored tradition of making fine bourbon, unchanged from the process used by their ancestors centuries before.
Farmers shipped their whiskey in oak barrels — stamped from Bourbon County — down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. The long trip aged the whiskey, with the oak wood giving it the distinct mellow flavor and amber color.
Bourbon got its name from one of Kentucky’s original counties – Bourbon County – which was established in 1785 when Kentucky was still part of Virginia.
Bourbon has a wide range of aromas and flavors:
Sweet aromatic flavors – such as vanilla, caramel, honey and butterscotch
Fruit and floral flavors – such as apple, pear, dark fruit (figs, raisins, dates), citrus and roses
Spice flavors like black pepper, tobacco leaf, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon
Wood flavors like oak, cedar, pine, almonds and pecans
Grain flavors such as corn, malt and rye
photo via www.fanpop.com
Chef David Chang recently appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and shared some tasting tips for bourbon after apparently drinking many of them! See the helpful yet funny clip from The Southern Coterie video archives: http://southernc.wpengine.com/video/bourbon-tasting-with-david-chang-late-night-with-jimmy-fallon .
For the beginner bourbon drinker, a helpful guide to appreciating bourbon can be found here: http://wild-turkey.wonderhowto.com/how-to/beginners-guide-appreciating-bourbon-whiskey-0129395/
In addition to cocktails and recipes, bourbon is often used as a cough and cold syrup. Every self-respecting Southerner has their own recipe for “bourbon syrup”. My grandmother would always whip up a batch to deal with a pesky cold or sooth a sore throat. One added twist to hers was to melt down peppermint sticks to add into the mixture for even more power. I can still taste it to this day (my brothers and I would all run when she pulled the jar out) and I do believe it worked. Though it didn’t cure me, at the minimum it numbed the pain! With fall’s imminent arrival and cold season approaching, it’s good to have the ingredients on hand. Although it can’t cure a cold, folk wisdom points to bourbon’s soothing properties.
Bourbon Cough Syrup for Grownups
2 ounces bourbon whisky
1/2 lemon, juiced (about 2 ounces)
2-4 ounces water (optional)
1 tablespoon honey
Mix the bourbon, lemon juice, and water (if using) in a tumbler or mug and heat in the microwave for about 45 seconds. (You can also do this on the stovetop in a little saucepan.) Take out and add the honey. Whisk to combine, then microwave for another 45 seconds.
* you can also melt a peppermint stick or disc to add to the mixture after it has been heated.
For the bourbon enthusiasts, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a must. Formed in 1999 by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, the trail gives visitors a firsthand look at the art and science of crafting bourbon and educates about the rich history and proud tradition of America’s signature spirit. www.kybourbontrail.com. Another must-see while in the area is the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History www.whiskeymuseum.com which boasts a 50-year collection of rare whiskey artifacts dating from pre-colonial days to post-Prohibition days. The museum features rare antique bottles, a moonshine still, advertising art, novelty whiskey containers.
Though most everyone is familiar with the big name bourbons such as Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Old Crowe, Early Times, Knob Creek plus many others, there are also several fine bourbons being made in craft distilleries. Some to check out include:
Angels Envy www.angelsenvy.com
Smooth Ambler www.smoothambler.com
Prichard Distillery www.prichardsdistillery.com
Tuthill Town www.tuthilltown.com
Old Pogue www.oldpogue.com
MB Roland Distillery www.mbrdistillery.com
Belle Meade www.greenbrierdistillery.com
Fun Facts (for more see the above icongraphic chart provided by Wild Turkey via www.coolguystuff.com)
- Bourbon distillers can only use their barrels once.
- Bourbon must always be aged in a new, charred oak barrel.
- Each barrel costs around $120.
- After the bourbon distillers are done with the barrels they use to age the bourbon, they are reuse them to age other non-bourbon whiskies. For example, Jim Beam might send their used barrels over to Scotland and Ireland for use in maturing those whiskeys.
- Currently 4.7 million barrels of bourbon aging in Kentucky which is more than the state population.
- 95% of the world’s production of bourbon is in Kentucky.
- During World War II, bourbon distilleries were converted to make fuel alcohol and penicillin.
- Must be aged for a minimum of two years to be considered a straight bourbon.
If all of this info isn’t bourbon overload, there is still fount of information to be found online:
Please add Belle Meade to your list. I just went to a tasting in Crossville, TN and fell in love with this Nashville-based small batch bourbon!
Definitely and thanks for the feedback! Will have to check out Belle Meade!