6 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Bourbon
Seth Porges - Forbes
Congress isn't exactly known for passing many bills by unanimous consent. So if you're looking to bring both sides of the aisle (and every single senator in the country) together, you best look to bourbon: In 2007, the US Senate unanimously passed a declaration stating that September was to be National Bourbon Heritage Month.
1) Bourbon Is Subject To Serious Regulation
To help distilleries create a consistent flavor and color across thousands of batches, Scotch and Irish whiskey are often supplemented with added color and flavor. But when it comes to bourbon, that's flat-out illegal. What you drink from the bottle is what comes from the barrel (plus a healthy dose of water to bring the proof down). Bourbon's regulations (which are some of the strictest of any spirit) also require it to be made in the US, be made from at least 51 percent corn, and aged in brand-new charred oak barrels.
These rules have also earned bourbon a reputation as an "honest" spirit. There's no cheating with bourbon-what you drink is what the distiller made.
2) Your Favorite Scotch May Have Some Bourbon In It
Because bourbon legally has to be aged in brand-new barrels, distilleries can't reuse them. Instead, many of them are shipped off to Scotch companies who give them a second life aging their own spirits. When they're shipped overseas, several gallons of bourbon-most estimates I've heard range from about three to five gallons-remain trapped in the wood. This trapped bourbon mixes in with the Scotch during the aging process, and gives the spirit much of its flavor.
3) The Name "Bourbon"? Its Roots Are Controversial
One might assume that bourbon gets its name from Bourbon County, Kentucky (or the old bourbon region that it is now located in). This may very well be true (and don't you even think about getting into an argument with a Kentuckian about this, if you know what's good for you), but a certain sector of historians believes that it actually gets its name from Bourbon Street in New Orleans, where Kentucky whiskey was shipped down the Mississippi for trade.
4) Most Bourbons Don't Make An Age Claim
For Scotch, it's pretty much standard practice to brag about how many years the spirit has been aged for. Bourbon's a different beast. When a spirit ages, it gains flavor and color as it moves in and out of the wood barrel. The speed at which it does this has everything to do with the climate in which it's being stored. Because Kentucky has much hotter summers than Scotland, bourbon companies claim it ages far faster. Most distillers I've spoken to claim it actually ages three to four times as fast, and suggest that bourbon hits its absolute peak in nine to 12 years-a figure that would be considered young by Scotch standards.
Another reason: most bottles of bourbon come from a blend of batches that may range in age by several years. Because an age claim has to reflect the youngest whiskey in the batch, it can make the drink seem misleadingly young.
5) Bourbon Has To Come From The US
Again, this is by law. Some folks think bourbon has to come from Kentucky (or from Bourbon County, Kentucky). While this is not technically true, all of the major distillers are based in the state.
6) The Following Things Will Make A Bartender Laugh At You.
*Asking a bartender how long a bourbon has been aged for (see #4 above).
*Ordering a nice bourbon and mixing it with Coke (save that for the cheap stuff).
*Implying that "bourbon" and "whiskey" are different drinks (all bourbons are whiskey, not all whiskies are bourbons).
Bourbon: What You Might Not Know
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