The whiskey stands out for its sweet fruitiness and savory-smoky note, which is created by burning out the barrels. Bourbon often gets a strong note from the fact that it is distilled only once. Ultimately, the excellent qualities of the bourbon from our bourbon whiskey store provide for the steadily increasing popularity. It all started with the events surrounding the American wars of liberation: because the French helped the English in the USA in the war of liberation, the whiskey got its Gallic name.
All about the Bourbon Whiskey
The whiskey history of the United States began at the beginning of the 18th century on the East Coast of the United States: The East Coast was the earliest part of the country to be settled by Europeans, and that's probably one reason why the first whiskey was distilled in this region - after all, Scots and Irish were among the first settlers, and they didn't want to give up their whiskey because of it. The first distilleries were established in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania alone, for example, there were around 3,000 stills in 1850. The establishment of whiskey distilleries was by no means without controversy. There were even whiskey revolts against the new whiskey taxes, which had to be put down militarily. The whiskey farmers of the time escaped from their sphere of influence following fierce disputes with the military and tax collectors and resettled in Kentucky and southern Indiana, where they distilled a whiskey from corn with the help of the water that was so excellently suited there. It was named "Bourbon" by a Baptist preacher named Elijah Craig from Georgetown in Bourbon County, after its country of origin. Mister Craig was apparently not alone a man of the church, but also a good distiller. He had succeeded in distilling the whiskey so cleanly that the drink soon became much more popular than the previously established brandy or rum.
Bourbon Whiskey: the royal name
It is a county in Kentucky, itself named after a French noble dynasty, that is the inspiration for the name. In the background there is also the great help of the French in the war of liberation against the British crown from 1775 to 1783, which had been taken as an occasion to name a county in the border area between the then Kentucky and Indiana as Bourbon County in honor of the French kings from the Bourbon dynasty. Today's Bourbon County is located east of Frankfort, the capital of the U.S. state of Kentucky, and northeast of Lexington, now the "Horse Capital of the World." At that time, Bourbon County was much larger than it is today. It is considered certain that whiskey was distilled on the spot, with barrels initially labeled "Bourbon." However, of the once 2000 distilleries in Kentucky, for example, only a few remain today.
Several times Bourbon County had been divided and shifted over time, and it is curious that none of the historic distilleries remain in the territory of modern Bourbon County. Accordingly, the whiskey of America today bears the name of an area with which it has long since ceased to have anything to do - and therefore Bourbon is not a designation of origin, but rather a generic term.
So, since 1846, the term "Bourbon" had established itself peu à peu and since then the experts also talk about the "Sour Mash Bourbon", because during the classic mashing, an inoculation with a set of residual yeast from the previous mash, the "Back Stillage", takes place. Thus, the microorganisms typical of the taste multiply identically and over decades the biochemistry remains stable. The Sour Mash Bourbon is spicy and delicate - "Sour" has nothing to do with sour anymore and is rather a historical process term. There is also a very rarely used process called "Sweet Mash". For this, the fermentation yeast in the mash is repeatedly reignited.
As long as they adhere strictly to legal requirements that have been precisely defined over time by the U.S. Congress, all whiskey producers in the United States are allowed to call their grain distillate bourbon, wherever their stills are located. It is only in conjunction with a term like "Kentucky Bourbon" that the exact origin is also defined.
The Mash Bill
If the bourbon also wants to call itself straight, i.e. "Kentucky Straight Bourbon," the "American Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaco and Firearms" precisely prescribes that it be made from a mash consisting of at least 51 percent corn. In fact, this percentage of corn is often higher - each distillery has its very own recipe for this, the mash bill.
The mash bills of the American whiskey distilleries thus describe which types of corn make up the mash and their proportions to one another. While Kentucky Straight Bourbon must have at least 51 percent corn, a Straight Rye must have at least 51 percent rye. In many cases, however, the proportions are higher. In addition, certain amounts of malted barley are always added to the proportions of wheat or rye. Without proportions of 5 to 15 percent barley malt, fermentation would be very difficult to get going.
Each distillery therefore has its own fixed recipe for the mash bill. For a long time, there were great mysteries surrounding the Mash Bills. But since Gary and Mardee Haidin Regan published their "Book of Bourbon" in 1995, the Mash Bills have been known to the majority of distilleries.
If more than 80 percent of the recipe consists of corn, it is referred to as particularly nuanced corn whiskey.
Bourbon Whiskey: Storage in special oak barrels
Bourbon whiskey is also subject to other regulations. For example, the alcohol volume actually achieved during distillation must not exceed 80 percent or 160 degrees. However, these values are rarely actually reached. About 65 percent is more common. In the further course, water must be added to the distillate before it can then be filled into barrels.
The law also contains regulations for the barrels: they must be made of American white oak, which comes from Oregon, Minnesota or Pennsylvania. The special suitability of this oak is due to the presence of odor-active oak lactone, which generates a light toasted coconut note, vanilla and caramel nuances, and also a stronger wood tone. Under no circumstances should the barrels be used for anything else. This is because the new oak has noticeably faster influences on the specific quality of the whiskey. The barrels must have been toasted, that is, charred, before filling. The storage time must extend over at least 24 months; for BiB, Bottled in Bond whiskeys, it is even 48 months.
Compared to Scotch whiskeys, bourbons require less time to mature because the wood of the new oak barrels has the previously mentioned rapid and noticeable influences.
"BiB": the story behind Bottled in Bond whiskeys.
It's not just the generous storage times that the Bottled in Bond "BiB" designation associates with certain high qualities when buying bourbon whiskey at the Bourbon Whiskey Shop. Originally, these were whiskeys for which their producers had to pay taxes not immediately after distillation, but only after bottling and thus immediately before sale. Under certain conditions, they were allowed to be stored "in bond," i.e., tax- and duty-free. The American government had already passed a corresponding law in 1897. At that time, distillers had to undertake in return to store and mature their whiskey for at least four years. In addition, the whiskey had to have 50 percent alcohol and it was only allowed to come from a single distillation period, i.e. mostly from a single vintage. Mainly in the early years, such generous storage periods were unusual. It was also the long storage period that ensured that consumers expected a special quality from a "BiB". Today, too, special expectations are associated with a BiB whiskey. However, it is now no longer the age, but rather the appeal of being a "vintage", i.e. the mature distillate of a year.
The good old quality bourbons
On various labels of whiskeys age information can not be found. If the whiskey does not bear an age statement, it is at least four years old. Since the U.S. has noticed that it is quite worthwhile to bring out whiskeys from very carefully selected wooden barrels in so-called small batch bottlings or even in single barrel bottlings in addition to the standard bottlings, the number of older bourbons has also grown.
Single barrel bottlings:
This designation stands in the U.S. for just what is called Single Cask in Scotland. In the case of bourbons, too, more and more producers are following the trend of never mixing the contents of several barrels in order to create the special style of their house. Rather, single casks are bottled in each case. Logically, they always yield only a fairly small quantity of bottles and are characterized by the fact that each bottling can sometimes taste slightly, but sometimes also extremely different from the previous or subsequent bottling. With the American manufacturers of whiskeys in our bourbon whiskey store, you can buy bourbon whiskey, however, rely on the fact that they always select the best quality for their single barrels. Particularly critical whiskey lovers are allowed the little objective fear that therefore the standard bottlings of the house brands could come into a kind of backlash, because they are also dependent on good whiskey qualities.
In contrast to Scottish single malts, where the single casks usually also have Cask Strength, the U.S. bourbons, like the Tennessees, are diluted and brought to the drinking strength of 40 percent.
Cask Strength Bottlings:
Cask Strength bottlings are becoming increasingly popular. The term means that the whiskey is not reduced to an artificial or legally prescribed alcohol content of, for example, 40 or 43 percent by adding water, but is bottled with exactly the volume that it has reached naturally through storage. In the process, as is well known, alcohol evaporates and enters the atmosphere as "Angels Share". The amount that actually disappears depends on a number of factors, such as the humidity or the heat to which the barrel is exposed. The quality of the barrel itself also plays an important role. The actual duration of storage also has an effect. It is therefore by no means certain that barrels, which may even have been stored next to each other, will still contain the same amount of alcohol after a certain period of time. The differences are even more pronounced when different warehouses or even different distilleries are involved.
The pioneers of bottling in cask strength were the Scots - but in the USA, too, bottling in barrel proof has long been on the increase. Particularly when it comes to individual barrels that are bottled in this way, this means first of all that new labels have to be printed again and again for a relatively small number of bottles, because the alcohol volume has to be shown exactly. There is an example of the globally operating United Distillers UD, which had already printed labels for its Cask Strength Edition of the "Flora and Fauna" series in the 1980s but then found that the alcohol content of the whiskey had reduced slightly in the time between the printing of the labels and bottling. So the labels still had to be reprinted. Some producers make do and thereby also comply with the legal requirements, in which they do not take the term too literally, but simply use a fixed, but significantly higher alcohol volume.
Small batch bottlings:
This is the term for a young generation of American whiskeys. It means that while not strictly single barrel bottlings, they are bottlings of quite small quantities. Only the best barrels are selected for the small batch bottlings - and thus it is probably the continuation of a quality success that first the Scottish single malts and subsequently in the United States the single barrels had.
Not all producers are consistently convinced that they can cope with the customs surrounding age, barrels and bottlings. Thus, from time to time there is some confusion among experts, because several ages of a whiskey can have different names. Every now and then, moreover, some whiskey companies make fun of the "whiskey overhead" - a legitimate, if not very understandable, view of its own in terms of alcohol volume and quality.
Bourbon definitely has an impact on Scotch malts, too. After all, the Scots are grateful consumers of all the many barrels that their American competitors and friends are no longer allowed to use.
Bourbon whiskey enjoys great popularity all over the world. The mixture of different raw materials and grains such as corn, rye, wheat and barley characterize the diverse flavor variations and give each bourbon an individual character. During production, care must be taken to ensure that the alcohol content does not exceed 80 percent at any time during distilling, and a certain percentage must also not be exceeded during filling into the barrels for aging. Bourbon whiskey is aged for a minimum of two years in charred oak barrels. The term "Straight Bourbon" stands solely for the fact that those manufacturing conditions have been met and it contains no additives. "Single Barrel Bourbon" represents the American equivalent of Single Cask Scotch. This means bourbon whiskey that has been bottled from only one barrel.
Bourbon: Star in the movies and at the bar
In movies and at bar counters around the world, bourbon is more present than probably any other spirit. This final section is dedicated to these facets of bourbon:
"Neat. The Story of Bourbon" is the name of a 2017 documentary by filmmaker David M. Altrogge that explores the storied and multifaceted world of bourbon. It explores both the history of whiskey and the multi-layered characters associated with it and how they relate to the way Americans live their lives.
Moreover, a bourbon seems to belong in the hands of masculine protagonists in thousands of films. As a representative example, we might recall Jack Torrance from Stanley Kubrick's 1980 thriller "Shining," who wants to trade his soul for a bottle of bourbon at the bar. But because Jack is hallucinating in the film, the iced sip can only function as a kind of "savior in need" in his delusional thoughts. What remains is the realization that good bourbons are best enjoyed straight or, at best, as an old fashioned cocktail with two dashes of Angostura and a little sugar.
When buying bourbon whiskey, one should also keep this in mind: Overall, all bourbons are suitable as a base for cocktails, and the better the whiskey used, the better they will be. Nevertheless, there are some bourbons that stand out, so to speak, in the preparation of cocktails or long drinks. Bourbon, because of its mild richness, tends to be combined with sweet Italian vermouths, as in a proper "Manhattan Medium" or with some Bénédictine in the "Bourbon Cocktail". Some of the numerous Bourbon cocktails are also called "Bourbon Crusta," "Bourbon Flip," "Brown Fox," "Frisco Sour" and "New Yorker" - Bourbon even forms a sophisticated liaison with milk: In the "Bourbon Milk Punch," milk, fine sugar, a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon, and some vanilla extract are shaken well with bourbon. A "Brigitte Bardot" is also either shaken or stirred with bourbon, depending on the amount of ice used.
By the way: The eponymous actress is said to love the cocktail exceedingly ...American bourbon whiskey differs from its Scotch whiskey brother Scotch mainly by the raw material used. Bourbon is made to a greater or lesser extent (at least 51%) from corn, which grows better in America than the barley traditionally used before. However, the corn content must not exceed a percentage of 80%, with a percentage of 65 to 75% being the most common. The whiskey stands out for its sweet fruitiness and savory smoky note, which comes from burning out the barrels. Bourbon whiskey often gets a heavy note from the fact that it is distilled only once.
Bourbon whiskey enjoys great popularity around the world. The mixture of different raw materials and grains such as corn, rye, wheat and barley characterize the diverse flavor variations and give each bourbon an individual character. During production, care must be taken to ensure that the alcohol content does not exceed 80% at any time during distilling, and a certain percentage must also not be exceeded when bottling in the barrels for aging. Bourbon whiskey is aged for a minimum of two years in charred oak barrels. The term "Straight Bourbon" stands solely for the fact that those manufacturing conditions have been met and it contains no additives. "Single Barrel Bourbon" represents the American equivalent of Single Cask Scotch. This means bourbon whiskey that was bottled from only one barrel.