Bourbon for Idiots (including us)
I went to a tasting last night for the new offering from Campari USA. I usually never go to these events because the booze is free and the cocktails are generally weak. I speak from experience, having worked dozens of these events.
Usually, I check out the crowd to anticipate what will happen over the next hour.......lots of hipsters in hats means conversations about cocktails consisting of information gleaned from Wikipedia.....Half truths and myths with a smattering of accuracy. If it's a bunch of college kids, I know to make an appearance and get the hell out of there because the crowd doesn't really care about the spirit, they want to get drunk for free and as soon as the event ends and the "complimentary" part of the bar stops, they stampede out the door very lubricated and hit the streets.
So there I was, saying my "hello's" and standing waiting for the bartender to look up and actually smile (customer service usually works that way) when I heard one of the mad hatters in skinny jeans say to another annoying Mumford and sons fan; "All bourbon HAS to come from Bourbon county Kentucky" - At this point I felt my jaw tighten, my teeth grind and thought..."just stop talking, you're making it worse"
I realize this might be a little too strong a reaction. I should be concerned with global matters, the price of gas, my best friend in the SEALS, and other more mature subjects but God Damnit, this little bastard was making it a point to give out bad info. So I thought I would post something useful so anyone who comes here can get correct info and actually use it.
From a great website called www.straightdope.com
A definition of whiskey/whisky "Whisky is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash of grain produced at less than 190 proof in such a manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to whiskey, stored in oak containers (except that corn whisky need not be so stored), and bottled at not less than 80 proof, and also includes mixtures of such distillates for which no specific standards of identity are prescribed."
For a whiskey to qualify as bourbon, the law--by international agreement--stipulates that it must be made in the USA. It must be made from at least 51% and no more than 79% Indian corn, and aged for at least two years. (Most bourbon is aged for four years or more.) The barrels for aging can be made of any kind of new oak, charred on the inside. Nowadays all distillers use American White Oak, because it is porous enough to help the bourbon age well, but not so porous that it will allow barrels to leak. It must be distilled at no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume). Nothing can be added at bottling to enhance flavor or sweetness or alter color. The other grains used to make bourbon, though not stipulated by law, are malted barley and either rye or wheat. Some Kentucky bourbon makers claim that the same limestone spring water that makes thoroughbred horses' bones strong gives bourbon whiskey its distinctive flavor. Kind of like that "it's the water" thing with Olympia beer.
Bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S., but all but a couple of brands are made in Kentucky. Only the state of Kentucky can produce bourbon with its name on the label. The name comes from Bourbon county in the central bluegrass region of Kentucky. This county was named in 1785 to honor the French royal family and was once the major transshipment site for shipping distilled spirits down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. Barrels shipped from there were stamped with the county's name, which then became the name of this kind of whiskey. Interestingly, there are no distillers in Bourbon county, Kentucky right now.
The Author is just named "Jill" but she did a great job!