Bourbon is a widely loved drink that has gained popularity all around the world. It is a type of whiskey mainly made in the United States. It is distilled, aged in a charred barrel, and made from corn. According to the American Federal Law, bourbon “is a distinctive product of the United States.”
This answers the question, but it is important to dive a bit into the history of bourbon.
Bourbon’s history is rich, and there are many takes told as to how the first bourbon was made, but in truth, nobody knows who made the first-ever drink.
The name ‘Bourbon’ comes from a French royal family known as the “French Bourbon Dynasty.” The first bourbon produced in the United States was produced in Bourbon County in Kentucky, which was named after the French royal family.
Early settlers that came to Kentucky, including the Scots, Irish, and others, went with distillation knowledge. Corn was a major crop grown in Kentucky, and these settlers took this opportunity and started making whiskey. Since they needed to have these whiskey transported to other states, they used wooden barrels to kill any bacteria that may accumulate in the whiskey. The primary mode of transportation back then was water. The whiskey would reach its destination, having obtained a different color and taste, and it is believed, the use of wooden barrels for aging was started from here.
The barrels were labeled “Bourbon County Whiskey,” and it is believed that the name bourbon whiskey came from.
Early production was in the 18th Century and was predominantly done in Kentucky. Presently, bourbon can be made in any of the American States.
What is the prohibition?
Still, in the understanding of bourbon history, it is essential to note that though it had become a famous whiskey in the U.S, the 18th Constitutional Amendment made any production or sale of alcoholic beverages illegal. This was famously known as ‘The Prohibition’ and signaled the fall of bourbon. This lasted from 1920 to 1933. The U.S Congress came up with the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which repealed the 18th one.
What makes whiskey Bourbon?
The American Federal Law has laid out regulations that must be followed in the production of bourbon. These are;
- must be made using 51% of corn and not any less.
- It was distilled at not more than 80% alcohol by volume.
- Must be aged in new charred oak barrels.
- At the point of aging, the alcohol bust is at no more than 62.5% alcohol by volume.
- Bottling must be done at 40% alcohol by volume.
Having understood the rich history of bourbon production, we have a clue to where it is made in. What are the factors that make certain areas best for bourbon production than other regions?
Let us answer the following question;
So, where is bourbon made?
It is said that bourbon can be made in any State of America. Most of it is produced in the State of Kentucky, and here are some of the reasons why,
Kentucky is a state rich in limestone, which is a critical ingredient in the making of bourbon. When water flows through limestone, it eliminates minerals from the water and gives it some flavor and boldness. The rock is also used as a filter to remove elements that can make the bourbon bitter such as iron.
Water found in this state is hard water. This means that it is high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium and is also high in pH. These minerals are ideal for the distilling process of taste bourbon as they aid the yeast in the mash’s fermentation, creating a unique flavor for the whiskey.
The Kentucky soil
The soil in this state is fertile and rich and most ideal for growing corn. Corn is a significant part of the bourbon production. Bourbon has to be 51% corn. The warmer weather found in this state is also pedal for the growing of corn. The corn farming in Kentucky started during the early years. It started as early as the 1700s, and it is now farmed in every county.
Kentucky boasts of hot summer times and experiences cold in the winter. These extremes are perfect for the bourbon. The variations in the temperatures have a significant impact on the wooden barrels used to age the whiskey. The barrels expand in warmer climates, and in response, the whiskey is absorbed into the wood, taking in the charred wood properties. The barrels contract, and the drink are pushed back into the barrel filled with a golden brown color and colder weather flavor.
Being the best bourbon producer, the famous nature of Kentucky attracts various people to this state, including some of the world’s top whiskey geeks.
Other states also produce whiskey. These include
This is placed second after Kentucky, in the general production of whiskey.
The American West
This includes Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, and Utah. These are relatively young producers of whiskey since they started producing only since around 2009. However, Wyoming is considered to have the best whiskeys after both Kentucky and Tennessee.
Texas and California
These states are considered the largest in the U.S. They have carved out a niche in the whiskey production industry.
What happens next after bourbon is produced?
It can well understand that you may try to understand what happens to the remaining mash after the bourbon has been produced. Known mostly as “slop” or distillers grain, the mash is given out to farmers to feed their cows.
Another thing that you may wonder is what happens to the barrels after the bourbon is bottled. Some of the barrels are sold to distillers of other alcohol types, such as Scotch and Rum. Other times, when the barrels seem too old, they have turned excellent home products like lamps, furniture, etc.
Whiskey is made using grains such as corn, wheat, rye, and barley. States that produce whiskey are known to have favorable conditions for the cultivation of these grains.
It is key to note that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. The American government has made it Law that bourbon is only produced in the U.S. Whiskey, however, can be delivered anywhere in the world.
Bourbon is the most regulated whiskey globally, and surprisingly, the U.S Law regulations have not changed for about 200 years. The rules further state that nothing should be added to bourbon; no extra flavors or colors should be added to the whiskey to be bourbon.
The primary factor that sets Kentucky apart for bourbon production from other states is the abundance of limestone used to demineralize the water to help.in the distillation process. Aside from this, the state grows a lot of corn, which is the staple recipe in the mash required to produce bourbon.
Does all this arouse your curiosity and make you yearn to visit the U.S for a chance to learn more about bourbon? I hope so!