Bourbon Whisky – History and a few Interesting Facts

When we think of whisky over in the UK, we immediately think of Scotland and Ireland, as they’re famous for their malted and blended whiskies that are enjoyed all over the world, including the US. However, over in the US, these whiskies are most certainly not the only whiskies in town, as a hugely popular whiskey drink consumed and manufactured over there, is none other than good ole Kentucky bourbon. Bourbon has a rich, slightly charred, and even slightly sweet taste that works unbelievably well with smoked foods such as BBQ. It also works fantastically well in a variety of different mixers and cocktails, and is delicious when served neat on the rocks. Here we’ll be taking a brief look at the history of bourbon whiskey, plus a look at a few interesting facts about this amazing beverage.

A brief history lesson – The exact origins of bourbon are actually pretty unclear as nobody is entirely sure about who was the first to create it. Bourbon is made from corn and Kentucky water that is rich in lime stone, and it is the aging process that gives it its distinct flavour. In the late summer some 200 years ago, farmers in the area would harvest their corn, and would use it to create their whiskey blends in the autumn. From here they would ship it down river to neighbouring states but in order to do so, they required a faster flowing current, which came with the rainy seasons in the spring. This meant the whiskey remained barrelled up for months at a time. The journey down river would also add weeks, if not months to the maturation process, which did fantastic things for the flavour of the brew. Once an unattractive cloudy brown colour that looked like river water, the liquid was now a deep, largely opaque amber colour, and was much smoother and richer. In 1964, bourbon was officially recognised as a unique U.S made product and was America’s only original native spirit.

Interesting Bourbon facts – Here are a few interesting facts about Bourbon whiskey:

Sweetness from the corn – As corn is a sweet grain, the more corn that is used, the sweeter the whiskey tastes. To be classed as bourbon, the brew must be a minimum of 51% corn, though many distillers use between 65 and 75% corn.

Smokey richness – Another reason why bourbon was and still is so delicious, is because charred barrels were used by a certain Reverend Elijah Craig in 1789, to ship his bourbon down river. The reason the barrels were charred, was because Craig, rather than purchasing new barrels, used to re-use his barrels after he sanitized them. To sanitize them however, he used to char them from the inside. This meant that the whiskey took on natural sugars from the caramelized wood in the barrels, giving it a deep caramel colour and subtle smoky sweetness.

Slop – Once the corn and grain has been used to brew the bourbon, it is shipped off to farms to be used as feed for animals such as cattle. This mixture is pleasantly referred to as ‘slop’.