If you’ve ever drunk Wild Turkey then you probably know that’s a Kentucky Bourbon. But how is it different from a whiskey, an Irish whiskey, or Scotch? If you’ve ever drunk too much Wild Turkey, then you probably wish you had access to the Hangover Hospital which provides the best hangover cure in Key West.
While it may seem all the same to those who are kicking it back, bourbon is serious business to those who make it. In fact, federal law dictates what can and what cannot be called bourbon. The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits explicitly states that bourbon whiskey is:
“… whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125° proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.”
There is also one other criterion for bourbon. It is made right here in the U.S.A and, more specifically, Kentucky. In fact, the name Bourbon derives from Old Bourbon which is now referred to as Bourbon County or (depending on who you ask) Bourbon street in New Orleans. Both potential origins are thought themselves to originate with the House of Bourbon that ruled France in the 16th and 18th Century and was a branch of the Capetian Dynasty.
Bourbon, however, should not be confused with Tennessee whiskey (like Jack Daniels) which is also produced here in America. JD, unlike Bourbon, is filtered through sugar-maple charcoal giving it its characteristic flavor.
What Makes a Bourbon
Bourbon is primarily a corn liquor that is entirely attached to the spirit of Americana that created it. It’s not unusual to hear country musicians lamenting their lust for corn liquor and bourbon. To make bourbon you require a ratio of 51% corn with the remainder being any other kind of cereal grain to form the mash bill. The grain is ground and mixed with water after which yeast is added for fermentation. It is then distilled to between 65% and 80% alcohol. What results is a clear alcohol known as “white dog”. White dog is placed in charred containers of American white oak where the bourbon takes on much of its flavor. The sugars and vanillins in the white oak are what make bourbon taste like bourbon.
The House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is not a place where bourbon is made. Instead, it is a royal family of wealth and power founded in 1272. The Bourbon Family had rulers in France, Sicily, Spain. The ill-fated King Charles X was the last Bourbon to rule France when he was overthrown in the French Revolution.
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