September, could quite possibly be one of the best months of the year, at least one worth raising a glass to! In addition to the introduction of Fall and the cooler months of the year (depending on where you live) we in the United States have another historic time for recognition, worthy of calendar marking that has been entrenched in our recent history since 2007. NATIONAL BOURBON HERITAGE MONTH – Yeah that’s right, I yelled it. Sure, Fall brings with it hot drinks, apple cider, mandarins, cooler weather, etc… but if we all thought about it we would likely agree Bourbon can often times make all of those things better… And that is the subject of this brief interaction.
In 1964 under the guidance of Lynden B. Johnson congress passed, with bi-partisan support (bi-what???), Bourbon as America’s Native Spirit. A favorite of the president at the time and a favorite of so many American’s spanning social economics from working class to the social elites of the time. It seems that in this country there isn’t much we come together on, but when it comes to Bourbon we seem to rally in one accord. Whether you land in the Republican or Democratic Party we can all raise a glass to the Cocktail Party! In 2007 this relationship was solidified once again when the U.S. Senate unanimously made September National Bourbon Heritage Month.
Families entrenched in the making of this fine Spirit, like the BEAM’s at Jim Beam have been enjoying and producing this Great Spirit for over 200 years. After prohibition the first bottle of Bourbon produced came out of the Jim Beam distillery. And families like the Samuel’s at Maker’s Mark added their spin to the ever evolving image of what it means to produce a truly handmade quality Whiskey in the ever changing landscape of Bourbon in America. In fact Maker’s Mark was the first Bourbon Whiskey whose bottle was entirely designed by one of the first women in Whiskey Mrs. Marjorie Samuels.
Although all Bourbon is Whiskey not all Whiskey is Bourbon. Straight Bourbon Whiskey that we drink today has its standards: It must be aged for no less than 2 years, if less than 4yrs it must state so on the bottle. It must be aged in brand new oak barrels, after that the Scot’s / Irish and our bothers in the land of Tequila usually get them. The Liquid can have no additional flavorings added to it except those common to the production process and relative to the barrel and grain. It must be made from at least 51% Corn, after that rye, barley and wheat are common to the mash in varying percentages. It cannot be distilled to more than 160 proof (or 80% alcohol by volume) and cannot enter the barrel at more than 125 proof. Finally it cannot enter the bottle at less than 80 proof. We call these the ABC’s of Bourbon production (A = aging, B = barrels, C = corn, D = distillation). Although common to Kentucky Bourbon can be made anywhere inside the USA.
So, this month as you slip into your cardigan sweater and heat up your favorite Hot Apple Cider or Cinnamon whatever, don’t forget the Bourbon. Not only will you have a better tasting beverage, you will be participating in a non-partisan activity while, as Fred Noe (7th generation Master Distiller at Jim Beam) puts it, “doing your damn patriotic duty.”