30 May 2009

MAIL CALL: What Is Bourbon?

Bourbon is a uniquely American whiskey made from corn, its name coming from Bourbon County, Kentucky.  On 04 May 1964 the United States Congress recognized bourbon as being, "a distinctive product of the United States".  It is defined by the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, 27 CFR 5, which states that in order to be called bourbon it must:
  • Be made from at least 51% corn
  • Distilled to not more than 160 proof
  • Aged in new white oak barrels, the inside of which are charred
  • Not barreled at greater than 125 proof
  • Be aged at least two years in order to be called Straight Bourbon
  • If the age is displayed on the label, it must be the age of the youngest bourbon in the barrel (applies to mixed / batch bourbons)
As the bourbon ages, the barrel expands and contracts with the weather and the seasons causing the bourbon to move back and forth through the char and the wood.  This is where it obtains its flavor, aroma, and color, in return giving up the "angel's share."  As with all things, there are the good and the not so good but remember what I always say, taste is subjective.  Some bourbons are not aged for very long and mixed with several other barrels.  Others are blended in order to obtain a consistent flavor.  As you climb the quality ladder, you reach the small batch (only a few high quality bourbons blended to obtain certain characteristics) and ultimately the single barrel bourbons (one very high quality bourbon from one barrel only).  These are to be drank straight (neat is my preference), not mixed with anything else.

No comments:

Post a Comment