10 Amazing Facts You Don’t Know About Bourbon Whisky

Well, bourbon is probably your favorite drink and your weekend is never complete without taking a glass of the brown stuff. But wait, how much can you talk about bourbon?

In this article, we are out to teach you some amazing facts about bourbon you are missing. Keep reading to find out more about what makes it one of the world’s most popular drinks for the party.

1. Bourbon gets its name from the House of Bourbon 

All events surrounding the origin of ‘Bourbon’ take place in the early 18th century. George Washington, who was the president of the U.S.A. by then, decides to incentivize all settlers to move to the south of Kentucky.

All farmers who would agree to plant American whiskey on their farmers are given a fine share of the 60 acres of land in Pennsylvania. It results in settlement of Bourbon County after the collapse of French Bourbon. Distillers start shipping their wares from Ohio and Missouri rivers. They would stamp the ‘Bourbon County’ on every barrel of the drink shipped to other parts of the country. This would signal the origin of this drink. To date, this whisky drink borrows its name from the famous Bourbon County. Originally, bourbon derives its name from the French royalty, the House of Bourbon. 

2. Bourbon comes from anywhere 

Kentucky is one of the leading producers of bourbon. However, not all the best bourbons come from this part of the world. At least 95% of all bourbon is distilled in Bluegrass State, but no single law has passed that limits the production of this drink in other states.

Of late, some of the leading distillers have invested a lot in bourbon production due to its growing demand worldwide.

3. The rules of distilling bourbon 

Like most whiskies, bourbon has its unique taste and color, made possible with the specific rules set for all distillers. Every distillery in Kentucky and other states must observe the government’s strict bourbon production rules in America. Here are the rules for making bourbon:

  • It must be produced from at least 51% natural corn.
  • It should be aged in a new, unused charred barrel.
  • The barrel-aging begins at more than 125 proof.
  • Bourbon should be bottled between 80 and 160 proof.
  • It should not have any additives like flavor and color.
  • The whisky should go into the barrel at 62.5% A.B.V. and into the bottle at a minimum of 40% A.B.V.

It sounds amazing that such wonderful drinks have so many rules governing their production. So, your favorite Kentucky bourbon must meet all the above rules in the distillery before reaching your table. It should have aged for some years, not a must,  to have the exact flavor and texture of straight bourbon. Immature or adulterated bourbons are called blended bourbons and are normally cheaper than blended bourbon.

4. Bourbon has no exact founder 

There is controversy on who is the father of bourbon whisky. Some say it’s Elijah Craig who was the fifth person to use the charred oak barrels in distilling bourbon, while some people dispute it.  James Crow is said to have invented the sour mash process and accredited by most people for inventing the best liquor.

5. Charred barrels can only be used once in making bourbon 

This is probably the only rule that makes bourbon a unique drink on the shelves. The charred barrels used in making this drink cannot be re-used. What is even more surprising is the process of making the barrels themselves.

The barrel staves holding bourbon are usually toasted to bring out the caramelized sugars and wood scent. Sometimes they are put on the fire to charcoal up the interior and then run together with some metal pieces. Lastly, a piece of wood, called a bung, plugs up the barrel staves. Most people believe that the common TP is used in the bunghole. However, this is never true in the production process of bourbon.

6. Corn is the main raw material in bourbon 

The reason bourbon is common in Kentucky. is that America is one of the world’s leading corn producers. Corn is the legal and primary raw material used in making bourbon. Corn should be at least 51% of all the materials used to make bourbon to qualify it as straight bourbon.

 It’s possible to make bourbon with 100% corn. However, most distilleries would rather mix other grains like barley, rye, and wheat in making the drink. Whether it is made of pure corn or a mix of grains, bourbon should not have other additives and must maintain its exact taste.

7. It doesn’t have to age to be called bourbon 

There are some sets of rules that ‘govern’ the production of bourbon. However, aging is never an issue when making bourbon. As long as the bourbon comes into contact with a new charred oak barrel, it’s ready for the shot.

You can just chuck some 5% corn whisky into a barrel for at least 15 minutes between 80-160 proof, and you make some tasty bourbon whisky in front of you, ready to drink. It may not be ready for the market, but sure, you can be proud you made some bourbon whisky on your own.

8. Where bourbon ages matter more than where it’s distilled 

The intimate relation between the barrel and the whisky is what makes bourbon such a special drink for many. It may come as a surprise that what makes bourbon whisky a straight bourbon is not where it’s distilled but where it ages.

The drink soaks into the sides of a charred barrel to extract all the essential compounds that give it its unique taste, texture, and color. It obtains the soft slap of smoke and the layers of woody ceramic sugar from the aging process. Kentucky has the best material for making an ideal barrel for aging bourbon – the reason Kentucky bourbon is the best whisky you’ll have in any local bar.

9. The ‘sour mash’ bourbon is not sour

The phrase ‘sour mash’ has nothing to do with the taste of your bourbon. It refers to using the previous batch to ferment the next batch. There is no sour taste that comes out in the end product. This is a common practice in making Kentucky bourbon because it is economical and preserves the exact taste of straight bourbon.

10. Un-aged bourbon is called a ‘white dog.’

There is a clear and strong spirit that comes off the still before it hits the barrel. Most distillers call this clear spirit the ‘white dog.’ It’s not one of the best quality bourbons you can have around. However, some distillers would still manage to sell it.

Final Thoughts

Not all whisky is bourbon, but all bourbon is whisky. Whisky is any type of spirit obtained from the fermentation of grain mash; the grains, in this case, could be rye, wheat, and barley. For bourbon whisky, it must be made of 51% corn and produced in America.

There is a lot of stuff to learn about bourbon. Most people only acknowledge that the best bourbon comes from Kentucky but know nothing beyond. Whenever you lift your favorite bottle of bourbon to celebrate your birthday, you should ask the waiter how old your drink is. Bourbon must meet the six rules we’ve highlighted in this article. You can research for more facts on bourbon if you’re such a lover of this popular whisky.

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