June 14 is National Bourbon Day but I wouldn’t know based on the fact that all the fantastic firms I’ve worked with in the past that promote the fine product didn’t alert me. As a writer who covers far more than spirits and adult beverages, I rely on those experts and agencies to keep me afloat and now, I look like a total poser.
This will not be a post about any of my favorite brands, of which I have many, nor will I be talking about cocktails that I love that call for bourbon, of which there are dozens. Instead, this will be a post all about National Bourbon Day in hopes that it will spark you, dear reader, to go find a bottle and celebrate with me in solidarity.
Now, let’s uncover the history of National Bourbon Day (or just read this). From what I could gather online, on June 14, 1789, Rev. Elijah Craig (some should recognize that name) was already a distiller of spirits and reportedly warmed oak staves over a roaring fire to a barrel to remove the smell of fish that it once contained. Of course, like most things, this story can be debated but what isn’t debatable is that for the liquid to be called bourbon, it must follow some simple rules.
First, the mash bill must be over 51 percent corn with barley, rye, and other grains that often make up the rest of the juice. Second, the juice has to be aged in new charred oak barrels, not aged. Thirdly, the juice cannot be distilled beyond 160 proof, and lastly, distillers must state that the bourbon is barreled at 125 before proofing down to the preferred ABV.
What makes all of this fascinating is that while bourbon has murky origins, it is the quintessential domestic spirit. So much so that President Lyndon B. Johnson declared bourbon the “Official Spirit of America” via an Act of Congress.
Bourbon conjures up the image of timeworn men languishing in their favorite watering hole after a long day of work discussing the trials of their day. In recent times, there is even a so-called bourbon gold rush with premium bottles selling at astronomical prices on the secondary market (ew) and liquor stores overcharging patrons due to the hype and lore of certain brands (that will not be named in this op-ed).
I love bourbon. I don’t know if I love it more than gin, but I can tell you that my love of whiskey began with a sip of bourbon from Kentucky and I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.
Bourbon production has expanded far beyond the borders of the Bluegrass State. There are award-winning bourbons produced in Washington State, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. Basically, the choices are seemingly endless.
Bourbon is also a personal journey. On some days, I want a spicier rye-heavy pour. Others, I want the sweet smoothness of a truly corn-dominant dram. Just like our moods and the season of life, it all depends on what you’re looking for in your glass. Bourbon has given way to many an adventure and more than enough memorable conversations. At least, I think I remember them.
Whatever pour of bourbon you go for today, do it at your own pace and in the style you feel best doing so. Cocktails (Old Fashioned, anyone?), neat, in a highball, it truly doesn’t matter. Drink on your terms and have a happy National Bourbon Day.
Photo: Svitlana Hulko / Getty
June 14 Is National Bourbon Day & I Didn’t Get One Pitch For It [Editorial] was originally published on cassiuslife.com
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