National Bourbon Heritage Month - Bourbon Debunked

In August of 2007 the United States Senate declared that September be recognized as National Bourbon Heritage Month. While this may not have much impact with the average consumer, it is an honor for the craftsmen in the bourbon industry. The designation is designed to celebrate "America's Native Spirit" and the significant historical, economical and industrial role the bourbon industry has played in the country's history.

Bourbon is undeniably on a major roll. Over the last few years, sales of the whiskey have shot up around the world. While I love that bars and stores now boast big selections of the spirit, we still hear plenty of misinformation about the liquor. So to set the record straight, I have debunked some of the most common bourbon myths. Cheers!

Jack Daniel’s is a bourbon.

An easy bet to win is to ask them to find the word “bourbon” on a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. You’ll stump them every time, since the spirit is a Tennessee whiskey, not a bourbon. What’s the difference? Jack Daniel’s goes through a special charcoal-filtering process before it’s put into barrels and is basically a sour mash (leftover bourbon), like sourdough bread.

All bourbon is made in Kentucky.

While most bourbon comes from the Bluegrass State (according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, 95 percent of the planet’s supply is born there), by law the alcohol can be distilled anywhere in the United States. Unique bourbons exist from across the country, like those from Upstate New York’s Tuthilltown Spirits and Chicago’s Few Spirits.

Older bourbon is better.

Super-premium and super-old bourbons such as Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Years Old and Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old. Though these bottlings are beloved by bartenders and drinkers, they are really the exception and not the norm. Older bourbon isn’t necessarily better: If the spirit spends too long in a barrel, all you’ll taste is wood.

You can’t add ice & mixers.

Don’t let anybody tell you how to drink your whiskey. You should enjoy it any way you want. And in fact, a bit of water helps open up the bourbon just as it does with Scotch. If you want to add ice, use a jumbo cube that chills thoroughly but melts slowly. Bourbon is also, of course, delicious in cocktails. It's particularly good in a simple and refreshing Presbyterian and the classic Mint Julep or Manhattan along with many other specialty cocktails you can have today.