Thursday, March 13, 2008

Public Service Announcement: Jack Daniel’s is NOT Bourbon

Public Service Announcement: Jack Daniel’s is NOT Bourbon
Current mood:know-it-all
Ok, so it was amusing the first four times I ordered "Bourbon and Ginger" and received Jack Daniel’s. But I am seriously beginning to take it personally. Texans are a proud bunch, but they’ve got nothing on Kentuckians. We are much more quiet and dignified in our love for our state, and we know that Jack Daniel’s is NOT bourbon.

And in that vain, I am now going to teach you all what legally (yes, legally) makes whiskey a bourbon.

Because I am a know-it-all, and I’m okay with that. I prefer the term "self-improvement," but my fondness for sharing interesting facts is often annoying. If you aren’t interested in learning, then stop reading. But I promise you that this will come in useful at a cocktail party soon.

First of all, whiskey can be spelled with "whiskey" OR "whisky."
You’ll notice that on my first record, the song "Whisky in the Faucet" is spelled without an "e." This is not a typo. I spelled it as such because I was referencing Maker’s Mark, which was created by Scottish descendents. And Scots spell their "whisky" without and "e." Irish folks use the "e." Check your bottles if you don’t believe me. Maker’s Mark is whisky, not whiskey.

(sidenote: Interesting fact! "Whiskey" is Gaelic for "water of life.")

Secondly, all bourbon is whisky/ey, but not all whisky/ey is bourbon.
It’s like with quadrilaterals. Are squares are rhombuses, but not all rhombuses are squares.

Thirdly, and you’re going to try to fight me on this, but it’s true: Bourbon does not have to be made in Kentucky.
It is not like Champagne and the region of France. I guarantee you that most people won’t believe you when you share this fact, so I suggest you learn the following regulations.

Why do I know these things? I have visited pretty much every distillery in Kentucky multiple times. I’ve taken the Maker’s Mark tour probably about 25 times. Why? 1) I like Maker’s Mark. and 2) I have hosted a LOT of out-of-town guests, and it’s the perfect daytrip/tourist activity.
By now, I could give the tours. So I’ve definitely memorized the Six Federal Guidelines That Make a Whisky a Bourbon.

And here they are, complete with a mnemonic device so that you, too, might memorize them:

Bourbon must:

A: be made in AMERICA. Not necessarily Kentucky. Just America. The reason most of it is made in Kentucky is because Kentucky sits on a bed of limestone, which filters the iron out of the water and makes it taste better. But there is a bourbon made in Virginia.

B: It must be aged (at least two years for "straight" bourbon) in new, charred, oak BARRELS. You can thank Elijah Craig for that one.

C: It must be at least 51% CORN.

D: It must be DISTILLED to no more than 160 Proof (yikes!).

E: It must ENTER the barrel at no more than 125 proof.

and finally
F: It cannot be FILTERED through or mixed with anything except pure water.

Note that bourbon is completely organic and vegan.

Okay, that’s my diatribe and lesson for the evening.

Actually, I should also say that my Jack and Ginger’s have been delicious. I like Jack, but it’s not bourbon.

What bourbons do you like?

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