Rain Makes Corn – Corn Makes Whiskey!
BY: RACHEL WUMKES
People across the United States will be lifting a glass of bourbon today. A toast on National Bourbon Day as we celebrate the anniversary of the very first time this famous drink was distilled. It may only be legend dated all the way back to the 1700s, but it still constitutes a celebration.
Bourbon has been around for centuries and played somewhat of a significant role in American history. It was the drink of choice throughout the 1800s (mostly because it was the only drink option). It became so popular that many distilleries were opened in Kentucky, which is mostly where bourbon is made today.
In fact, during my recent trip to the Kentucky Derby this past May, I had the opportunity to tour a few of these facilities.
Being a beer girl myself, I can’t say it was the most enjoyable, but I did appreciate watching the process. The most fascinating part for me was seeing the rick houses. You see, after the bourbon is made, it’s put into a barrel that has been charred on the inside. The level of char determines much of the flavor when the bourbon is ready for bottling.
These rick houses are home to rows upon rows upon rows of bourbon barrels.
Biding their time, soaking up all the flavors and aging to perfection.
While there is no minimum specified for how long bourbon must age – it’s common knowledge of bourbon enthusiasts that the longer it sits, the better it tastes. The exception is straight bourbon, which must be aged for at least two years. Also, any bourbon aged less than four years must include an age statement on the label.
I was lucky enough (or something like that) to taste a bourbon straight from the barrel after aging for eleven years. Now, while my husband made “Mmmm” noises and said things like, “Oh, that’s so smooth,” I mostly clamped my eyes shut tight while it burned every inch of my esophagus.
It typically ended with a full body shiver and watery eyes.
Thankfully, I wised up after two sips and realized it was not something I’d grow to enjoy.
For the distilled spirit to be classified as bourbon, it must be made in the United States, distilled from at least 51% corn, and aged in a new oak-charred barrel.
There are several types of bourbons, each with its own unique history and flavor. The most common types are:
- Whiskey: The most common type of bourbon, it is made from a mixture of corn, rye, and barley. It is typically barrel-aged for two to six years.
- Rye: This is made from a higher percentage of rye grain than other types of bourbon. It has a sweeter taste and is usually used to make mixed drinks.
- Scotch: This is made from malted grain that has been distilled twice. This gives it a fuller flavor than other bourbons and makes it ideal to sipping.
The terms whiskey and bourbon are often used interchangeably, leaving many people wondering the difference between the two. Here’s the key: bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.
It turns out whiskey is also a distilled spirit made from grains like corn and rye and aged in wooden barrels. It’s the strict rules in place to ensure the quality that earns it the distinction of bourbon.
So where does one enjoy such a thing around here? While 173 Craft Distillery has only their vodka and rum ready at this time, you can still sip on their signature mixed drinks until production is complete!
Other places to enjoy a delicious cocktail and celebrate on National Bourbon Day (and maybe a bit of food as well) are:
So today, raise your glass and celebrate National Bourbon Day. It doesn’t matter if you drink it neat, over ice, or mix it with soda. Order up a Manhattan, a Bourbon Smash, an Old Fashioned, or even a Mint Julep.
Or, if you still want to celebrate in a non-drinking way, find some bourbon syrup to enjoy on your waffles. Bourbon is used to flavor sauces, spice up a batch of chili, or to marinate meat before grilling.