Busting 9 of the most common bourbon myths and misunderstandings
By guest author Rachel Moore
Have you noticed that there has been a significant increase in bourbon production and consumption in the last couple of years?
Even the pandemic hasn’t been able to stop the growth of the industry!
You must have observed a lot of new bourbon distilleries opening up in your city, using wooden oak barrels to age their bourbon. And the number of restaurants and bars serving these amazing bourbons has also shot up.
Here’s a bit of insight into what has come to be known as the ‘bourbon boom.’
With a higher population becoming bourbon lovers, we decided to come up here and debunk some of the most common misconceptions about bourbon.
Grab yourself a fine glass of your favorite bourbon, and let’s get right into busting the nine myths we’ve heard the most!
1. Whiskey = bourbon
If you were to tell us all bourbon = whiskey, then we’d say you’re right. But the other way round? Not at all! Whiskey needs to be distilled from grain at less than 190 proof. This is strict regulation that needs to be followed by every distillery that wants to sell “actual” whiskey. Every other kind of whiskey, like Scotch, blended, Irish, Canadian, etc., cannot be known as bourbon whiskey.
2. Age it for TWO years
A statement you might have heard that “if you haven’t aged your new-make whiskey for at least two years in a used oak barrel, it cannot be labeled as bourbon” is completely false. Whether you keep it in the barrel for a month or a year, it is known as bourbon. It is mandatory for distilleries to show the age of the bottle if the bourbon is four years or younger.
3. Made in Kentucky only
We can’t count on one hand how many times we’ve heard this! It is true that most bourbon, i.e., about 95% comes from the Bluegrass State, but that does not mean that bourbon made anywhere else cannot be counted as the original. The law states that bourbon distilled anywhere in the U.S. is still bourbon!
P.S. Bardstown in Kentucky calls itself “The Bourbon Capital of the World,” and we’re sure they must need a bunch of used barrels!
Talk about the swag!
4. A single known origin
We have done our fair share of bourbon study, and we found various claims going around about the origins of bourbon, but none that stuck. It’s hard to believe any of the theories due to the lack of proof. One of the claims suggests that a Baptist minister who was also a distiller used oak barrels to create our beloved drink. Some others credit the first labeling of bourbon whiskey to Jacob Spears of Bourbon County, Kentucky.
We believe that giving just one person all the credit might not be the best way to go about it. After all, what proof do we have?
5. Bet Jack Daniel’s is bourbon!
So, what do we win?
Jack Daniel’s is far from being bourbon. It is a Tennessee whiskey that goes through a special charcoal-filtering process before being stored in barrels. If you don’t believe us, take a look at the bottle, read through the label, and tell us if you find the word “bourbon” written anywhere on it!
6. The older, the better
You might find bourbons that have been aged in used oak barrels for a longer period to be better than the others, but it’s not the ultimate. With time, bourbon matures and absorbs the flavors that the charred oak barrel has left within it. There are times when bourbon takes in a lot of these notes, becoming dry, bitter, or woody. And you really don’t want that, right? Distilling the best bourbon involves a lot of different aspects along with the aging process.
7. Let it age in the bottle
Bourbon is not wine. While certain wines can be aged purposefully in bottles, none of the bourbons can. Once it has been taken out of the used oak barrels, it stops aging. Since the chemical reaction from oak stops, so does the aging. If you feel like your bourbon has changed in terms of taste after keeping it in the bottle for a couple of years, it is likely because of the oxidization.
8. Adding ice or mixes is a crime
Don’t worry about people who say things like this. Just ignore them and enjoy your whiskey the way you like it. Do you know how adding a little bit of water to Scotch opens up its taste palette? The same thing goes for bourbon as well. If you like your bourbon chilled, then add a big block of ice to your glass. It will melt slower and keep your drink cooler for longer. After all, bourbon is a classy affair!
Tell you what! The next time you’re cooking something special for your family, try to add bourbon into the mix.
Don’t worry; we’ve got your back with some delicious bourbon recipes! They’re going to love your innovation and appreciate the efforts.
9. Use bourbon barrels to age more bourbon
According to regulations, no distillery is allowed to age bourbon in barrels that have already been used for the same purpose. Distilleries will have to get new charred oak barrels to extract as much color and flavor from them as possible. Don’t worry; these barrels do not go to waste after each use. It is very common for distilleries and breweries to use these bourbon barrels to age whiskeys, Scotch, and beers, respectively. The bourbon trapped in the wood of the barrels gives the other spirits a unique note, flavor, and smell.
Do you think you could become the next bourbon connoisseur of the U.S.?
We’ve certainly debunked the myths, but there are a lot of complexities in every bourbon that must be explored.
Rachel Moore works as a Marketing Manager at Rocky Mountain Barrel Company. Rocky Mountain Barrel Company provides used wooden barrels for spirits, like bourbon barrels, whiskey barrels, rum barrels, and wine barrels. Rachel Moore loves her combination of nature, wine, and nerdy friends who appreciate her homemade wines.