The Kentucky Distiller’s Association states that Kentucky produces around 95% of the world’s bourbon whiskey, positively dominating the market. There’s no doubt that the Bluegrass State is famous for the residential spirit, but where did it all start? Why does Kentucky continue to hold a monopoly on the manufacturing and of the bourbon that is renowned throughout the world?
There Must Be Something In The Water
Surprisingly, there is: the region is rich in blue limestone, which naturally filters out hard iron and deposits calcium and magnesium, sweetening the waters. Additionally, the climate proves especially conducive to ageing because of its swinging temperatures — the alternating hot summers and brisk winters allow the bourbon to get absorbed and released from the charred oak barrels it’s aged in, providing a marriage of tastes between smokey wood and smooth whiskey.
Fertile Grounds To Plant A Legacy
Whiskey can be made from wheat, rye, barley, and — as in Kentucky — corn. The crop has ideal growing conditions and fertile, nutrient-rich soil in the southeastern state, as settlers soon discovered. Virginia’s Corn Patch and Cabin Right’s Act, which offered 400 acres of land to anyone who built a cabin and planted corn on their property, drew immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and Scotland… who then, naturally, brought their knowledge of whiskey distillation.
Bourbon Takes Over
Whiskey, although in existence beforehand, didn’t really take off until the import of rum declined. Rum was one of Europe’s great exports, and many patriotic Americans imagined their money going right into the hands of the British if they supported it. As rum consumption slowed, bourbon picked up the slack.
The name “bourbon” has a foggy past; some attribute it to Bourbon County, which occupied a large part of central Kentucky, while others say the name was taken from Bourbon Street in New Orleans, where the drink was made popular. Regardless, Kentucky bourbon whiskey is a giant in the liquor industry, possessing its own merits and distinctive taste.
For those that love beer and wine and have no interest in switching to hard liquor: don’t knock it ’til you try it. Head to a bourbon bar or cocktail bar (any local bar, really), and try out some craft cocktails that incorporate bourbon — you may just leave your beer and wine days behind.