While visiting countless bars, a wide range of restaurants, and distilleries, a conversation often stumbles upon bourbon. Quite surprising, and often times hilariously amusing, is the affinity of some folks to be self-proclaimed experts and have no idea what they are talking about. To keep your spirits game on point, below are 5 misconceptions about bourbon dispelled.
1. Bourbon must be made in Kentucky. False! While bourbon is quite delicious and abundant in the Bluegrass State, any state can produce it. Bourbon must be made in the United States.
2. Bourbon must be aged in an oak barrel. False! After distillation the bourbon must be placed in a new, charred oak container. Any new, charred oak container will do. A charred oak cube, globe, or an elongated dodecahedron (geometry class project anyone?). That said, there are numerous reasons a barrel is the preferred container. One of note is transportability. A fifty four gallon oak barrel can weigh as much as 550, making it a beast to move without some serious muscle.
3. Bourbon must be aged at least 2 years. False! Bourbon only requires that it is stored in an oak container. The amount of time, or aging, is undefined. A 5 Minute Aged bourbon qualifies just as well as a 10 year...now the taste is a different conversation. `
4. Bourbon can be flavored or infused. False again! While the spirit may have characteristics of bourbon, it is legally no longer a bourbon when flavor is added.
5. Sour mash is a unique Kentucky Bourbon process. False! This is a claim typically from the patron who has read an article or two and balks at drinking any bourbon found at a Chili's (by the way, you suck and I will gladly consume your pour of Maker's, Woodford, or Wild Turkey). Sour mash is a common industry practice in bourbon distillation with numerous benefits: mash continuity, pH balance, and lower operating costs to name a few.
Photo: Turnkey Photography, Raleigh, NC