Bourbon’s Background

This page will cover the fascinating history of Bourbon/Whiskey. The first archive must clarify the difference in Bourbon and Whiskey.   A recently published “highly valuable” and entertaining resource on the history of  whiskey is: “The Golden Elixir of the West.”  by Sherry Monahan and Jane Perkins.  (By the way, Jane and her husband founded High West Distillers in Park City Utah.  High West -Valey Tan is a favorite.  More on High West later.)

In  “The Golden Elixir of the West-Whiskeyand the Shaping of America” Ms. Monahan and Ms. Perkins describe How Bourbon Got Its Name (pages 22 and 24): “How bourbon came to be called bourbon is one of the oldest legends around – and perhaps one of the most spurious.  One version of the story is that the name comes from Bourbon County Kentucky, and that merchants in New Orleans found that shipments of whiskey carrying invoices indicating that they came from (the town of ) Limestone, Bourbon County, Kentucky were the most desirable.  Their customers soon started asking for that “Bourbon County” whiskey, and the reference was eventually shortened to simply bourbon whiskey. Their are two problems with this legend. The first is that in these early years of settlement  there was a limited trade with New Orleans (the round trip took a year) and it is therefore unlikely that there were enough whiskey shipments invoiced to Limestone to catch the attention of New Orleanans. The second is that Limestone was part of  Bourbon County for only a very brief time while Kentucky was still part of Virginia and that by the time bourbon became a style of whiskey advertised in Kentucky newspapers, the town had been a part of Mason County for more than three decades.  The oral tradition connecting the name to Bourbon County is strong. *****************”

The authors declared, and I wholeheartedly agree: “Whatever its origins, bourbon gave Kentucky a reputation for making fine whiskey.”

Make no mistake, I will always offer credence and respect, as long as there is a shot glass and a bit of ice, to “Bourbon” and its roots in Kentucky.  So allow me to interchange the terms Bourbon and Whiskey during the life of this blog .  More really cool  whiskey history will be chronicled in upcoming Bourbon’s Background including President Taft’s declaration of the difference in bourbon and whiskey. A lawyer’s perspective taking nine pages to figure it out. Typical.

Also, upcoming in Who in Who’s Whiskey will feature distillers from around the country, hopefully including Jane Perkins and her husband founders of  High West Distillery.  Next week watch for Jimmy from John Emerald Distillery in the WWW.