There’s nothing more American than apple pie, right? Well, we may have a not-so-new contender: bourbon.
That’s right. Bourbon. America’s official native spirit as of 1964, heart of the delicious Old Fashioned and Mint Julep cocktails, and the highest exported alcohol of the USA (2/3 of all exported spirits, to be exact).
With Eaglewood Resort & Spa recently partnering with local FEW Spirits on our very own bourbon, we thought it’d only be fitting to learn a little more about America’s pride and joy. Check out what we’ve learned!
Its History is Questionable
Bourbon has become such a staple of American culture that everyone wants to take ownership. Some historians credit Baptist preacher Elijah Craig as the founding father of Bourbon, while others swear it was an early distiller named James Spears.
Because of all the back and forth and debatable folklore, we can’t definitively claim one person as the creator of bourbon. All that can really be pinpointed is that the spirit originated in the Kentucky-Virginia region in the 18th century.
All Bourbon is Whiskey, But Not All Whiskey is Bourbon
Remember in geometry how you learned that all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares? (It’s okay if you don’t!). The same kind of concept applies here. Bourbon is classified as a type of whiskey, but there are very strict requirements the spirit must have to acquire the coveted label of “bourbon.”
According to the U.S. Government Publishing office, bourbon must be:
- Produced in the United States
- Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
- Aged in new, charred oak containers
- Distilled to no more than 160 proof
- Bottled at 80 proof or more
- Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof
With bourbon being the only distilled spirit regulated in the U.S., the guidelines can be pretty strict. And that includes using barrels only once.
Given the fact that Kentucky has more barrels than people, you might wonder where all the barrels go after the bourbon is done. In this super cool infographic, you’ll see that the barrels are used for just about everything! From housing other types of whiskeys, beer or wine to storing BBQ sauce, fish sauce, oil and vinegar, these barrels pretty much go all across the country.
It Doesn’t Have to be Made in Kentucky…but Most of it is
When you think of bourbon, the state of Kentucky always comes to mind – and understandably so. Kentucky’s spirits industry exported to 100 countries in 2015, with the whiskey category – including bourbon – topping the list at more than $310.6 million.
Recently, however, there’s been an uptick in the growth of distilleries from coast to coast, including right here in Illinois. FEW Spirits is just one example, but their story was especially interesting to Eaglewood. Sourced with local corn and Lake Michigan water, FEW is considered a “grain to grass” distillery. Sold in 30 states – and 5 continents – this brand has really put Chicago on the map when it comes to a traditionally Southern spirit.
FEW offers tours every Thursday and Saturday at their spot in Evanston, but you can also try it right here at Eaglewood Resort & Spa!
Happy sipping 🙂