I am sure you could look up whiskey on the internet and learn more about the topic there. My education on the subject started with my husband and continues to this current day. I don’t know why I am fascinated with the topic of whiskey. Maybe it is from all those cowboy movies I watched as a child with my daddy. Maybe it is because currently I live less than an hour and a half from the oldest registered distillery in the U.S. Maybe it is simply because I like to learn about random topics.
Bourbon is an American whiskey named for Bourbon County, Kentucky, not the street in New Orleans. Tennessee whiskey is similar to Bourbon whiskey but it has been filtered in a process called charcoal mellowing. The history of American whiskey is traced back to Ireland and Scotland further back than a drinking man can remember. There are even two ways to spell whiskey. In the U.S. and Ireland we spell it correctly. In Canada and Scotland they spell it whisky. A few varieties of whiskey are rye, corn, wheat, and barley. There are even federal regulations given to us to eliminate any confusion on what constitutes Bourbon whiskey in this great country!
My education on the subject began with my boyfriend in Mississippi. On a visit to his house, I remember him mixing Jim Beam and Mountain Dew. I wasn’t a drinker since I didn’t live in Huntsville yet. I wasn’t introduced to whiskey until I meet Jack Daniels shortly after my boyfriend became my husband; funny how that goes. Jack and Coke along with popcorn makes a wonderful afternoon snack.
My first trip to Lynchburg, Tennessee, home of Jack Daniels, was with Dan Oates. There was snow on the ground and it was so much fun. A multi-billion dollar business in a small town in the hills of Tennessee was fascinating to me. I was hooked on the history surrounding the Old No. 7 brand. Jasper Newton Daniel seemed to be a mythical character that was much larger than life and in reality had to be taller than 5’2”. Since that first trip, I have visited the hollow a dozen times.
Let’s skip over some of my educational moments to this week. The other day, Divot and I went shopping for bourbon. I learned more hopping from one small liquor store to the next. I learned about small batch whiskeys and how some whiskey makers prefer to age their product for a set number of years. Jack Daniels relies on taste to decide when the barrel is pulled for consumption. Divot taught me about proofing down whiskey. A few years ago I thought proofing something would be to read it for spelling errors.
For example, Jack Daniels sells their Black Label at 80 proof. But it most likely came out of the barrel at close to 130 proof. They proof down the liquor by mixing it with pure water. When I was in third grade I loved Heinz 57 sauce. I was going through many bottles a month. So to save money my mom would “proof down” 57 sauce with ketchup. So it ended up only being 43 sauce. Economics always wins out in the real world. My 57 sauce was cut by ketchup… I was robbed!!
Today, Divot and I picked up Booker’s, a Kentucky bourbon and product of Jim Beam. Booker’s is uncut by water. The whiskey that is sold is the same product that is aged, uncut and unfiltered. It’s a natural proof of 121 to 127 and is typically aged for six to eight years. Booker’s is considered small batch bourbon.
There is something fascinating about all the different methods and recipes. Bourbon whiskey is a lot like wine in its diversity. I could go on about the proof number and what they mean, but really bourbon is just like everything else. It is about the adventure and not about the product itself. Bourbon wouldn’t be any good if it did not age. The aging process or the life adventure, is what gives us our color, our flavor, and our distinct character. This aging process is the same with people. Rather than the process of distilling, the type of barrels, or the amount of time seen on the shelf, we are influenced by our friends, our family, our education, and the people we travel with along the way; especially the ones who tag along on a shopping trip to Tennessee.