Bourbon Basics: 5 Things We Learned While Sipping Spirits On The Bourbon Trail

Barrels Of Bourbon Aging On Racks At Makers Mark1. “All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon”:

We must have heard this phrase a dozen times while in Kentucky. So the question is then, what makes bourbon, bourbon? In order to get the all mighty title of bourbon a whiskey must…

  • Be made within the United States. 95% of all bourbons are made in Kentucky, but they don’t necessarily have to be.
  • In order to be aged they must be placed in a new charred white oak barrel for a minimum of 2 years.
  • The whiskey can only be barreled at a maximum of 125 proof, and can only be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof.
  • Absolutley no additives can be used. Some brands of whiskey will use color and flavor to adjust their tastes. Only pure water can be added to bourbon to reduce the proof.
  • The mash may contain any mixture of other grains but 51% of it must be made of corn

A Barrel Full Of Makers Mark Bourbon

2. The Angels Share & The Devils Cut:

Aside from the whiskey produced, the fermenting process also creates two phenomenons known as the angels share and the devils cut. The angels share, is the evaporating alcohol that escapes out of the barrels as they age. The glass ceiling by Dale Chihuly in the barreling barn at Maker’s Mark has a small cherub figures intermixed to represent the angels taking their bit. In contrast the devils cut, is the portion of whiskey absorbed by the barrels during the aging process. Recently Jim Beam, has produced it’s very own blend by the same name.

The Glass Ceiling In The Barrel Barn At Makers MarkChihuly Glass Angel Taking Its Share In The Barrel Barn Ceiling At Makers Mark

3. Whiskey Business:

Ever heard of whiskey fungus? Us either. The dark black bark of the trees surrounding the distilleries adds a unique aesthetic to the area. At first we thought they were painted black intentionally, but nope it’s whiskey fungus and its a real life thing. Scientifically  called Baudoinia compniacensis, this fungus thrives on ethanol. As the angel’s share is released from the barrels during the aging process, the fungus feeds grows and spreads to the surrounding buildings, trees etc.  But everyone is a fan recently in Kentucky as well as other distilling locations there have been multiple legal battles over the management of it. So there you have it whiskey fungus, pretty interesting stuff!

Maker's Mark Bourbon Distillery On The Kentucky Bourbon TrailWhiskey Fungus On The Trees & Rocks Around The Maker’s Mark Distillery

4. Not All Dogs Go To Heaven:

Fresh off the still is called white dog- this incredibly harsh and high proof alcohol gets its name from its clear complexion. The carmel coloration in your favorite bottle of bourbon 100% comes from the barreling and aging process. Most people who consider themselves dignified drinkers wouldn’t have considered drinking this stuff before it became a proper bourbon, however recently a bottled version of many big brands of white dog has found itself a place on the shelves at your local liquor store. We had a chance to taste some while visiting Maker’s Mark, it was unique but I think we much prefer our bourbon from the barrel and not fresh off the still!

The Tasting Room At The Jim Beam DistilleryWith The Growing Popularity Of Bourbon There Is A Greater Demand For Variety And Even A Market For Raw White Dog

5. The True Mark Of A Maker:

Why is whiskey spelled without the “e” on Maker’s Mark labels? You may have not even noticed this before, we certainly didn’t but heck I blame the bourbon for that oversight! The Samuel’s family who started Maker’s Mark back in the 1800’s and still own and run it today, come from a Scottish heritage and honor that provence by spelling whiskey in the Scottish way.  Extra fun fact only the US and Ireland use the “e” in the spelling of whiskey.

Making Makers Mark Labels In KentuckyThe Mysterious Missing “E”

And now you know! Thanks for following along and keeping up with all our adventures! Next up, part 2 of Kate’s Kentucky birthday bash! Follow along to hear more about our history making and seriously soggy visit to the Kentucky Derby!

 

 

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