Bourbon is a hugely popular drink for people all over the world, and deservedly so. A variety of spirit as complex as bourbon allows it to be used in cocktails or just neat, depending on the needs of the imbiber, but no matter how you decide to consume your bourbon, you might have already considered a very common question – how did this remarkable alcohol drink come to be? Bourbon, like Scotch whisky, has a unique and interesting history, and in this article, we take a look at how bourbon developed to become the tipple of choice for so many whisky fans.
How it all started
you might be very familiar with brands like Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey, but how exactly was it that they came into existence? Although bourbon was created in the United States of America, its origins can actually be traced back to France, and specifically French royals. These French royals, who unsurprisingly had the last name of “Bourbon,” were likely the forebearers of Bourbon County in Kentucky, the true home of bourbon whisky. It was during the 19th century that bourbon began its manufacture in Bourbon County, and started out its life as a product that stemmed from a need to adapt to local conditions. As people from Scotland, Ireland and other European countries prizing distilling had made the pilgrimage to the United States, considerable knowledge of the distilling process was brought with them. Unlike the materials in Europe, however, their new homeland didn’t have the ingredients they were used to. It did have plentiful corn, however, and as a sugar-rich and abundant crop in the United States, it was corn that soon became integrated into the manufacture of whisky.
The development of whisky as an art form
Although it had very humble beginnings, bourbon grew wildly in popularity in a relatively short amount of time. This is mostly due to the huge cost disparity between imported spirits and locally-made bourbon. Bourbon, with its equipment on home soil and an unlimited amount of corn for production purposes, was the simple choice for many. Although the initial purchasing decision was related to cost, bourbon became a huge industry, allowing those responsible to continuously refine and develop the bourbon-making process. Soon, bourbon was a drink that held its own against any imported liquor, and became the drink of choice for many. Prohibition in the United States put a stop to much of this growth, though. From 1920 to 1933, the shutdown of distilleries caused many of the first distilleries to fold, with only a select handful surviving – with many of them being the same distilleries that we know today.
Start appreciating bourbon
Regardless of its interesting history, bourbon rightfully has a place of honour among brown spirits. This appreciation has even seen a resurgence in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, with craft distilleries pushing the artform even further with small-batch and experimental runs not uncommon. If this isn’t your thing, though, there’s always comfort in knowing that some of your old favourites will be waiting for you on the store shelves, no matter where in the world you are! If you haven’t tried bourbon, though, perhaps now is the time.