A.J. Murray’s is proud to be a Kentucky company, established here from ‘birth’ in 2014. Things are done differently in the South (and I can say that from experience, having both lived and worked all across the United States and in Europe), and that’s a good thing. History is rich and colorful and traditions and Southern manners are taken very seriously. One of the time-honored traditions for Kentuckians and transplants alike is enjoying Bourbon. I’d never had bourbon before I moved here over a decade ago, so I had a lot to learn about this drink. So if you’re like me and not familiar with the official libation of the Commonwealth (did you know that Kentucky isn’t a state?), here’s a brief Bourbon 101 lesson.
Bourbon whiskey gets it name from historically being made in Bourbon County, Kentucky. In fact, it’s been said that 97% of bourbon whiskey is made in or near the Bourbon Capital of the World, Bardstown, Kentucky – less than 30 minutes away from our manufacturing facility. Aren’t we lucky to live where we do?
Bourbon is America’s only native spirit, as declared by Congress in 1964. In 2007, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bill that declared September is “National Bourbon Heritage Month” and calls for consumers who enjoy bourbon to celebrate the family heritage, tradition and longstanding legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to America and the world.
In order for a drink to be true bourbon, it must meet the following four criteria:
- Made with at least 51% corn grain. The formula can have more than 51% corn, but anything with less than 51% is whiskey, not bourbon
- Aged for a minimum of two years
- Aged in ‘brand new oak cooperage’ – i.e. a brand new, charred oak barrel
- Distilled to not more than 160 proof and bottled at no less than 80 proof
- Manufactured in the United States
Bourbon is often drank straight, over ice, or even mixed with a splash of water or Coke (here in the South, many call every type of soda Coke – even if it’s Sprite! Very confusing.) Bourbon is also used in cocktails such as the Kentucky Derby staple – Mint Julep. There are bourbons to satisfy just about any palate and budget. Here at A.J. Murray’s, our favorite bourbons include Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Willett, Blanton’s and Jefferson’s Ocean, some of which are pictured above.
Finally, a bourbon factoid for you: the longer bourbon is aged, the more that is lost due to evaporation. In Kentucky, it averages about 4% each year. The evaporated bourbon is called “the angels’ share”.
Hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about bourbon! Do you have a favorite bourbon or way to mix it? Share in the comments below.