Celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month with Spirit Hub

Celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month with Spirit Hub

The month-long celebration of America’s Native Spirit is more delicious with craft bourbon from Spirit Hub

Some might say that a full month devoted to celebrating bourbon is overkill.

But you know what we say to that? Is a month long enough to celebrate all the delicious craft bourbon out there?

This is ‘America’s Native Spirit’ we’re talking about. And that’s not just some fun nickname it got from its classmates. No. That’s a firm designation that came from the U.S. Congress in 1964.

Some 43 years later, in 2007, the Senate unanimously passed a bill calling for September to be known as National Bourbon Heritage Month. 

Just like that, September became a month-long celebration recognizing bourbon’s role in the history of our great United States. We’ve come a long way since The Noble Experiment. 

That itself is worth celebrating.

But there’s an encyclopedia's worth of astonishing stories behind each of the independent distilleries across America. A month couldn’t possibly celebrate every one of the incredible humans behind those bourbon-making stills.  

Every bottle of craft bourbon tells the tale of generations. 

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Huling Station Bourbon Whiskey tells the story of the Canale family. It’s named for the warehouse where Domenico Canale first started selling his whiskeys. Now, his great-great-grandchildren are making the same craft bourbon and spirits as he did at Tennessee’s Old Dominick Distillery. You can truly taste the family tradition inside every bottle of Old Dominick Distillery’s craft bourbon.

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4 Spirits Bourbon Whiskey honors the men and women who serve in the armed forces for the United States. Oregon’s 4 Spirits Distillery gives the delicious brown craft spirit a righteous new purpose. Here, their Bourbon Whiskey is featured in an Apple Cider Fizz, the perfect fall cocktail to show off this bourbon's sweet notes.

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Craft bourbon lets us celebrate Domenico and countless other heroes’ stories. 

The question shouldn’t be why do we have a National Bourbon Heritage Month. The question should be, why did it take us until 2007 to establish it?

How did bourbon whiskey come to be?

Even with bourbon’s national distinction, its history is anything but defined. We know that bourbon is a full-bred American product, but exactly where, when, and how the delicious deep brown tipple got started is certainly up for debate.

The most widely circulated piece of lore regarding bourbon’s origin concerns Elijah Craig, whose name you might recognize from a mainstream brand of bourbon. 

Mr. Craig was Baptist preacher, an educator, an entrepreneur and an integral part of the Fayette County community in Virginia, an area that would eventually become Kentucky.

He built and founded the county’s first fulling mill and its first paper mill. In Georgetown, where he lived, he founded the first lumber and gristmill. He even served as Fire Chief after helping establish the town’s first fire department. You might call him a Jack of All Trades. Some call him the inventor of bourbon. 

Here’s the truth. Yes, Elijah Craig did, in fact, establish a distillery in an area that would eventually become Kentucky. And yes, he did start aging moonshine and corn whiskey in charred American Oak barrels.

But calling him the “Father of Bourbon” is more of a charming moniker than verifiable truth. His products were no different than what was being made by a collection of small farmer-distillers west of the Alleghenies. 

It wasn’t even until the 1800s that the American spirit was starting to be called “bourbon.” In 1821, a newspaper in Paris, Kentucky called Western Civilization Newspaper ran the first known advertisement for the spirit. If you were wondering, a firm known as “Stout and Adams” had it for sale by the barrel. 

After decades of being called “Bourbon County Whiskey” or “Old Bourbon County Whiskey,” the extra words were dropped from the name, and in 1840,  America’s Native Spirit started being called “bourbon.”

When it comes to the history of bourbon, the accepted theory is that it wasn’t invented. It was developed. The signature spirit of the states was forged over years and years by the hands of many all across America. At this point, the only thing that actually matters is that you can order craft bourbon and have it delivered straight to your door.

So, what is bourbon whiskey exactly?

Everyone loves a clean definition. Thankfully the Federal Standard of Identity for Distilled Spirits clearly outlines what it takes to become America’s Native Spirit. For starters, there’s a location requirement. A lot of you may be thinking, “Bourbon. Made in Kentucky. Simple as that.” But that’s actually not the case. 

When it comes to where bourbon is made, the right answer is here in the United States. That’s the only location requirement. It’s the same as Scotch being produced in Scotland, and champagne being made in the Champagne wine region in France. So, no. It doesn’t need to be made in Kentucky. It could be distilled in Liberty Hills, Texas like Fire Oak Distillery’s Texas Bourbon or blended in Cooperstown, New York like Cooperstown Distillery’s Doubleday Baseball Bourbon.

The rest of the distinctions focus on how the spirit is made and its proofing. To be bourbon whiskey, the spirit’s mash must be made from a grain mix that is at least 51% corn. The mash must be distilled to a proof no higher than 160. After it’s done distilling, it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, going into the barrels at no higher than 125 proof. Finally, it has to be bottled at 80 proof or higher. And just like that, you’ve got a bourbon whiskey. 

Simple enough, right?

What if we told you that there’s more than one type of bourbon whiskey? You’ve heard the title “Straight Bourbon Whiskey” before, but today you’re going to learn what that means. 

To be considered a straight bourbon whiskey, your bottle has to meet all the requirements from above, but it also has an aging requirement. The bourbon whiskey has to rest inside those charred oak barrels for at least two years. After that, it’s smooth sailing. 

An interesting caveat, if the bourbon is aged between two and four years, there must be a disclaimer about how long it’s been aged for. 

There are more subsets of bourbon whiskey than just straight bourbon whiskey. Though it isn’t legally defined, there’s high-rye bourbon. That usually means that the rest of the mash bill is made up with a majority of rye.

Distilleries can impart more flavors into their craft bourbon whiskeys by double barrelling them. Bourbon’s traditional robust notes of warm vanilla and caramel are adopted from the new charred oak barrels. By continuing the aging process inside a previously used cask, independent distillers can put uniquely flavorful spins on America’s Native Spirit. 

Litchfield Distillery created an even more robust craft bourbon whiskey with their Double Barreled Bourbon. The ten-year-old bourbon rests in two different charred oak barrels over the decade. That means deeper colors and deeper flavors.

It’s time to start celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month

Six simple rules make it a bourbon whiskey. But it’s the creativity and innovation behind the different types of bourbon whiskey that make it America’s Native Spirit. 

National Bourbon Heritage Month was founded to celebrate the pioneering attitude of independent distillers and their creative innovations. Because what’s more American than that?

With a collection of craft bourbon like ours, the month-long celebration of American creativity never ends. Pick up a bottle of craft bourbon, toast to the ingenuity of America’s artisans and independent distilleries, and learn a little something about the stories that go into each and every one of their bottles of America’s Native Spirit.

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