America - Whiskey's Adopted Home
Despite popular belief, bourbon actually has a rich, aromatic history that dates back more than 200 years to European settlers and the distillation techniques they developed and used in Ireland, Scotland, and, perhaps more shockingly, Wales.
However, it unquestionably has a similar history to Irish and Scotch whiskey, and its appreciation and consumption have seen similar highs and lows. Evan Williams, a Welsh immigrant to America, was one of the first to create the whiskey industry in Bourbon County, which takes its name from the French royal family that helped the Americans defeat the British in the War of Independence.
Additionally, it is known that Mr. Jack Daniel, another well-known name in the field of American whiskey, is a direct descendant of a Welsh grandfather, and a Scottish grandmother.
Reverend Elijah Craig
Legends also grown in stature with Bourbon County's. According to legend, the highly frugal Reverend Elijah Craig kept his bourbon in secondhand barrels that he would char to get rid of any remnants of the previous contents. As whiskey was shipped across America over time, it was discovered that the charring procedure gave the alcohol a great smooth and mellow flavour as well as a deep, dark colour.
When American law mandated that only newly charred barrels could be used in the manufacturing of bourbon in 1936, this custom came full circle. The spent casks are typically transferred to Ireland and Scotland after being emptied, where they impart similar fruity, vanilla aromas to Irish whiskeys and single malt Scotch whisky.
Bourbon is typically distilled twice, once in column stills akin to those in Scotland and once in pot stills akin to those in Ireland, as at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky. The yeast strains used to produce a fermented mash are one of the biggest variances, and this is where most American bourbon distillers' ears perk up.
Several bourbon distillers have diligently preserved numerous yeast strains, some of which date back a very long time. Jim Rutledge, the master distiller at Four Roses, has identified the unique flavour attributes that each yeast imparts to the finished alcohol. The passion that connects today's bourbon makers to the past and their forefathers fully demonstrates that the rich tapestry of American distilling is alive with not only excellent spirits but also fascinating individuals.