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Saturday, June 8, 2013

AKA Road Trip: A Step on the Bourbon Trail

So we did!
While in Scotland we went on 2 different whisky tours and Himself asked what the difference was between the Scotch and American whiskeys.  I didn’t really know.  So another reason I selected to start our adventure in Bardstown… “Bourbon Capitol of the World”.  The name comes from Bourbon County, Kentucky. 
This is the stillhouse.  It’s easy to see it has been added on to over the years.  The stone portion is the original building.
Our guide. 
It starts right here… with the corn.
A view from the stillhouse.  Each bottle contains a sample of the grains that go into the 1792 Bourbon – corn, wheat, malted barley and/or rye. 
One of the stills.  The grates catch the sour mash (think sour dough bread).  To be legally considered ‘bourbon’ it must meet these standards:
“The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5) state that bourbon made for U.S. consumption must be: 
• made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn; 
• aged in new, charred-oak barrels; 
• distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume); 
• entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume); and 
• be bottled (like other whiskeys) at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume). 
Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period. Products aged for as little as three months are sold as bourbon. 
Bourbon that meets the above requirements, has been aged for a minimum of two years, and does not have added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits may (but is not required to) be called straight bourbon. 
• Bourbon that is labeled as straight that has been aged under four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging. 
• Bourbon that has an age stated on its label must be labeled with the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle (not counting the age of any added neutral grain spirits in a bourbon that is labeled as blended, as neutral-grain spirits are not considered whiskey under the regulations and are not required to be aged at all). 
Bourbon that is labeled blended (or as 'a blend') may contain added coloring, flavoring, and other spirits (such as un-aged neutral grain spirits); but at least 51% of the product must be straight bourbon.”     ~~ Wikipedia~~
When the bourbon is ‘finished’ it is clear.  It is then put into NEW charred oak barrels to age.  The longer it ages, the darker…sweeter… and mellower it becomes.  It also increases in its alcohol percentage as a portion of the water evaporates thru the oak barrels (this is called ‘the angel’s share’).
After barreling, the barrels are taken to a warehouse to age.  The proper name for the warehouse is actually ‘rickhouse’.
These are HUGE buildings.  This one had eight or nine stories, as you can see in this freight elevator shaft.
And each floor has rows and rows of these ricks. 
…rows and rows…
And every single one of the barrels comes to rest with the bung facing the “12 O’clock” position.  They actually have a formula for what position the bung has to be in so that when it stops rolling down the rack the bung will be right on top!  Wow.
Each building also has 4 plumb bobs to make sure it doesn’t get pulled wonky by the tremendous weight of the barrels.  Seriously.  There are roughly 18,000 (!!!) barrels of bourbon in a full warehouse.  Each barrel weights roughly 400+ pounds.  And that can cause the framework of the racks to shift. 
The cure?
Move the barrels around!
Our guide pointed out the windows.  He said “There are bars only on the first floor of the building.  This is to keep people out.  Now notice the shape of the barrel.  See how it is wider in the middle?  Try to get it out the window and you’re not going to get past the second ring!”  (Besides the fact it weights close to a quarter ton!!!)
Guess this is going to be safe and sound.
Our next stop was bottling.  And there wasn’t any going on…  SIGH!!!
High tech label transport.  (The distillery also does bottling for other companies).
Final stop was the tasting.  There was a very well explained ‘class’ before the tastings began. 
There to compare was a taste of their “Very Old Barton” a 6 year old bourbon and “1792 Ridgemont Reserve” which is at least 8 years old.   
Himself said the hands down winner was the 1792 Ridgemont Reserve.
Before we got back on the road, Himself stopped by for a photo op at the “world’s largest bourbon barrel”. 
Then we were off to find out where honesty was born…

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