May 02, 2012
“I knew I'd go every night until she showed up. I knew she knew it. I sat there and drank bourbon and I shut my eyes…”
You didn’t think Robert Mitchum would wait for Jane Greer in “Out of the Past" drinking something neutral like vodka would you?
Around this time of year, with the Kentucky Derby just around the corner, I become a super patriot about my home state and America's great whiskey.
Actually, about the only thing Un-American about bourbon is its name.
Turns out America so appreciated the efforts of France for helping us win our independence they dropped some French names into the bluegrass, like Louisville, Versailles and Bourbon County.
When Kentucky was carved into smaller units in 1780, Bourbon County became a great corn-producing region, which was turned into some amazing whiskey and the rest was good drinking history.
Unlike other whiskeys, you see, it has some stringent requirements.
According to federal law it must be made in the United States since you can't call yourself a bourbon if it's made elsewhere.
Then it has to be composed of at least 51 percent corn, distilled at less than 160 proof and aged at least two years, in only new charred white oak barrels.
Now this new barrel thing is essential, since only an unused barrel can absorb the color, vanilla, caramel and natural sugars in the oak, which give bourbon its complex flavor.
Guess where those barrels go after the golden liquid is removed?
They're exported overseas and reused to make Scotch and Irish whisky.
So if any of that other stuff tastes remotely good, remember it’s good old Kentucky Bourbon that supplies the character.
When Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary Grace Tully suggested the president try Scotch rather than bourbon he replied, “I never heard of such a thing. It’s absolutely sacrilegious."
The U.S. Congress, finally doing something sensible, made it officially sacrilegious to call anything else America's spirit; in 1964 they made Bourbon the “Native Spirit.”
I’ll drink to that.