Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Bourbon Boom - A Guest Post by Spencer Bohm

Bourbon and whiskey fan, Spencer Bohm, noticed TV shows have been catering to people’s growing interest in craft beer and wine in recent years.  Additionally, viewers are starting to see similar attention being given to small batch bourbon, whiskey, and scotch.

The trend inspired him to ask me to publish his thoughts on the subject.  Being a libations enthusiast, I agreed to post any well written piece he might send.  A week later, he succeeded in sending me just such a piece.

So, with further ado, here are Spencer Bohm's thoughts on The Bourbon Boom.


The Bourbon Boom 
by, Spencer Bohm 
Whiskey lovers rejoice! Your amber liquids of choice are once again enjoying a worldwide renaissance of appreciation and popularity after suffering a depression of sorts for several decades. Having quietly and steadily weathered the more flashy trends in flavored vodkas, craft beer, and martini bars, whiskey and bourbon find themselves once again proving that slow and steady wins out and endures in the long haul.
Ten High Kentucky Bourbon

Subject: Ten High Kentucky Bourbon | Date: 10/28/2013 | Photographer: Buffalotrace | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

And slow and steady is exactly what's needed for the manufacturing of all types of whiskeys. Aging requirements dictate that whiskey cannot be produced today and be on the shelves tomorrow like many of the white liquors, leading to the possibility of a shortage of quality whiskeys and bourbons should the demand seem to grow too quickly.

For example, American whiskeys are legally required to age at least two years in oak containers, while Scottish and Irish whiskeys require at least three. Many versions of the different whiskeys on the market today are aged much longer than the minimums, however, some counting the aging process in decades rather than years and meaning that experienced producers have to be adept in forecasting the demand for their products over the next few decades rather than the next few months or years.

Whiskey varieties produced worldwide include Canadian, Irish, and Scotch versions, blended and single malt versions, and each with its own distinctive tweaking of the ingredients and creation process. Bourbon is a subcategory of whiskey produced exclusively in the United States and mainly in the state of Kentucky. While all whiskeys are not bourbons, all bourbons are whiskey. Tennessee whiskeys are often mistaken for bourbons, and although close in nature, true bourbon is distinct from these other blends.

 Tullamore Dew, an Irish Whiskey.Title:  Tullamore Dew, an Irish Whiskey. | Date: 07/22/2006 | Photographer: Dom0803 at en.wikipedia |Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.

Whiskeys are distilled from fermented grain or a blend of grains and aged in wooden barrels. Grains commonly used include corn, rye, wheat, barley, and oats. All whiskeys contain at least a small amount of malted barley, as this starts the fermentation process. Bourbons and their close cousins, the Tennessee whiskeys, are required to be made from at least 51 percent corn, with the remainder made up of the other grains mentioned. As an American whiskey, the minimum aging process is two years and usually takes place in charred white oak barrels. Bourbon generally has a sweeter taste and heavier texture than other types of whiskey.

Today, in keeping with the increased interest and popularity in artisan foods and craft beverages that has been seen over the last couple of decades, smaller distilleries have begun creating craft whiskeys and bourbons right alongside the big players that have weathered the white liquor boom of the 1960's to early 1990's. While mass media was at least partially responsible for the rise in popularity of white spirits, particularly vodka, as shown in the variety of vodka martinis and cosmopolitans seen in movies and on TV, mass media has also been instrumental in the resurgence of the brown liquors with shows such as AMC’s Mad Men and the new documentary Bourbontucky from DirecTV portraying the more glamourous side of whiskey and bourbon.

Bourbon in particular has become popular in countries around the world as well as within the United States, with annual sales recently hitting the $2.7 billion mark domestically. This is leading to record numbers in the export of this spirit and raising questions of whether the producers can maintain a supply to meet the demand. Whiskey and specialty bourbon bars have cropped up around the world as well, looking to capitalize on the wider than ever variety of specialty liquors being produced and exported. As noted in the documentary Bourbontucky, people around the world may not agree with our politics but they sure love our bourbon!


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