National Bourbon Day is Tuesday - June 14, 2022. The story of “America's Native Spirit” (bourbon) actually starts with a rather ambiguous, nameless, colorless spirit which was popular during the mid-1700s in early America.... 

 national bourbon day 2022

The story of “America's Native Spirit” (bourbon) actually starts with a rather ambiguous, nameless, colorless spirit which was popular during the mid-1700s in early America. It was the Scots-Irish settlers who blazed trails and tamed the wilderness; carving out picturesque villages and settlements in the area that is now geographically known as Virginia and Kentucky. 

These industrious clans of extended families and countrymen were the first “moonshiners” as they distilled corn - the only grain native to the area - in makeshift copper stills. The fruits of their labor were produced for profit and shipped down the Ohio river to ports in New Orleans to be further distributed around the world. 

The corn at that time was much different than the corn used today. Known as “maize,” this early corn variety had not yet undergone any genetic modification or hybridized breeding practices. Corn was abundant, and was one of the primary grains cultivated for food and livestock in early colonial America. It was the same nutritional staple used by Native Americans for thousands of years, and the same life saving food offered to the early settlers of the original thirteen colonies. In essence, corn was the catalyst which saved our country’s earliest pioneers from starvation - and thereby paving the way for further exploration and colonization in the Americas.  

The natural sugars present in this corn provided a reliable fermentation process - resulting in a spirit that was both sweet and with high alcohol content. Another important factor was the water. Virginia and Kentucky rest upon a solid foundation of limestone; and is referred to by modern geologists as “the limestone shelf region.” Water in these areas filtered naturally through vast limestone deposits - resulting in water that was low in iron yet high in calcium. This is significant because high-calcium, low-iron water is essential for making really good bourbon. This is why so many of the top bourbon distillers are located in Kentucky to this day. 

At some point during this early moment in American history, an particularly industrious distiller had a problem, and ultimately the solution to his problem would lead to him creating the first real “bourbon” ever produced. This experienced distiller had been shipping his white dog (moonshine made from fermenting and distilling corn) in old barrels which were previously used to ship salted and cured fish. “Fish-barrel finished” bourbon did not catch on and connoisseurs of his otherwise smooth and consistent corn whiskey complained quite loudly. 

To rid the barrels of the “fishy finish” he decided a good burning (char) on the inside of the barrel just might burn away the fishy taste. And so, after charring the barrels, they were filled with his moonshine and then stamped with “Bourbon County.” The stamp was a prerequisite for all distilled spirit barrels before shipping them down river. It was a means for  tracking goods from point of origin, a sort of early tracking number. In total, it was a 90 or so day trip to New Orleans. The charred oak, combined with the travel time changed the raw spirit to something new. Instead of notes similar to “murky lake, pond scum and sushi” the new spirit offered a mellow, smokey and almost vanilla-like essence. 

Although this new spirit was a far superior elixir than it’s predecessor, it still had yet to carry the “bourbon” name. This too came serendipitously - a mix of accident and fate. Bourbon County was originally a territory that encompassed a large land grant owned by wealthy French aristocrats belonging to the “House of Bourbon.” For taxation and quality control reasons, it was mandatory for exported spirits and other goods originating from the Bourbon family’s investment estates in Bourbon County to carry their family namesake. 

As fate would have it, years later, this House of Bourbon would end up playing a crucial role in funding revolutionists and patriots in their fight for freedom against British rule during the revolutionary war. This is why the county seat of Bourbon County, Kentucky is Paris - as a nod to the city of residence for the House of Bourbon. Incidentally, Kentucky’s largest city - Louisville - is named after King Louis XVI of France (also hailing from the House of Bourbon) an homage to his family’s assistance during the war that ultimately birthed a free nation.

When these barrels from Bourbon County were in need of replenishment by eager imbibing recipients in New Orleans, they would send a message to the distillers and makers of this new charred barrel drink by saying “promptly replenish thy loyal subject’s supply of that exquisite whiskey from bourbon county” (paraphrased, of course). Well, it wasn’t long before the masses referred to this magical spirit -  born from corn and aged in fire-forged barrels - simply as “bourbon.”

The improved taste of this new “spirit of bourbon county” fostered a great increase in sales and expanded global distribution; competing with previous top competitors like rum and thereby fortifying the royal coffers of the House of Bourbon. This influx in extra capital was earmarked for and paid to early colonists to train patriots, provide munitions, establish war chests and food staples; allowing for an ultimate victory against Britain. Eventually, it led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Some might suggest it was bourbon that played the decisive and pivotal role in creating the great country we call home today. 

Some might also suggest it would be borderline disrespectful not to celebrate a spirit so rich in history, tradition and lore. Here are some ways you can celebrate National Bourbon Day 2022!

  1. Guesting: Surprise a friend, neighbor or total stranger with a bottle of premium bourbon. Guesting (the practice and art of being a model guest), is a great way to honor a tradition of giving bourbon - as the early colonists and patriots of this great country often did. A simple way to practice guesting is to always bring a small gift or token of appreciation to someone’s home. Bourbon is a gift always received graciously. 
  2. Host a historic bourbon-themed party: Invite friends, family and neighbors to attend a costume party where everyone dresses as early colonists and/or early French aristocrats while sipping bourbon and speaking with a French accent. 
  3. Bourbon and BBQ: Fire up the grill and cook a main dish using bourbon as well as incorporating bourbon in all side dishes. See recipe
  4. Host a bourbon tasting: Invite friends, family, neighbors and strangers for a bourbon tasting party. Tell everyone to bring a bottle of premium bourbon.
  5. Bourbon movie night: Watch the documentary “Neat: The Story of Bourbon” on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu while sipping fine bourbon. 
  6. Bourbon distillery tour: Gather friends and take a half day off from work to tour a bourbon distillery. You’ll get to see how America’s Native Spirit is made, and most offer free bourbon samples. Book your tour now! 
  7. Bourbon Dessert: Make a bourbon-infused dessert to finish off your bourbon BBQ or any dinner. It is important to use a premium bourbon when baking, as the core essence of the bourbon will be more noticeable in baked goods. Check out this bourbon dessert recipe
  8. Bourbon solo: A minimalistic way to celebrate National Bourbon Day is by yourself! Purchase a bottle of premium, one-of-a-kind bourbon on your way home from work, sit back on your favorite chair or on your porch and enjoy a moment of simplicity - sipping on a fine bourbon while savoring a moment of relaxation. 
  9. Bourbon cocktail: Try a new cocktail inspired by and created for National bourbon Day. This is a great one to try - created exclusively for National Bourbon Day 2022. 

No matter how you choose to celebrate National Bourbon Day - there’s one thing to remember - there is no wrong way to celebrate except not celebrating it. So, start your annual tradition - or mix it up and try something new each year. Mark your calendar for this important and historic holiday each and every year!

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