---By Mike Armstrong Translated by Picker
Mike Armstrong is a veteran Taiwan-based bartender
and owner of Taichung's fM bar and restaurant.
American Bourbon whiskey has been in existence since
the early 1800s and gets its name from Kentucky county
where it was first made. In 1789, Elijah Craig, a Baptist
Minister, aged some corn whiskey in a wooden barrel
that had been charred with fire. This whiskey was acclaimed
as being smoother and mellower than others produced
with traditional methods.
Conventionally, whiskies were named after the town
or city that first distilled them but Reverend Craig
lived in Georgetown, Kentucky. With the American Revolution
still fresh in many minds, a wise marketing decision
was made--to name it after the county, Bourbon, which
in turn was named in honor of the French kings who had
just helped America shake off the shackles of British
It's more than a little ironic, then, that Bourbon
almost caused America's first civil war, when farmers
distilling whiskey for cash crops started an insurrection
over a 1791 excise tax levied to raise money for the
cash-strapped nation. This uprising was quickly squashed
by President George Washington.
Bourbon is certainly special. An American federal law
designates Bourbon as the national spirit of the United
States. It must be made with a grain formula of 51 percent
corn and aged in newly-charred barrels. By comparison,
Tennessee whiskeys use the same constituents but are
filtered through charcoal to give them a distinctive
flavor. Jack Daniels is the most famous Tennessee whiskey
and, because of its filtration process, is not considered
There are about 500 brands of Bourbon available, including
Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, and Makers Mark, to name a few.
Small-batch Bourbons are made under special supervision
from a distiller for a more discerning bourbon taste.
A few of the more exclusive, harder-to-get Bourbons
are Blanton's, Knob Creek, Bookers, and Wild Turkey
Bourbon can be mixed to make many drinks, but the
classic is the Mint Julep, which is almost as old as
Bourbon itself. Fresh mint leaves mashed with sugar,
Bourbon and spring water is the original mix. Although
there have been additions over time to the recipe, such
as ice and lemon juice, this is the "Grand Dame"
of Bourbon cocktails.
In the next round of "Cocktail Cool", we'll
look at Irish whiskies, so stay tuned!