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Bourbon: Georgetown Whiskey

---By Mike Armstrong Translated by Picker Chen

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 colonial rule.

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 a Bourbon.
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 Single Barrel.

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!

Alcoholic drinks are strictly prohibited for those under 18.


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