Lightner Museum curator Barry Myers told local Historic City News reporters that the liquor we call bourbon has been distilled since the 18th century. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey and was declared to be a distinctive product of the United States in 1964.
For whiskey to be called Bourbon it must come from America and it must be created from a mash, which is a mixture of fermentable grain, that is at least 51 percent corn. The other 49 percent is usually a mixture of barley, rye, or wheat. Nothing but water can be added.
“Bourbon is quintessentially American,” Kaveh Zamanian, founder of Rabbit Hole Distillery in Louisville, says. “In short, it is the spirit of America.”
Bourbon must be aged in new American oak barrels. Bourbon must go into the barrel at no more than 125 proof and it cannot enter the bottle at anything less than 80 proof. Alcohol proof in the United States is defined as twice the percentage of alcohol by volume.
If it spent at least one day in the barrel, there is no longer age requirement for it to be called Bourbon. The Lightner Museum, located at 75 King Street in Saint Augustine, has a large collection of American bourbon bottles on display, including a decanter of Old Crow, one brand of Kentucky-made, straight Bourbon whiskey.
The origin of the name “Bourbon” is unresolved; as some believe it derives from the French Bourbon dynasty and others say the inspiration for the whiskey’s name is the Bourbon County in Kentucky.
Adding to its mystery, it is not quite clear exactly where bourbon, as a distinct form of whiskey, originated. There is an ongoing debate over whether Kentucky is the founding father of Bourbon whiskey.
In 1783 Evan Williams built the first commercial distillery in Kentucky on the banks of the Ohio River. It is still one of the most popular Bourbons today. Therefore, people associate Kentucky with Bourbon.