Here’s to the “Bourbon Legend”

© Decatur Wine & Spirits

© Decatur Wine & Spirits

Bourbon whiskey is pretty much badass. Not only is it uniquely an American spirit, but it also has been known, historically, to suppress coughs, add flavor to other liquors and beers, and not to mention, its distilleries were used to produce penicillin. Bourbon also made a guest appearance on Star Trek as Captain Kirk and Spock downed the amber liquid during a Wild West gunfight episode.

Its origin

Back in the1700’s, Scottish and Irish immigrants, who were also pretty B.A., began making whiskeys and distilling bourbon in Bourbon, Kentucky, which, ironically is mistakenly thought to be a dry county today ( A popular saying: “You can get a drink in Christian County but not in Bourbon County,” has led to this bourbon legend. Actually, Bourbon is a “wet” county, but no longer has any operating bourbon distilleries.

Painting by Emanuel Leutze

Painting by Emanuel Leutze

Supporting the troops

When the British were putting a halt to importing sugar and molasses, which were key for Rum production, colonists began to make bourbon instead.

Soldiers greatly appreciated it and took to bourbon during the Revolutionary War (sexcigarsbooze).

Medicinal magic (or so we thought)

In the 1800’s and into the earlier 1900’s, doctors also liked the smooth aspect of bourbon in terms of a cough suppressant. They often prescribed it — even to children. In fact, bourbon was such a popular way to treat coughs and sore throats that it was the only liquor, along with other whiskies and sacramental wine, that was legal from 1920-1933 during Prohibition. However, you had to have a doctor’s prescription to get the “Medical Bourbon.”

Today, doctors do not recommend alcohol as medicine, pointing out that it causes dehydration. Despite warnings from the medical community, people still make bourbon Hot Toddies to combat a cough and throat tickle. Additionally, in general, many people like the warming effect bourbon brings on.

“It definitely gives you a really warm rush throughout your body. It really warms you up; that’s why it’s a winter drink,” says bourbon fan Alison Manthey.

“I totally understand why the men with the funny little Scotty hats sat at the bar and sipped whiskey in Ireland when it was freezing and cold,” she adds.

Giving it up for Penicillin


Bourbon, however, had to take a back seat to a real and newly discovered medicine during World War II. With reason, penicillin, which needs to go through the fermentation process, had to be mass-produced in the 1940s. Consequently, many bourbon distilleries were given over to crank out the lifesaving drug (askmen).

Made in the USA

© Daniel R. Smith

© Daniel R. Smith

Congress seemed to understand the value of bourbon. They decided in 1964 that bourbon is a “distinctive product” of the US. Additionally, in 2007, Congress officially named September as National Bourbon Heritage Month. (wikipedia)

Because of its national legacy, perhaps that’s why bourbon is not made just any way. And the government ensures this. Production of the amber liquor is subject to strict requirements and regulation. For example:

  • Bourbon must be made in the United States (but it does not have to be made in Kentucky as is often believed.)
© en:User:Pratheepps

© en:User:Pratheepps

  • The mash that results in bourbon must be at least 51 percent corn.
  • Nothing can be added to distilled bourbon
  • The maximum proof for bourbon is 160 (meaning the liquor is 80% alcohol)
© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

  • Bourbon needs to be aged in charred-oak barrels.
  • A bourbon barrel may only be used once.


Speaking of the barrels…

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

The oak barrels used to age bourbon do not go to waste however. These barrels, which contain the remnants of bourbon, are used to age other whiskies and liquors, giving them added flavor.

The bourbon barrels also work particularly well to age beer. In fact, bourbon imperial stouts have been a popular craft beer. Christian Koch, brewer for Elevation Beer Company in Poncha Springs, CO., maintains that aging a beer in a previously used wine or spirits barrel is a benefit indeed.

“It’s a fifth element of the beer — [the barrel] is another ingredient that you can play with.”

Koch and the brewers at Elevation used bourbon barrels to brew their latest creation Oil Man Imperial Stout.

Christian Koch with Oil Man © Stephanie Glaser

Christian Koch with Oil Man © Stephanie Glaser

“Like all of our beers, we brew beer that we are interested in —something that we would like,” he says. “Of course, we like bourbon and Breckenridge Bourbon so that’s why we did this one.”

Originally, Koch was going to order bourbon barrels from Kentucky, but it worked out to get them from Breckenridge Distillery in Breckenridge, CO, which is much closer to Elevation’s location.

According to Koch, “Those barrels are so fresh that the flavors you get out of the barrel are a lot more extreme, especially in the bourbon department because you also get oak flavors in this beer. There’re some vanilla flavors that come from the wood as well.”

He adds, “We are aging beer and benefiting from what was in those barrels previously. We’re all super excited about this beer and we think it’s probably the best beer we’ve done yet.”

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

Bourbon makes a name in the “Final Frontier”

Finally, something else that bourbon added pizazz to is an episode of Star Trek. Bourbon shows the Enterprise crew what smooth is when they end up at the O.K. Corral. An old saloon bartender serves some of Kentucky’s finest straight up to Captain Kirk, Scotty, Spock and Dr. McCoy. Giving the boys a history lesson, McCoy says, “Try some. In small amounts, it was considered medicinal.” (

So bourbon is just what the Final Frontier’s doctor has ordered. Again, bourbon is pretty badass.

In case you want to wet your whistle with some bourbon, Jug Liquors is featuring the following bourbons at 10 percent off from January 24 through January 31.

Corner Creek, (KY); Breaking & Entering (CA); Breckenridge Bourbon, (made in KY, bottled in CO); and Willets Pot Still Reserve, (KY)

Elevation Beer Company’s Oil Man Imperial Stout will be available as well.



Star Trek photo:

whiskey add photo:


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