For a certain subset of the population, today is a national holiday. It’s a call-in-sick and go-to-the-watering-hole day. It’s National Bourbon Day.
While popular, bourbon is a frequently misunderstood drink. Many people may not even know what bourbon actually is. So we’re going to walk you through the high points.
Bourbons are all whiskeys, but you can’t just call any whiskey a bourbon. In fact, there’s a legal definition for bourbon. In 1964, Congress passed a resolution declaring that bourbon is a product of the United States.
To qualify as bourbon, it must be composed of at least 51 percent corn, then distilled and aged in new charred-oak barrels and then bottled at 80 proof or higher. Bourbon cannot have any flavoring, coloring or other additives. And the final requirement is that bourbon must be produced in the U.S.
Most of the bourbon produced comes from Kentucky. In fact, approximately 95 percent of all bourbon is made in the Bluegrass State. But it isn’t the only state that produces the brown stuff. You can find distilleries in Texas, Colorado, Virginia and Indiana. In fact, there’s even a distillery in Brooklyn!
But when it comes to Arkansas bourbon, there’s one name that always comes up – Rock Town Distillery. Located in Little Rock’s SoMa neighborhood, Rock Town became the Natural State’s first legal distillery in 2010. Since then, it’s made a name for itself with an award-winning roster of Arkansas bourbons.
Rock Town’s founder, Phil Brandon, says bourbon is a pure American drink.
“It’s Americana, man. It’s baseball, apple pie, bourbon and Ford,” Brandon says. “Bourbon is corn; it’s oak; it’s everything red, white and blue and delicious.”
Rock Town produces a range of bourbons, from its classic Rock Town Arkansas Bourbon Whiskey to a single barrel reserve bourbon to the flavor grain series of bourbons and more.
The distillery has taken home major prizes for its bourbon. In 2019, Rock Town received a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The Arkansas Bourbon Whiskey was rated a 94 in the 2019 Whiskey Bible, while the single barrel reserve as named the 2015 U.S. Micro Whiskey of the Year by Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible.
According to Jeffery Yant, a sommelier at Cache Restaurant, bourbon has become increasingly popular. While there is a lingering preconception that bourbon is a “man’s drink,” that notion is being challenged.
“Bourbon has caught on tremendously in the last couple of years,” Yant says. “We’ve seen a huge rise in ladies drinking bourbon, where for years, it was predominantly a male drink. People are drinking it neat or on the rocks, where before it was always mixed. I think people have found out that it’s a diverse product. There are bourbons for everybody’s palate.”
But how do you drink bourbon? According to Esquire, it’s not as simple as gulping it down. The men’s fashion magazine recommends inhaling the drink before drinking. After the first inhale, swirl the drink and inhale again to get the bourbon’s aroma. Then, sip the bourbon and roll it around your tongue. Then you can rinse and repeat!
One more thing – it’s okay to add water to your whiskey. While some bourbon purists insist that the drink must be neat, adding water can open some of the bourbon’s taste and aroma up.
Dwain Hebda contributed to the writing of this article.