Label showing text from an old whiskey bottle stating it's a 'straight bourbon whiskey' and has been aged for two years according to 1938 law
After 1938 a straight whiskey needed to be at least two years old to qualify as a 'straight.' Where did this requirement come from?

The Odd Modern Meaning of ‘Straight’

The Taft Decision in 1906 and then the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1909 both used the term ‘straight’ to define the manner in which a whiskey had been made, e.g. if it had been made solely from distilled grain and aged in wood, without any additives other than water, then it was ‘straight.’ But then in 1938, the definition gets modified to include a minimum term of aging (two years). What were the people who wrote this thinking? Or was it just poorly written?

19th century Mash Tubs
Small mash tubs as used in the 19th century to make 'old-fashioned sour mash' without the use of added yeast. (This place probably looks cleaner and nicer to work in than it really was!)

On the Evolution of Souring

The federal government has never defined a standard for what sour or sweet mashing means when it appears on a whiskey bottle label. But it has had a number of things to say about these techniques in publications intended for IRS employees. These may provide some insight into how these techniques evolved over time.

Advertisment for 10 BIB whiskies from Julius Kessler, 1908
Ten bottled-in-bond whiskies from Julius Kessler, 1908. None of these were even close to being the first to bear the designation. But it gives you an idea how large the category had grown by then.

In Search of the Earliest Bottled-in-Bond

The identity of the first bottled-in-bond Bourbon has eluded me since I first started researching American whiskey. I've identified two candidates but still remain a bit skeptical I've got my answer.

Charred barrel staves
A pile of charred barrel staves also showing the characteristic 'red line' indicating the depth to which the whiskey inside penetrated.

Show Me the Color!

One of the other Bourbon books I picked up over the summer (and actually finished before it was over) was Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking by Henry G. Crowgey (University of Kentucky Press, 2008). The book focuses primarily…


The Missing Outage

Karl Raitz’ book Making Bourbon (which I've mentioned here previously) is a gift which keeps on giving. A footnote in the current chapter led me to a small book entitled The American Compounder or Cross' Guide for Liquor Retail Dealers…

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JTS & Hewitt Brown ('Old Prentice') Distillery, Sanborn's Survey of Whiskey Warehouses, 1910 (detail)
JTS & Hewitt Brown ('Old Prentice') Distillery, Sanborn's Survey of Whiskey Warehouses, 1910

Two Distilleries, Entwined

A few months ago, a new ‘local’ acquaintance, author David Jennings (@rarebird101, asked me a question about whether I thought it was possible that some of the early Ripy Brothers whiskey bottled at DSP-KY-45, also known as Old Joe,…

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