Between 1935 and 1938 one very significant substantive change was made to the nascent standard of identify for Bourbon and rye whiskey (among others): the requirement for aging in new charred oak barrels. The difference is less than a sentence. No one really knows how it came to be added.
Opinions and OpEd
Whiskey nerds often like to go on about how easy it would have been ‘back in day’ to bag what today would be considered unicorn finds, paying then retail prices for bottles that now go for thousands of dollars. It’s a fun (if pointless) exercise, but it did get me thinking: if I had been interested in American whiskey back in a decade like the 1990s, exactly how would I have known where to begin?
In May of 1933 the federal government issued one final set of regulations regarding prescriptions written for medicinal whiskey, reflecting an act passed just two months earlier. But the 21st amendment was already in the process of being ratified and by the end of the year national Prohibition would be repealed. These regulations appear to have been its last gasp.
I already knew that Shively, a suburb of Louisville, was something of an archaeologic mecca for whiskey history buffs when I was shown photos of the old Seagram warehouses located there a couple of week ago. I had also not realized how striking and beautiful they were. I decided it was time for a proper visit to see all Shively had to offer.
Seeing the list of America's best Bourbon bars for 2022 it was hard for me to note that Hard Water was missing. It was one of many bars that didn't survive the COVID shutdowns.
A week or so ago I attended an ‘experience’ at one of the many distilleries in Kentucky now offering tours and tastings. Like many similar offerings, it included a recap of various important milestones in American whiskey history. And as happens all too often, one or more of these milestones was attributed to the wrong event and date. I guess this isn’t the biggest deal but when those of us who represent the distilling industry are asked to tell the story of Bourbon to the general public I think it’s important to get these details right.