A Primer on Bourbon

It is that time of year again when urging something to go faster and faster, pound the turf and go down the?stretch (?) is part of the national sports scene. I wish I was talking about the Air Sex Championships, but instead I?m talking about horse racing. However, the one good thing about horse racing that comes about every year is that talk inevitably (what, you don?t hang around with drinkers?) turns to mint juleps and that means bourbon.

What is Bourbon?


When examining liquor and wine, it is fun to see the rules that govern what each is. (We all know that champagne can only come from a region in France, everything else is your local version of ?sparkling wine.?) Bourbon works the same way, in that bourbon can only come from the U.S. The other big requirement is that it has to be made from mash that is at least 51% corn. There is no minimum aging requirement just that aging at least two years means you can call the resulting liquid, ?straight bourbon.? Tennessee whiskey is very similar to bourbon, but has an extra step of charcoal filtering to add flavor.

Bourbon Brands

Jim Beam

One of the three wise men, (Jack and Jose, I believe being the others, if I remember my overheard undergraduate witticisms correctly) Jim Beam may be the most readily available bourbon. However, this whole ?boldest? campaign may go a little off track with willingness to compete in a competitive eating contest meaning ?bold? instead of ?fat.?

Evan Williams

It is probably the black label with white lettering that makes me think this is Jack Daniel?s bastard bourbon brother. But this bourbon buys ads for bass fishing and the bedeviling barrel of b-words blinded me with its bedazzling brightness.

Maker?s Mark

Maker?s Mark makes you think of the faux melted wax/plastic that surrounds the bottle and gives it its distinctive look behind a bar. I think it?s distinctive for its taste and I am always pleased when it is in the well of a tavern. As the website says, straight is best, but if not, here?s the recipe for an Old Fashioned.

Wild Turkey

Just a quick note: Wild Turkey bourbon tastes nothing like turkey, unless you dip your bird in vanilla and caramel extracts.

Expensive Bourbons

Just like with any alcohol, there are the ones that take more time to create, therefore are more rare and can cost a lot more money. The Hirsch 28 Yr Straight Whisky costs almost $400, but you?re paying for at least 20 more years of aging. For a quarter of the price, you can try Michter?s Ten Year Old Bourbon. Then again, a quarter of that price gets you Maker?s Mark, so it?s probably just as nice to stick with the basics.

Basic Bourbon Drink: How to Make a Mint Julep

From Doc Watson?s, here is your recipe for making a mint julep, though the race celebrating it is past. Still, as far as summer drinks go, after a good beer, this would still work nicely.

4 sprigs mint
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water
2 1/2 ounces of bourbon

Muddle mint, sugar and water in the bottom of a glass. Add ice and bourbon. Drink. Which is what I?m going to go do now. Happy bourbon.

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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."