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Pop quiz, people.
True or false: For a Whiskey to be bestowed the title of "Bourbon," it must be made in Kentucky.
If you answered "true," do not pass go. Do not collect $200. And definitely do not take another sip of whatever you’re drinking. ‘Cause first, we need to have a little chat.
So, gas up your proverbial tank — we’re going on a Bourbon-soaked road trip (hypothetically speaking, of course) with a starting point — the Bluegrass State; second stop — the cornfields of Indiana; and the end destination — the mountainous landscape of Colorado.
As you’ve probably guessed, a Whiskey doesn’t need to come from Kentucky to be labeled a Bourbon. As long as it’s made in the good ol’ U.S. of A., it’s golden. That leaves a lot of room for the other states in the unions to stake their claim on producing some pretty spectacular juice.
And that’s a good thing — especially since the rest of the world seems to have come down with an acute case of Bourbon fever. But how did Bourbon get so big? A fortuitous combo of small-batch/single-barrel production that elevated Bourbon as a premium Spirit, the emergence of a global exports market thanks to a friendly agreement between the EU and NAFTA and the rise of the craft cocktail movement ushered in a boom that in some cases supply couldn’t meet. And luckily for Bourbon’s boom, there seems to be no bust in sight.
Good news: Bourbon producers have ramped up their efforts in order to give the people (ahem, you) what they want. In fact, last year, distillers filled more than 1.7 million barrels of Bourbon in Kentucky alone.
And the even better news? They now have an assist from distillers all across the country. Like George Remus, a vanilla-forward number hailing from Indiana. And Colorado’s Old Elk, a masterful blend of Whiskies hailing from New York, Indiana and yes, Colorado. Then, of course, there's Kentucky's Chicken Cock — a powerful Bourbon that feels like a return to the roots of the brand. You’ll find all three in this box.
‘Nuff talking, though. Let’s get to tasting. Cheers to those brilliant Bourbons!
1) In 1964, Congress passed a concurrent resolution declaring Bourbon "A Distinct Product of the United States." Just as Scotch can only be produced in Scotland and Tequila can only be produced in Mexico, Bourbon can only be produced in the United States.
2) Before the resolution was passed, Prohibition drove some Bourbon distillers out of the country. Somewhat famously, Mary Dowling shuttered her distillery in Tyrone, Kentucky, took her still, grabbed a Beam, and headed to Juarez, Mexico to wait out Prohibition. There she continued to make and sell Bourbon.
3) George Remus was named after a renowned lawyer and bootlegger from the Prohibition era who was eventually arrested and convicted. Allegedly, he also served as inspiration for the title character The Great Gatsby in the novel of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
4) Curt Richardson, a legendary businessman whom you might know for Otterbox, is a true Bourbon lover. He teamed up with Master Distiller Greg Metze (who used to work for MGP in Indiana) to produce the Old Elk line.
5) Bourbon’s secret ingredient is… dish soap. During fermentation, starchy CO2 bubbles can build up and overflow — damaging the equipment and entire batches of product. It’s very common to suspend a small ladle filled with a few drops of pure dish soap above the mash. If the bubbles rise up and touch the soap, a reaction called saponification pops them, protecting both the Spirit and the distillery. Just a few drops of soap can protect a 50,000-gallon batch.
6) Distilleries were expected to and even required to stop production of beverage alcohol and retrofit stills to produce ethanol for WWI and WWII. But they did their part, even changing over from 48- to 53-gallon barrels to save wood — those were the largest barrels that would fit in current ricks and it saved a significant amount of lumber. To this day most distilleries still use 53-gallon barrels.
Pinhook’s high-proof Bourbon won Gold at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, while the Straight Rye Whiskey won Double Gold the following year. In 2021, their Bourbon War Vertical Series 5 Year and the 2021 Flagship Bourbon won a Gold Medal each, with a Double Gold going to their Tiz Rye Time Vertical Series 5 Year. Pinhook is evidently doing something right!