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Bourbon, a national treasure

Lisa Baxter Sajna notified me on Facebook that this is National Bourbon Heritage Month, and surely Americans have every right to take pride in having contributed our native beverage to the roster of the world’s distinguished distilled spirits.

A blog post at Smithsonianmag.com—with a handsome accompanying photograph of a Manhattan— chronicles the recent rise of bourbon from a period of undeserved obscurity during Prohibition and the decades immediately afterward. For some, of course, particularly in the South, and in bourbon’s natal state, Kentucky, the popularity never waned. And Kingsley Amis, one of the great British authorities on drink, warmly praises bourbon in the julep, the Manhattan, and, supremely, the old-fashioned.

The tradition that the Rev. Elijah Craig, a Baptist clergyman who established a distillery in the Commonwealth in the late 1780s, invented the process by which the raw corn liquor, aged in charred casks, is transmuted into bourbon has been called into question. Perhaps no one will ever know what anonymous hero of civilzation was responsible for this sublime alchemy. He deserves, at minimum, a statue.

Before September wanes you may still exercise your Twenty-First Amerndment rights and simultaneously commemorate this heritage. Until the frost gets at the mint, you have time to enjoy a julep. For a Manhattan, my usual tipple is Old Forester, and Maker’s Mark makes an excellent cocktail. Should you be in funds, a dram or two—make it two—of Woodford Reserve, Booker’s, Knob Creek, or one of the other premium brands should provide deep sipping satisfaction.

There are many bourbons—when the American Copy Editors Society convened in Louisville, the Galt House had a hundred varieties in stock in the top-floor bar—and some of them pose a hazard to the lining of your stomach, and perhaps the enamel of your teeth. If you are unaccustomed to grown-up drinks, as opposed to the candied confections that pass for cocktails today, let me suggest that you line up a [cough] reliable guide and adviser before you head out to the dramshop.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 9:07 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Comments

You know that some distinguished mixologists insist that a Manhattan must be made with rye? (Also a distinguished Kentucky spirit.)

Hear, hear! But the sentiment isn't complete without a passing nod to Blanton's. Not everyday bourbon -- it's the stuff my wife and I gave the minister as a token of thanks for performing our wedding.

I'm much more partial to bourbon's grandfather, Scotch (particularly the single malts), but I've been known to take a sip of Knob Creek on occasion.

And is it pure coincidence that Constitution Day is during National Bourbon Month? I think not!

When I was a newcomer to Kentucky, Bourbon County was one of the places I excitedly first visited, only to discover that it's dry. I've never cared much for the stuff since.

My mother was fond of her bourbon, whilst my father stuck to GOrdon's on the rocks with a twist. My brother and sister-in-law, who live in Maryland, swear by bourbon. What does it all mean?

Down with the Jacobin regicides!

Sorry, wrong Bourbon heritage.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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