Happy Bourbon Day

It is fitting that both Bourbon Day and Flag Day are being celebrated on June 14th this year. What distilled spirit is more identified with America than bourbon? If you said rye, I would point out that most Canadian whiskey is called rye.

One of the most significant legal developments in the history of bourbon was the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897. It said that only domestic distilled spirits that met certain qualifications could use the terms “bond”, “bonded”, “bottled in bond”, “aged in bond” or similar phrases. This told the consumer that the whiskey, bourbon, or other spirit that they were buying was what it said on the label. They weren’t getting some neutral spirit with added coloring and tobacco juice added for “flavor”.

This was codified into Title 27 CFR 5.42. Section 3 states:

(3) The words “bond”, “bonded”, “bottled in bond”, “aged in bond”, or phrases containing these or synonymous terms, shall not be used on any label or as part of the brand name of domestic distilled spirits unless the distilled spirits are:

(i) Composed of the same kind of spirits produced from the same class of materials;

(ii) Produced in the same distilling season by the same distiller at the same distillery;

(iii) Stored for at least four years in wooden containers wherein the spirits have been in contact with the wood surface except for gin and vodka which must be stored for at least four years in wooden containers coated or lined with paraffin or other substance which will preclude contact of the spirits with the wood surface;

(iv) Unaltered from their original condition or character by the addition or subtraction of any substance other than by filtration, chill proofing, or other physical treatments (which do not involve the addition of any substance which will remain incorporated in the finished product or result in a change in class or type);

(v) Reduced in proof by the addition of pure water only to 100 degrees of proof; and

(vi)Bottles at 100 degrees of proof.

In addition to the requirements of § 5.36(a) (1) or (2), the label shall bear the real name of the distillery or the trade name under which the distillery produced and warehoused the spirits, and the plant (or registered distillery) number in which produced; and the plant number in which bottled. The label may also bear the name or trade name of the bottler.

Bernie Lubbers, the Whiskey Professor and brand ambassador for Heaven Hill, is a true believer in Bottled in Bond bourbon. So much so that he has it tattooed on his arm and his license plate reads “Stay Bonded”. He and fellow writer Fred Minnick explain it in the YouTube video below. Bernie is the author of Bourbon Whiskey: Our Native Spirit which is an excellent book in my opinion and Fred is the author of Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker which is another great book on bourbon. I both in my collection.

So when you get home from work tonight, pour yourself a nice bourbon or mix a cocktail with bourbon and then sip it while looking at your flag. Better yet, make it a bottled in bond bourbon!

“Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business”

Kentucky Educational Television created a documentary featuring interviews with many of the first families of bourbon. These include the Beams, the Noes, the Samuels, the Russells, and the list goes on. To make this documentary KET took over 30 hours of interviews and distilled (no pun intended) it down to about 56 minutes.

If you ever wanted a short history of bourbon and its makers, this is it. I imagine that the Kentucky Distillers Association played a large role in assembling the interviewees as there is one major distillery missing. That would be Buffalo Trace which is owned by Sazerac and which is not a member of the KDA. Nonetheless, this is a good documentary to sit back and watch while sipping on your favorite bourbon. It makes more sense to do this than to brave all the traffic and crowds on Black Friday!

If you would like to hear more interviews in greater depth, the Louis B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky has a page devoted to strictly to bourbon and its history.

The Soylent Green Of Whiskey?

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-115029161-1’);

My Wall Street Journal today included their “The Future of Everything” magazine. Featured on the cover was “synthetic spirits”. That isn’t something for Halloween but a lab-created whiskey from San Fransciso.

The company is called Endless West and was founded by Mardonn Chua. Originally their intent was to recreate expensive wines. The problem was that they couldn’t market them as wine under Federal law. However, due to a loophole in the regulations, they could create “spirit whiskey” so long as it contained 5% on a proof gallon whiskey.

In the spring the company raised an additional $10 million and hired a small staff of food scientists and analytical chemists, then outfitted its lab with equipment that allows them to intricately sequence the molecular makeup of spirits (the machines are also used in food science and life science research). Though they keep the exact makes and models of these machines under wraps—going so far as to cover up their names with stickers reading “Bonnie” and “Clyde”—Lee let me tour freely throughout the lab. He showed me one machine that he described as “an electronic nose,” which inserts needles into half-filled vials of commercial wines and whiskeys, absorbs the gas trapped above the liquid, then “de-absorbs” the compounds to identify and quantify them.


Endless West can then source these compounds, mixing and matching them to taste (and smell). To satisfy the Tax and Trade Bureau, Glyph contains some traditionally made whiskey. The bureau defines spirit whiskey as “produced by blending neutral spirits and not less than 5% on a proof gallon basis whiskey.” About 5% of Glyph consists of “distilled clean whiskey” that, according to Lee, isn’t noticeably distinguishable in flavor from pure ethanol.

“Distilled clean whiskey” is, in other words, vodka to which they are adding flavoring to make “spirit whiskey”.

Eric Simanek of Texas Christian University has this to say about synthesized whiskey:

But technology—and that ineffable, essential whiskey quality—may still be a limiting factor. “Science knows most of the components of whiskey, and most of the relative concentrations, but not all of them,” says Eric Simanek, the co-author of “Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey” and the chairman of the chemistry and biochemistry department at Texas Christian University. “It’s very much like a cocktail party. You have a guest list. The folks show up. But the outcome of a party isn’t necessarily predictable. And it may be one guest, whom you’ve discounted, who changes the entire tenor of the assembly. This is the challenge that Endless West has.”

I don’t think Jimmy Russell, Fred Noe, Harlan Wheatley, or Jim Rutledge have anything to fear from Glyph.

Some Good News To Begin The Weekend

You may remember seeing pictures and video of the collapsed rickhouse at Barton’s 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. Initially it was only half of the rickhouse and then, before it could be safely shored up, the other half collapsed. However, all that good bourbon is not lost.

The distillery has begun the process of recovering as many intact barrels as possible, repairing the leaking ones, and discarding the ones that can’t be saved. According to gobourbon.com, the Sazerac subsidiary is sorting the barrels into three categories:

  1. Barrels that don’t need repair are recorded and removed from the pile to continue aging.
  2. Barrels that are leaky or damaged are moved to a coopering area to be repaired.
  3. Barrels that are beyond repair are dumped into a holding tank and discarded.

The distillery has not released any information on how much has been saved.

The following two videos show the recovery process. The first video was provided by Barton’s 1792 Distillery.

.mcclatchy-embed{position:relative;padding:40px 0 56.25%;height:0;overflow:hidden;max-width:100%}.mcclatchy-embed iframe{position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%}

There is no word whether or not the distillery is going to release the bourbon from the collapsed rickhouse, Warehouse 30, as a special release similar to what their sister company Buffalo Trace did after a tornado took the roof off of Warehouse C. That release, E. H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving bourbon, now goes for over $1,000 per bottle on the secondary market.

It Pays To Have Friends

It pays to have friends. I am very fortunate to be friends with David Yamane ( of the great blog Gun Culture 2.0). He was recently in Kentucky touring the Bourbon Trail. Seeing his posts about the trip on Facebook, I messaged him to see if he might find me a bottle of Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond.

As you can see, David came through for me. I had tried to find it when I was in Kentucky earlier this year at the NRA Annual Meeting to no avail. From what I understand, most of the production of bourbon that had been going to the Old Fitzgerald brand is now being saved for Larceny bourbon.

Having read Bernie Lubbers’ book Bourbon Whiskey: Our Native Spirit, I have been paying attention to bourbons that are bottled in bond. This tells me that the bourbon is at least four years old, it was distilled in a single season at a single distillery, and that it is 100 proof. As Bernie writes, “In short, the good stuff.”

Old Fitzgerald BIB is a wheated bourbon from Heaven Hill. It was originally a Stitzel-Weller brand and the tall chimney at that distillery still says “Old Fitzgerald”. While not a top shelf bourbon, it is still considered one of the best values in the wheated bourbon category. I can’t wait to give it a try.

Again, my thanks to David for finding this for me.

A Documentary For A Day Like Today

If you are an investor in the stock market, the last few days including today have been a little unnerving. At one point this morning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by 1,100 points. As I write this, the DJIA is down by over 450 points after recovering earlier to about 150 points down.

I suggest a deep breath and a glass of bourbon or a libation of your choice is in order. To go along with that glass of bourbon is this trailer for a new documentary on bourbon entitled NEAT.

Learning Patience

This week is teaching me patience.

We had intended this week to be one of having fun with family out in St. Louis. While we have had a small graduation party for my nephew Grant and introduced Olivia Grace to another wing of her family, most of the week has been spent at Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

My mother-in-law fell on Saturday while getting out of bed at her memory-care center. She got a nasty bruise on the chin and she had trouble putting weight on her leg. This was the second fall in as many weeks. A mobile X-Ray was inconclusive so her doctor suggested a short in-patient stay to allow her to get an MRI and CT Scan. So she was transferred to the hospital on Monday afternoon. The doc said that my mother in law would probably get the MRI quickly and the doc could evaluate the results shortly after that.

It took over 24 hours to get that MRI done. The results were that she had two fractures in her pelvis and would need rehab.

Her nurses, patient techs, and rehab people have been great at MoBap.

Her case managers, or whatever they call them here, not so much. To be honest, and I’m biting my tongue so I don’t say anything worse, they need lessons in how to communicate. I have gotten to the point where I just have to bury my head in a book or the computer so I don’t lash out at them. The Complementary Spouse has been a great advocate for her Mom and as a nurse she can speak the language. She has been patient to the extreme and has finally gotten them working for her Mom.

Medicare rules must vary from state to state. My mother-in-law was admitted for observation. One would think that after a diagnosis of a fractured pelvis, a BP spike, AND going into afib, she would have been reclassified to in-patient status. According to the case managers this was not the case. She only got reclassified to in-patient status due to her chin bruise becoming infected and that was only yesterday. The case managers and utilization review say that can’t go back and reclassify her. Color me skeptical on that claim.

The reason that status matters is because under Medicare guidelines a person needs three days in the hospital as an in-patient (three midnight rule) in order to have Medicare to pay for rehab at a skilled nursing facility (nursing home). Fortunately, in our case, my mother-in-law will be admitted to an acute rehab facility where the three midnight rule isn’t needed. Hopefully, it will happen this afternoon.

To top things off, the hospital somehow, somewhere have lost my mother-in-law’s eyeglasses. What next?

The week has had some bright spots. I got to meet Charlie Foxtrot who has been helping us on The Polite Society Podcast. We had a great lunch on Wednesday and a great time meeting one another. The other bright spot is that I’ve found some really good bourbon that I can’t get at home as well as a great place to buy it. Imagine a liquor store in a former Best Buy location with many select barrel offerings and you have Lukas Wine and Spirits. I will be patient and wait until I get home before cracking the seal on the bourbon I purchased.

Keep your fingers crossed for my mother-in-law that she gets moved to her new location sooner than later. A prayer or two would be welcome as well.

UPDATE: My mother-in-law was moved to SSM St. Mary’s Rehab on Friday afternoon. I knew things were starting to look up when we were talking to the transfer EMTs. One was a North Carolinian and the other a South Carolinian. Moreover, the lead EMT was a graduate of Western Carolina University where I just so happen to teach a class each semester. Perfect!

The difference between the two facilities was like night and day. The room was bigger, the staff was more devoted to the patient than to the computer, and everyone was just a quantum leap more friendlier. I think this is going to work out just fine.

She’ll be in acute rehab for at least 2 weeks so long as she shows improvement. Our goal is to get her on her feet again and walking. She was walking without any assistance prior to the fall.

Keep your fingers crossed and prayer wouldn’t hurt.