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Where Did Bourbon Originate? Explained (2022 Updated)

Last Updated on August 11, 2022 by Lydia Martin

There are many different types of alcohol, but bourbon is uniquely American. This type of whiskey is made from corn and has a smooth flavor, making it a favorite among many drinkers. But where did bourbon originate?

In this blog post, we will explore the history of bourbon and find out where it came from and how it came to be. Read on. 

Bourbon & Its Origin 

Bourbon on desk with glass

Bourbon is a delicious, golden-hued liquor that Americans have enjoyed for centuries. Though it is commonly associated with the American South, bourbon originated in Europe. 

In the early 18th century, French settlers brought their brandy-making skills to the Kentucky region of the United States. 

They discovered the local corn was perfect for distilling into a smooth, flavorful spirit. Soon, bourbon became a popular drink in America, and it remains one of the most beloved liquors. 

Which Country Did Bourbon Originate?  

Bourbon whiskey may have originated in France.

France is known for many things: fashion, wine, cheese, and romanticism, to name a few. But did you know France might as well be the birthplace of one of America’s most popular liquors? 

After all, the word “bourbon” comes from the French Bourbon dynasty, which ruled over much of Europe during the Middle Ages.

It is also believed that bourbon evolved after the Tarascon brothers of Cognac, France, came to Louisville and introduced local whiskey. 

When Was It Introduced?  

Decanter Set on table

The first record of bourbon being produced in America dates back to the 18th century when immigrants from France began settling in Kentucky.

Today, bourbon is produced all over the United States, but Kentucky remains the heart of bourbon country. With its rich history and unique flavor, bourbon has become a true American icon.

How Did Bourbon Whiskey Get Its Name? 

The origins of bourbon whiskey’s name are a bit of a mystery. The most popular theory is that it was named after Bourbon County in Kentucky, which was first produced in the late 18th century. 

Another theory suggests that it was named after the French royal family, the House of Bourbon, who was in power at the time. 

The most likely explanation, however, is that bourbon gets its name from the type of barrel used to age the liquor. In the early days of bourbon production, barrels were made from a type of oak known as “bourbon wood.” 

Over time, the charred barrels imparted a distinct flavor to the whiskey, giving it a unique taste known as “bourbon.” Today, bourbon is still made in Kentucky and is still aged in charred oak barrels. 

However, there is no clear evidence to support these theories.

Bourbon whiskey is now a cherished American tradition, and its unique flavor has made it one of the world’s most popular kinds of whiskey. [1]

Who’s The First Bourbon Distiller?  

Who's The First Bourbon Distiller?  

The first recorded instance of bourbon being distilled comes from a 1785 tax inventory in Kentucky. The distiller was one Elijah Craig, and the location was at what is now known as Heaven Hill distillery. 

It is believed that Elijah Craig was the first person to distill bourbon. In 1789, Craig aged his whiskey in new charred oak barrels.

There are claims that a particular fire incident accidentally charred his barrels and changed the flavor of the whiskey inside.

There are also stories about how he used to store whiskey inside ex-sugar barrels and how he was impressed with the improved flavor.

Anyhow, Craig is widely considered the father of bourbon, and his method of using new charred oak barrels for aging set the standard for the bourbon industry. 

While there are earlier records of whiskey being distilled in the American colonies, bourbon is unique because it can only be made in the United States. As such, Craig is rightfully hailed as the first American bourbon distiller. 

Today, his legacy lives on through the many brands of bourbon that continue to be produced in Kentucky and beyond. 

Should Bourbons Only Be Made In Kentucky? 

No, unless it’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon. There’s no doubt that Kentucky is the epicenter of bourbon production. The state has a long history of whiskey making, and its climate is ideal for aging bourbon. 

But that doesn’t mean that bourbons should only be made in Kentucky. 

In fact, there are some very good reasons to produce bourbon outside of the state. For one thing, producing bourbon in other states allows distilleries to experiment with different types of barrels and aging processes. 

This could lead to new and interesting flavor profiles that wouldn’t be possible if all bourbons were made in Kentucky. Additionally, producing bourbon in other states helps to create jobs and boost local economies. 

So while there’s no doubt that Kentucky is the rightful home of bourbon, there’s also no reason why other states can’t get in on the action.

FAQs 

Did the Scots & English invent bourbon?

Not likely. The origin of bourbon isn’t well documented, so there really is no sure bourbon “inventor” as we know it.

However, the distilling process was most likely introduced by the earliest Scots and Scots-Irish settlers in the Kentucky region. 

What is the oldest bourbon sold?

The oldest bourbon sold is the Old Ingledew bourbon bottle auctioned by auction house Skinner in 2021.

It is believed that the whiskey was bottled in the 1860s by Evans & Ragland in La Grange, Georgia, and predates the Revolutionary War and Whiskey Rebellion. [2]

Final Thoughts

When it comes to bourbon, there are a lot of myths and legends out there. Some people say it’s named after Bourbon County in Kentucky, while others claim it’s a type of whiskey that can only be made in America. 

The truth is, no one knows for sure where bourbon came from. However, there are a few things that we do know about this iconic American spirit. 

First of all, bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn. This gives it its unique sweetness and smoothness. Additionally, bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. This is what gives it its distinct amber color and rich flavor. 

So, next time you’re enjoying a glass of this delicious whiskey, remember the key elements that make it so special.

References:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/bourbon-whiskey
  2. https://www.foodandwine.com/news/worlds-oldest-bottle-whiskey-bourbon-auction-jp-morgan

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