Bourbon is an American form of whiskey made from (pursuant to U.S. trade law) at least 51% corn, or maize â€” typically about 70% â€” with the remainder being wheat and/or rye, and malted barley. It is distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof, and aged in new charred oak barrels for at least two years â€” or perhaps longer. The two years maturation process is not a legal requirement for a whiskey to be called “bourbon,” but it is a legal requirement for “straight bourbon.” However, in practice, many bourbon whiskeys are aged for no less than four years.
Bourbon must be put into the barrels at no more than 125 U.S. proof. Generally, it is then adjusted to 80â€“100 proof and bottled. Some (mostly non-U.S.) jurisdictions do not allow alcoholic beverages with over 40% alcohol content to be sold. However, the recent trend among distillers has been to return to higher proofs, and even â€œcask strengthâ€ bottlings.
Over the last several months some friends of mine and I have been hitting the Bourbon Trail. We are planning on putting together our own little one day bourbon tour. So far we have been to Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Wild Turkey. Woodford Reserve, and Four Roses have definitely made the one day tour list. Wild Turkey although a in a beautiful setting just did not make the cut.
Woodford Reserve has an entrance fee of $5, but is well worth it. The fee gets you a tour of the facility along with a video, some wonderful tasting tea, a handful of bourbon balls, and last but not least a tasting that includes a card of tasting tips. The entire experience takes about two to three hours. There is also a bourbon history exhibit in the visitor’s center. The setting is idealic and the guides are very knowledgeable and friendly. Woodford is a must for any bourbon tour.
Four Roses is a free tour and a surprisingly wonderful tour. The distillery is built in the Spanish Mission style. There is a video presentation, the tour (which includes various tastings of the distillate), and then finally a tasting of the product line. Four Roses has more of a industrial corporate feel to it than Woodford, yet the visit is well worth it.
The beautiful surroundings of Wild Turkey make it well worth a visit. However, it probably will not make our one day tour list. Turkey definetly has a large industrial production feel to it. The tour is free and includes a video, unfortunately there is no tasting. I would definetly take someone to Turkey, but only if we were pressed for time or they we huge fans of the brand. There was nothing special or particularly informative about the tour or video. For the size of operation it was a little bit disappointing.
I will continue to update you on my tours as they happen. For now though I would like to say how surprising it has been to me to see the vast differences in approach, not only to making the bourbon, but also to corporate mentality and the face the distillery puts on for the public. I look forward tomore visits and finally putting together the one day tour.