When it comes to Kentucky and alcohol, America’s Bluegrass State is known for one thing: bourbon. Ninety five percent of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky and it was declared to be ‘America’s Native Spirit’ in 1964. In fact, bourbon is an $8.5 billion industry in Kentucky, which creates 17,500 jobs.
Kentucky is so synonymous with bourbon that there are actually more barrels of bourbon than people in Kentucky. In 2012, the Kentucky Distiller’s Association’s total bourbon inventory reached 4.9 million barrels, compared to 4.3 million people living in Kentucky. On Kentucky’s famous Bourbon Trail, there are eight different distilleries, offering visitors a unique taste of Kentucky.
Whether you’re on a local Lexington whiskey bar crawl and looking for a good bourbon whiskey bar to experience a true test of Kentucky or you’re a novice looking to get into bourbon, here are a few tips to enjoying it:
- There are two traditional ways to drink bourbon: neat, which means at room temperature with no ice and on the rocks, which means over ice.
- There are many craft cocktails you can enjoy with bourbon including the Mint Julep, Old Fashioned and Manhattan.
- Know what you’re getting. While it’s true that every bourbon is a whiskey, not every whiskey is a bourbon. Bourbon has to be produced in the U.S. and must be bottled at no less than 80 proof. It must also be made up of at least 51 percent corn and must be aged in new, charred, oak barrels for at least two years.
This blueprint is standard for all bourbons, but not for all whiskeys. For instance, whiskey that’s clear and very high in proof like moonshine can be created anyway the maker wants. Bourbon on the other hand has stricter regulations.
- It’s important to read the label on a bottle of bourbon. If you see the phrase ‘straight bourbon’, it means that nothing has been added to the product. Also look for an age statement on the label. Traditionally, bourbon is aged for two years, but depending on who you talk to, age is just a number and picking an older aged bourbon is just a thing folks do to look cool.
- There are two types of bourbon you can choose: single barrel and small batch. With single barrel bourbon, that means that bourbon is in the perfect spot in the bourbon making facility for aging and as such it is bottled straight out of that barrel. With small batch bourbons, those are created by blending several barrels together before being bottled.
- Most traditional brands of bourbon cost $40 or less unless you’re looking for a collectable brand or hard to find brand, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money to enjoy bourbon.
- To properly enjoy your bourbon drinking experience, there are many glasses you can choose from including an Old Fashioned glass, a Glencairn glass or a brandy snifter.
- Some bourbon drinkers swear that neat is the only way to drink bourbon, but dilution can be helpful especially with some of the stronger types of bourbon. Rather than getting a blast of spice, diluting bourbon can bring out the sweetness and make the drinking experience more enjoyable.
The whole experience of drinking bourbon includes taking in the aroma to enhance the experience and the right glass can enhance the experience. If you’re in a bourbon whiskey bar, consider asking for a bourbon glass rather than a shot glass.
When it comes to bourbon, Kentuckians have many opinions on drinking it and enjoying the experience is all about finding a flavor and a brand that works for you. If you’re checking out a bourbon whiskey bar, try locally produced bourbon.
A local bourbon whiskey bar should offer many varieties of bourbon, but if you’re eventually looking to branch out from the local bourbon whiskey bar, an online search should net a number of places which have been recognized for their bourbon.
Compared to other age groups, millennials are most likely to try a new drink. According to Technomic’s research, while eight percent of the general population tried a new drink on their most recent occasion, 18 percent of younger millennials (21-24) and 12 percent of older millennials (25-34) did so. If you’re out on the town, looking to enjoy the nightlife, a bourbon bar is a perfect spot.