Our magnificent country celebrates a wide variety of holidays each year. We Americans enjoy the opportunity to celebrate, and there is a day for just about every month of the year. Since holidays have become so popular, it seems like every day is a special occasion to honor someone, somewhere, or anything.
This is also true with bourbon. There is a federal holiday dedicated to honoring the official American character. The annual American holiday known as National Bourbon Days is a great excuse to toast everyone’s favorite spirit.
When, exactly, do we celebrate Bourbon Day? The reason for a designated day to honor bourbon is unclear. Why is bourbon so exceptional? When and why did bourbon first appear? Our answers to these and other questions will help you get ready for the best day of the year.
When is Bourbon Day in the US?
On June 14th, Americans celebrate National Bourbon Day. National Bourbon Day is celebrated on June 19, which is sandwiched between Memorial Day and Father’s Day. Those in the know can’t forget how much fun Bourbon Day was last year.
Legend has it that bourbon was originally distilled on June 14th, however, this date is considered more symbolic than historical. What’s important is not that bourbon whiskey was born on June 14 or any other arbitrary day of the year, but rather what that day represents.
What Is Bourbon?
In honor of National Bourbon Day on April 14, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to bourbon, from its history and production to the various ways you might toast the holiday.
Bourbon is a type of whiskey that can only be made in the United States, where it must undergo both the distillation and aging processes. To be called bourbon whiskey, the spirit must be produced using at least 51% corn and matured for at least two years in new charred oak barrels. If a whiskey fits these criteria, it can legitimately be called bourbon.
Bourbon whiskey can only be called “Kentucky bourbon” if it has been made and matured in the Bluegrass State. It’s not uncommon for bourbon to be matured for several more years than that to bring out the best in its flavor.
In 1964, Bourbon was officially recognized as the National Spirit of the United States, and its popularity skyrocketed both internationally and domestically during the 1990s. Sweet caramel and vanilla aromas from the corn and the charred oak barrels give bourbon its well-known reputation.
How Does One Create Bourbon?
The best way to celebrate the national festival honoring bourbon whiskey is to learn more about its production process.
First Step: The Mash Bill
Selecting a mash bill that contains at least 51% maize is the first step in making bourbon whiskey. Additional corn, rye, wheat, or barley can make up the remaining 49% of the grains.
After the grains have been chosen, they must be mashed before fermentation can begin and alcohol can be produced. By releasing sugars from the grains during mashing, fermentation can proceed more quickly and easily.
The grains in the mash bill are ground extremely finely, then added to hot water where they are agitated to help the sugars dissolve. This results in a combination that resembles porridge and is referred to as “the mash.”
The Fermentation Process
After the sugars have been pressed out of the mash, fermentation can begin. At this point, yeast is introduced to the mash, where it consumes the sugars and makes alcohol. The yeast used in the fermentation process determines how long this mixture must sit out to ferment, which can be anywhere from two to four days.
When the alcohol content reaches a point midway between beer and wine, fermentation is complete. The distiller’s beer is another name for this beverage.
Distilling this brew takes it from 7% ABV to 10% ABV, well above the 40% ABV required for bottling in the whiskey or bourbon industry. The harsh and undesirable byproducts of the mash are left behind while the alcoholic components are extracted.
The continuous process used to make bourbon in a column still makes it the most efficient distillation method. The first step in distilling with a column is to fill it with your distiller’s beer. There, it is heated with steam from water, evaporating the alcohol and sending it up the column.
As you move up the still, the alcohol gets stronger because the vapor condenses on horizontal plates at various heights before being vaporized by the heat. When the concentration of the vapor is just right, it is sent to a second condensing chamber to turn back into a liquid.
Whiskey and bourbon can only be legally sold at a maximum proof of 160 (or 80% ABV). Only the most neutral grain spirits would benefit from being distilled to 95% ABV, which is the maximum possible when using column distillation.
The Process of Ageing
The high ABV level means the spirit can now be matured. New American oak barrels, charred at the discretion of the distiller, are required for the aging process of bourbon. Even while bourbon has a minimum aging time of two years before bottling, it is commonly aged for considerably longer.
Whiskey and bourbon get their distinctive hues and complex flavors from the aging process. Bourbon aged in barrels for years, absorbing flavor from the wood as it expands and contracts with the changing temperatures. The peculiar flavor of bourbon whiskey is the result of the extraction of hundreds of natural flavor ingredients from the oak.
The bourbon can be bottled and sold once it has reached the appropriate age.
What Should I Do to Honour Bourbon Day?
Responsible bourbon consumption is the best way to observe National Bourbon Day. On June 14th, celebrate America’s hallmark spirit in whichever form you want, be it neat, on the rocks, in a bourbon sour, or a bourbon mule.
National Bourbon Day
National Bourbon Day is celebrated annually on June 14th to honor an authentically American beverage: bourbon whiskey. American culture is reflected in bourbon since it is uniquely American and is the national spirit.
American bourbon whiskey is defined by the use of at least 51% maize in the mash bill and a minimum of two years of aging in new charred oak barrels. The bourbon-making process is very luxurious, resulting in the smoothest, tastiest liquor imaginable. All bourbon starts with carefully selected grains, then mash, ferment, distill, aged, and finally bottled.
As long as everyone involved is having a good time and staying out of harm’s way, there is no incorrect way to celebrate National Bourbon Day. Try some of our creative whiskey cocktail recipes, or stick with the tried-and-true and order a bourbon neat or on the rocks. If you’re going to commemorate this year’s Bourbon Heritage Day on June 14, do it right and drink bourbon.