SPVAQ32021 - 27

M
yths swirl around bourbon like a
dust devil over a dry wheatfield. The
truth, however, is as intoxicating as any
myth. No need to wonder whether there are
alternative facts, either. The federal entity
that regulates all alcohol in the United
States-the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and
Trade Bureau, or TTB-has the final say.
First, bourbon is whiskey, but not all
whiskey is bourbon. Whiskey is a spirit
distilled from grain-usually barley, wheat,
rye, or corn-at less than 190 proof. This
includes Irish whiskey, Scotch, rye whiskey,
etc. But to earn the moniker " bourbon, " the
grain mash must contain at least 51 percent
corn.
Next, states the TTB, bourbon must be
aged in " charred new oak containers " -not
necessarily American oak, not necessarily
barrels, and not necessarily for two years.
Only whiskey labeled as " straight bourbon "
must be aged for at least two years.
And, the truth is, bourbon doesn't
need to be distilled in, aged in, or have
anything whatsoever to do with the state
of Kentucky. The luscious reality is that it
can be created anywhere in the U.S.A.-
including right here in the Commonwealth
of Virginia.
Now that we've dispelled the myths, like
a stiff wind blasting through the dust devil,
let's pour a stiff drink and look at bourbon
in the Commonwealth
.
GIVE IT TO ME STRAIGHT
Virginia can legitimately stake claim to
bourbon's origins. In the early 1600s,
Virginia colonist George Thorpe distilled
America's first batch of corn whiskey-the
predecessor of corn moonshine and of
bourbon.
Elijah Craig, said by some to be the first to
age whiskey in new charred oak barrels, was
born in Orange County, Virginia, in 1738. In
1789, Craig founded a distillery in what came
to be known as the Old Bourbon region,
which was at the time a part of Virginia.
According to the Elijah Craig Distillery:
" Some claim that an accidental fire charred
his barrels and changed the whiskey inside.
Others say he stored his whiskey in former
JULY | AUGUST | SEPTEMBER 2021 27

SPVAQ32021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of SPVAQ32021

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