September is recognized as the National Bourbon Heritage Month, a month that recognizes the official “American Spirit.”
What is it that defines the “American Spirit?”
In looking into the history of Bourbon, I discovered that the story of Bourbon is similar to so many stories in our history highlighting Americans who followed their American dream, and fought with their American spirit.
Many of the original settlers in this country came here from Europe and brought with them a tradition of distilling whiskey. As they worked hard to carve out their life in the new world, they realized that corn was a stronger and more abundant crop than rye in the new land and began distilling with corn instead. Thus, the American ingenuity that defines so much of history was at the very birthplace of bourbon.
The first time this new drink is recorded as bourbon, is in Bourbon County, Kentucky, an environment seemingly perfect for distilling the beverage. Over the years, Bourbon has played a significant role in much of our nation’s history. During the Civil War, President Lincoln used taxes on Bourbon to support the cost of the war, while in the South; distilleries were shut down for materials needed to support the Army. Prohibition slowed the bourbon industry significantly, but determined distillers continued to make undocumented moonshine. When Prohibition came to an end, Bourbon sales taxes were used to help pull the nation out of the Great Depression. During World War II, distilleries halted their bourbon operations to support the war effort, instead distilling a much higher proof alcohol that could be used to make ammunition, anti-freeze and numerous other items needed by the military. After the War ends, production picked up again.
In 1964, Congress declared Bourbon a “distinctive product of the United States,” giving it special trade protection in the international marketplace.
After this the industry experienced a bit of a downfall, but with advertising like, “It tastes expensive…and is,” Maker’s Mark not only stayed afloat, but also helped reinvigorate the nation’s love for bourbon.
Since 2009, Bourbon sales have increased more than 40% as Americans fall in love all over again with this unique American spirit.
Bourbon is a drink that was born with this nation, and like our country has gone through ups and downs, through war and peace and continues to refine itself. Its history is defined by hard work, ingenuity and greatness – it is a true American Spirit.