by Jake Rollin
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, so we thought it’d be a great time to make bourbon our France 44 Spirit of the Month!
The history of bourbon can be traced back to when European colonists first settled in America. They brought with them a love of distilled spirits, but lacked the ingredients to make what they had been distilling in Europe.
Corn, however, was abundant in America and gradually began to be used for distillation. Early American whiskey consisted of mainly rye with corn as a secondary ingredient. By 1770, the bourbon we have come to know began to take shape and corn became the main ingredient.
Today, “bourbon” is defined as a spirit made in the United States (not just Kentucky) with a mash bill of at least 51% corn. The whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, though there isn’t a requirement for how long it must be aged. For a label to read “straight bourbon,” the whiskey must be aged for a minimum of two years. Terms like “bottled-in-bond” are simply stricter requirements beyond the base requirements.
The bourbon “mash bill,” which is essentially the grain recipe for whiskey, varies from brand to brand, but is generally made of corn, rye, and malted barley. Wheated bourbons contain wheat rather than rye and generally have a softer, sweeter palate.
Bourbon was named the national spirit of the US in 1964. There are a huge number of brands and producers, all with varying mash bills and styles, and countless cocktails are centered around bourbon, including classics like the Old Fashioned and the Mint Julep. Below are some of our favorite bourbons, both for sipping straight or mixing into a cocktail!
Four Roses is based in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and was officially founded in 1888, with its current distillery being built in 1910. Four Roses has ten distinct recipes they use for their bourbons with various four-letter combinations (OESK, OESV, etc.) The Small Batch offering combines four of these ten recipes and is aged between six and seven years. The result is a smooth bourbon with rich caramel and soft notes of ripe red fruits. This is one of our favorites for cocktails but it’s excellent to sip on as well.
New Riff is a relatively new distillery in the bourbon world, established in 2014. However, don’t let that fool you; this bourbon is just as nuanced as any of the big brands. Following the guidelines laid out by the Bottled-in-Bond act of 1897, New Riff bourbon is aged a minimum of four years and bottled at 100 proof. Their high rye mash bill creates a wonderfully complex palate with rich notes of caramel and vanilla followed by a lasting finish of clove and white pepper. Try it in your favorite cocktail or on its own, we think you’ll love it.
Calumet Farm was a dominant name in the horse racing world long before they stepped into the bourbon arena. In 2013, Calumet launched their line of bourbons, specializing in whiskies with age statements of eight years or more. Their 16 year offering is the oldest one they’ve offered yet, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. Rich smoke leads on the nose, followed by lighter aromas of toasted almonds, with cherries and citrus revealing themselves as the bourbon breathes. Light rye spice followed by deep fruit flavors dominate the palate. The finish is soft, with light smoke and toasted wood notes. This is a true masterclass in bourbon that any afficionado should treat themselves to at least once.
The Peachy Keen Bourbon Sour
Bourbon and peach are one of those flavors combinations that always seems to be a crowd pleaser, and this is no exception! Four Roses Small Batch brings a wonderful base of caramel and vanilla that, when combined with the peach, creates almost a peach cobbler flavor. The lemon juice lifts everything with bright acidity, and the simple syrup makes all the flavors pop and adds some body to the cocktail. Perfect for the last few weeks of beautiful Minnesota weather!
2oz Four Roses Small Batch
1oz Lemon Juice
0.75oz Mathilde Peach
0.5oz Simple Syrup
Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Fine strain into a rocks glass with ice or straight up into a coupe. Garnish with a lemon wheel.