Sailing Toward Bourbon Perfection

Bourbon aging in barrelsLast week, we read about another milestone in mankind's quest for bourbon nirvana. Jefferson's Ocean: Aged at Sea just released its second batch of "ocean-aged" bourbon. Yep, they actually sent more than 60 barrels of seven- and eight-year-old bourbon on a world cruise for five months of R&R, stopping in 40 ports around the world.


So why has this bourbon seen more of the world than we have? The idea is that all that sloshing around in the barrels, along with fluctuations in temperature and humidity, cause the bourbon to mature faster and brings out even more of that rich flavor. The result is an exceptionally "bourbony" taste, "thick and dark, with sweet notes of brown sugar, vanilla and caramel," according to the New York Daily News.


So whether you're an aficionado determined to track down a rare, ocean-aged batch, or a bourbon newbie looking to buy your first bottle, here's a little background on one of our oldest, yet trendiest, beverages.


Kentucky's Contribution to the Man Cave

We think every man cave should be stocked with a bottle of top-shelf bourbon. Here's why: Bourbon is the only spirit that originated in the U.S. In fact, 95% of it is made in Kentucky.


Bourbon's made from a simple mixture of corn, rye, malt and water. But it's the corn that distinguishes it from whiskey, and by law, all bourbon must be at least 51% corn. That's right, it's spun from the favorite food of the Pilgrims, the entire state of Iowa and your best backyard barbecues. Perfect, right? 


Since nearly all bourbon is made in Kentucky, many bourbon brands claim that it's the state's limestone water that gives bourbon its distinctive taste. And as a company that's headquartered in the Bluegrass State, we certainly aren't going to argue.


Here's where the distillation magic comes in. The "white dog" (or unaged bourbon) is poured into brand new oak barrels that have had their insides charred with a torch. Sounds a little dangerous, but it's the chemicals in that charred wood that give bourbon its distinctive color and flavor. The fledgling bourbon is then put to bed for a very long rest in its dark, oaken crib, undergoing what we consider to be a highly mystical transformation into mature bourbon.


What the Heck Takes So Long?

How fast bourbon matures depends a lot on weather and climate, because the process relies on heat and cold to open and close the grain of the wood barrels, which allows the bourbon to be repeatedly absorbed and squeezed back out of the charred wood. Typically, the best bourbons get between nine and 12 years in their barrels.


So next time you open a bottle of top-shelf bourbon, think about all the time and effort it's take to get it to you. That's why you owe it to yourself (and the bourbon) to pour it into a top-shelf whiskey glass like the Clink Bitters that's been just as lovingly crafted. Then sit back and dream about the day you can take your own five-month bourbon cruise.

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