Whiskey vs Bourbon

I would like to credit a comprehensive site about bourbon: www.straightbourbon.com as a source of much of my information for this mailbag answer.

Link to Staff Report: What’s the difference between bourbon and whiskey? – CKDH

From the heart of bourbon country, my compliments on a answer well researched and written.

President of the Vernon Dent fan club.

Great answer, Jill, as usual.
Having just travelled through Bourbon county in the commonwealth of Kentucky, I can add that it is a “dry” county (no liquor may be sold in the county). There are several dry counties in Kentucky – which explains why their counties are so small.

“May your song always be sung.”

I believe the “it’s the water” slogan is actually for Olympia beer, not Coors.

Actually, the majority of them are dry. However, I don’t understand why that would make them small.

Kentucky has 120 counties – only Texas has more. There are a couple of reasons we have so many small counties.

First, KY is an old state. People wanted to be able to reach the county seat in a easy buggy or horsey ride to conduct their business. Large counties make this difficult.

Second, more counties mean more government jobs and more opportunites for small time politicians to have their own little kingdoms. It’s definitely not the most efficient way to run local governments, but it’ll never change.

I’ve lived in both wet and dry counties here, and all I’ve ever seen accomplished in a dry county was the enrichment of bootleggers (that’s not somebody with a still, it’s somebody who buys a bunch of beer and half-pints and sells it out of his garage). That being said, KY is still a wonderful place to live, and our basketball teams can kick your states’ team’s ass.

Anyway, glad you came through and hope you enjoyed your visit. Where’d you go?

President of the Vernon Dent fan club.

Yeah, I live in KY too. Our biggest industries are bourbon, tobacco, and horse-race betting. How could you fit one more vice into a single state?

Oh yeah, I forgot. We’re the marijuana capitol of the US.

Your Quadell

[[Oh yeah, I forgot. We’re the marijuana capitol of the US.]]

The other product most commonly shipped down the Ohio from Bourbon county was hemp.

That’s a fine definition of bourbon vs. whiskey – however, a couple of points need clarification:

[li]There is no top limit to how much corn can be in bourbon. While ‘corn whiskey’ must have at least 80% corn, bourbon may have. It is generally acknowledged, for example, that Old Charter’s mash bill contains more than 80% corn, and could be called corn whiskey. However, it’s marketed as bourbon because it meets all the other qualifications.[/li]As a practical matter, though – since around 10%-12% needs to be barley malt for proper fermentation (it provides the enzymes), and the flavor small grain (rye or wheat) also is present, anything significantly above 80% corn is impossible.
The bourbon regulations are in Part 5, Subpart C, Sect. 5.22, Paragraph B of the BATF’s definitions of distilled spirits.
[li]ALL of Kentucky was considered ‘Bourbon County’ when it comprised the western part of Virginia. Today’s Bourbon County, KY, is solely the existing remnant. During the time when bourbon became associated with KY, the territory-cum-state only had a handful of counties. Bourbon County made up a much larger portion of KY then than it does today.[/li][/ul]

Neither of these are peculiar to Kentucky. By this logic NY state should also have lots of counties.

I was born and grew up in Bourbon Co., KY and can perhaps add a bit of info.
First, I think it is true that at least some of Bourbon Co. is dry. I believe that some of the county is wet, however. I remember once stopping at a country store where they told me that could sell beer there if they had been on the other side of the road. Anyway, the fact that Bourbon Co. is at least party dry is of little practical significance to the county’s drinkers. The city of Paris, which is the county seat and is geographically centrally located, is wet. Thus, to buy your beer or whiskey, you would typically drive in to Paris (less than a 10 minute drive for most Bourbon Co. residents) and go to one of the many liquor stores or gas stations (who sell only beer).

Second, I’m not 100% sure about the history of the counties, but I’m fairly sure that Bourbon Co. was created out of part of Fayette Co. But, I also think it’s true that Bourbon Co. was one of the first KY counties (but not the very first), and was in fact much larger originally than it is now.

Third, regarding the origin of the word Bourbon for the whiskey: Going to school , I learned that the county was named after the French kings, as in the SDStaff report. I had always assumed that the whiskey was named after the county.

However, while attending the University of Kentucky in the mid-80’s, I remember finding a book in the UK library about the origins of KY place names. This may be the book:


Unless my memory is faulty, I remember reading that the author did not believe that the whiskey was actually named after the county. He may have offerred some alternative explanations for the origin of “Bourbon” whiskey, but I can’t remember any of them.

Holy cow, this is the mother of all zombies.

Yeah, probably so, although I wouldn’t want anyone to interpret that as a challenge.

We recently revised the Forum Rules, to allow resurrections as long as there is some substantive new comment. That’s certainly the case here.

Georgia has 159 counties. We don’t get along. ::sip::


Bourbon County is wet, and has been for at least the last several years. This may be a relatively recent development–I’m not sure.

Ah, thanks for alerting my ig’nant ass.

Certainly here in the UK, the whisky/whiskey naming thing is more defined; whisky is scotch whisky, whereas anything else is whiskey:

Which spelling is correct, Whisky or Whiskey?
Most well-known dictionaries give both spellings. The Oxford English Dictionary points out that ‘in modern trade usage, Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey are thus distinguished in spelling’. American-made whiskey is usually spelt with an ‘e’.
[RIGHT]http://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk/ [/RIGHT]

Is this followed elsewhere?