The history of American Whiskey begins in the late 1700s. This was when settlers and immigrants began to flood the country and make the move West.
Many of these people were from Scotland or Ireland and had brought distilling with them, seeing the new world as the perfect place to create great water of life.
Unfortunately for them, the US government saw this as the perfect opportunity to create a bit of tax revenue, and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton levied the first tax on a domestic product in the US on Whisky distillers.
This did not go down well, and lead to the Whiskey Rebellion, which may not sound like the most dangerous of rebellions, but was actually a pretty big deal at the time.
Ultimately the rebellion did not work and instead drove people into Kentucky and Tennessee, where the tax did not exist. As such, these states became, and remain, the biggest Whisky producing states in America.
Talkin’ ‘Bout My Reputation!
After the Civil War, distillers decided it was time to ensure that they’re product was protected by law and that there was some quality assurance behind it.
It was not uncommon for rectifiers to add distasteful things like prune juice or even tobacco spit to their product and label it all Bourbon.
A law was passed that meant any Bourbon product had to be bottled and distilled at one distillery in one distillation season and aged in a federally bonded warehouse.
This helped keep the quality of the product up, but there was other hardship still to come.
Prohibition Hits Hard
Prohibition hit the states in 1920 and lasted until 1933. That’s a long time to go without Whiskey.
Fortunately for thee wily few, Whiskey could still be obtained, if you had a doctor’s note.
There were six distilleries at this time that were allowed to produce Whiskey, but only for medicinal purposes of course.
But prohibition couldn’t last forever and when the end came, the distilleries that had managed to survive were over joyed.
The Future is Bright
Bourbon really took off after the 1980s, when it saw a revival in interest. Things like the Bourbon Trail and brands beginning to celebrate their origins sparked an interest in the consumer.
This was the era when Bourbon and American Whiskey at large really began to shine.
Today it is seeing a similar revival, with lots of interest in craft distillers and small batch products.
Typical Flavour Profile of American Whiskey
There are many different types of American Whiskey, with the biggest being Bourbon and Rye.
Bourbon has a distinctly sweet and caramel flavour to it, which stems from the charred oak of the barrels. It also has lots of wooded and oak notes and a smokiness that also comes form the barrel.
Rye Whiskey is spicier than Bourbon, with more cinnamon and nutmeg notes. It has a more warming tone, with less smoke and sweetness. Rye can also have a more malted note to it.