The History Of Different Whiskies Distilled And Matured In The Oak Barrel – Part Two

Whiskey BarrelsThe history and origin of Bourbon Whisky and the oak barrel
It is believed that the British settlers who made their way to North America were the main reason why Bourbon whisky was invented. This is because these pilgrims decided to make stop overs at Massachusetts and Plymouth in order for them to refill their beer cans.

At that time, the popular locally brewed drink was beer. This was irrespective of the fact that there was a shortage in the supply of barley malt in the area, so the locals had to supplement their production by using the available pumpkin pulp. After some time, distilled whisky from the oak barrel became popular, as there was an increase in the supply of rum, which was manufactured from the Caribbean molasses they imported from the northern colonies and the range of fruits they got from the south.

However, in the earlier years when the area was hit by unfortunate events such as a bad economy and religious turmoil brought about by the unrest that was a result of setting the Church in Great Britain. This led to the great immigration of settlers from Ireland and Scotland. When these settlers found their ground in North America, the Scottish settlers who originated from Ulster, a Northern Province in Scotland, incorporated their religion and governance together with their skills in the distilling of the whisky in the oak barrel.

Due to the state of bad roads in the area, it was difficult transporting the harvested grains to the east. Therefore, farmers resulted to distilling their crops into whisky in the oak barrel. Therefore, Pennsylvania produced Rye whisky, Corn Whisky was produced further west, and by the end of the American war, the pioneer commercial distilleries had been established in the West Virginia county of Kentucky.

By 1794, the newly formed Federal government had imposed the very first excise tax on distillers using the oak barrel. This led to the Great Whiskey Rebellion, as the farmers from Pennsylvania responded in hashed tones and violent outbursts, which led to the assault and death of Federal tax agents. Of course the Federal government responded by sending an army of around 15,000 military men led by the Great George Washington to distinguish the revolt. This led to the conviction and sentencing of the revolt leaders. However, when things got back to normal, they were pardoned.
With the turn of events, there was an increase in the number of new immigrants in the region. The states largely hit by the influx of settlers were Tennessee and Kentucky. This led to the brewing and distillation of Bourbon Whiskey in the oak barrel as farmers were able to grow the ideal corn and the presence of limestone-filtered water made it easier for them to distill their whisky, and mature it in the oak barrel.

Bourbon whisky was actually named after the Bourbon kings of France. This was because of they had assisted the American rebels in the Revolutionary war. In the 19Th century, Bourbon County was known because it was the main center for whiskey production and shipping to the various areas that were in demand of the drink. Because the whisky was distilled and matured in charred oak barrel, the drink gained the reputation of being extremely smooth and became a favorite to many whiskey lovers. To make it unique, Bourbon whisky manufacturers added the “sour mash” to their whiskies and matured it in the oak barrel, clearly distinguishing it from the whisky produced in other areas.

By early 1840s Bourbon was recognized all over because of the smooth distillation process it underwent and its maturation in the charred oak barrel. This led to Bourbon being marketed as the distinct American whisky. Its production took place in most of the states ranging from Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Georgia among others. These days, due to the increase in the number of common distillers, the production of Bourbon has been left to Indiana and Kentucky. A contrast between then and now, is that back in the days, bourbon was produced in pot still of oak barrel. However, these days it is matured in the charred oak barrel.
With the 19Th century, the temperance societies such as Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union became active groups especially in the southern states. This lead to the rise of various restrictions as different states adopted prohibitions or different magnitudes. This saw a decline in the production of Bourbon and even affected its maturity in the various oak barrel stocks.

The Bourbon Whisky industry got further criticism when the National Prohibition took effect in 1919. This nearly saw the shutdown of the distilleries and the destruction of the oak barrel used in maturing the drink. However, this did not stop the Americans from drinking. Therefore, this created room for the importation of Canadian Whiskies, which did not match up to the taste and characteristics of either the Rye or Bourbon Whisky. All this is because the manufacturers in North America only used the oak barrel method of maturing whisky. However, with time Canadian Whisky, producers got a hold of the secret and started using the oak barrel method, and this led to their popularity rate increasing.
It is rumored that the Scotch whisky may have been the success story behind the long-term revival of the Bourbon. This is because of the steady sales growth that the Scotch whisky was recording due to their production of the high-quality whisky and the fact that they matured their drinks in specially manufactured oak barrel containers. This led to an increase in the marketing and sale of “small batch” whiskies, which were popular with the upscale consumers.

Tennessee Whisky
Tennessee whiskey is very similar to Bourbon since they have an identical history. The grains used in the manufacture of the two whiskies are similar, and they are both matured on the oak barrel. No wonder the whiskies are almost similar as their methods and techniques of production are similar, but a whisky lover can tell out the difference between the two.

Rye Whisky
Having being introduced by German immigrants who came with the experience of using rye in whisky production, the Rye whisky was manufactured from the grain originally used in the production of drinks such as Vodka and Schnapps in Northern Europe.

Currently, this pioneer whisky is barely in the market. This is attributed to the fact that it is primarily used in blending other whiskies to ensure they have a characteristic taste and more character.

Blended American Whisky
It dates all the way to the early days of the 19Th century. This was back when they were still inventing the column still. This was when the oak barrel was still a far off idea, but the distillers still managed to blend some straight whiskies. These include whiskies such as Rye and Bourbon.

Back in the earlier days, the whisky blends were flavored using a variety of products ranging from fruit droppings to tobacco plugs.  During the World War II when their distillers worked hard to promote their sale; however, Bourbon drinkers traded the Blended American Whisky for Gin and Vodka.

Canadian and Corn Whisky matured in the oak barrel
Corn Whisky can brag of being the first truly American blended whisky. Canadian Whisky on the other hand came about from rye. This is because most Canadian distillers used corn and other grains, but with time, they turned to Rye and currently most Canadian whiskies are a mixture of mainly wheat, corn, barley and a great portion of rye. This leads to the production of greatly matured oak barrel whisky by great distillers.