An American History of America’s Liquor: Bourbon

“If I haven’t gotten drunk to the point that I start hallucinating, it’s been a crap night.  Now, who wants to duel?”

~Andrew Jackson

While the America Fun Fact of the Day staff never really paid much attention in History Class, we do remember at one point hearing “something something that turns that cogs of the American machine.”  Knowing what we know about America (namely everything, despite whatever that bitch of an American History summer school teacher told us) there is only one logical thing this could have been referring to.

That, of course, is booze.  And of all the boozes out there, only one is so American it was discovered in America, created in America, named after somewhere in American, and is responsible for more spouses accidentally falling down the stairs in America than a Green Bay Packers loss.

We are of course referring to the brownest of the browns, the sweetest of the sweet, giver of life and hangovers.  Bourbon.

The first officially recognized production of bourbon occurred when noted frontier man, Buffalo Bill, created the “sour mash” method of distilling, where previously fermented mash was added during the distilling process, adding an acidity that both killed potential batch-spoiling bacteria while balancing the ph levels to allow yeast to be effective.  Buffalo Bill created this spirit, originally called “Buffalo Bill’s Mashed Corn Liquor,” while staying in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  Buffalo Bill was taking a lengthy vacation to avoid the temptation to kill buffalo at the time, and chose to stay in Kentucky since he had already personally killed the entire buffalo population of the state years ago.

In 1885, Buffalo Bill’s Mashed Corn Liquor faced a scandal that permanently damaged the reputation of the spirit and its creator.  A scathing New York Times article was released, alleging that Buffalo Bill paid the Indians on his Wild West Show with bottles of the liquor.  Americans were outraged.  Not only was Buffalo Bill audacious enough to pay an Indian, he wasn’t even shooting them when he was done with them.  A tearful Buffalo Bill admitted that he had never killed an Indian, and left for Europe in exile.  In order to keep the drink on store shelves, Buffalo Bill’s Mashed Corn Liquor quietly changed its name to “Bourbon” after the county where it originated.

In the early 1900’s, bourbon’s popularity began to grow nationally, and it was at one time so popular that the only reason your grandparents were conceived was because of it.  Whenever FDR took a shot of bourbon, he was able to stand up from his wheelchair to give speeches- in fact, FDR was wasted on bourbon every time he made a speech to the nation, which is why his speeches were so fucking awesome.  Jimmy Carter doesn’t like bourbon, which is why he comes off as such a pansy.

Seriously, right now he’s laughing because he read a Family Circus that he liked.

During the space race, the Russians used vodka to launch their rockets into space, while NASA used Bourbon that fell under the legal requirements necessary of bourbon ingredients and production methods (namely, at least 51% corn, aged in charred oak barrels, and produced in the United States).   Since Bourbon generally has anywhere from 10 to 20 percent more alcohol than vodka, while being 1000% more American, it should come as no surprise that America won the space race and to this day gets to go to the killer alien dance parties on the moon.


Many American parents dip their fingers in bourbon to rub onto the gums of children who are teething, which helps dull the pain and makes the child largely immune to radiation poisoning in most forms.

Aquariums used to be filled with bourbon instead of water in the state of Kentucky.  While initially this was a shortsighted and foolish notion, with over 95% of fish dying instantly, those that did survive grew and morphed into awesome mutant fish.  Bourbon created the species that we know today as sting rays, giant jelly fish, eels, sea horses, and killer whales.  So next time you watch the final scene of “Free Willy”, wipe that tear from your eye, and thank bourbon.

Chug, Willy!  Chug!

Bourbon was legally, through act of congress in 1964, declared a “distinctive product of the United States.”  (Seriously)  With over one billion dollars worth of bourbon exported nationally, bourbon is the second most valuable American export, next to awesomeness, and just ahead of miniature American flags.

So sit down with a warm glass of bourbon, possibly with a cigar in your hand while watching illegal immigrants fight amongst themselves in your living room for your pleasure, and give a toast for the drink that defines America so greatly.  Earthy, sweet, strong, unmistakable, timeless, and white brown.

4 responses to “An American History of America’s Liquor: Bourbon

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