Fundamental

DRINK THE AMERICAN BOURBON

Show a Scot a bottle of Japanese whiskey and he’ll shudder. It’s an affront to his national pride, however good it may be. It’s that shudder the United States Congress wisely decided to avoid in 1964, when they foresightedly declared that bourbon could only be called so if it was made in America. The only nation that could possibly have raised an eyebrow would have been the French, given that the name originally refers to their royal family.

Bourbon is of course a whiskey, but not all whiskies are bourbon, as distillers are proud to say. Apart from having to have been made in the U.S., at least 51% (but no more than 79%) of fermented corn mash must be used in its making. It also must be aged for at least two years in charred, but new, oak barrels. Tradition states that it should come from Kentucky, where the limestone water is claimed to give it its distinction—the same water, by the way, that makes Kentucky racehorses’ bones so strong. While most bourbon does come from Kentucky, it has been known to be distilled in less romantic locations, such as New Jersey (where the water contains more gangsters than lime).

There’s something else that makes bourbon so special: a good one should be drunk at leisure. Forget knocking back shot glasses and handing out the chasers—leave that to the cowboys. A good bourbon should be treated like a sipping whiskey. Pour three fingers in a glass. Nothing else goes into that glass! Don’t even think about ice. (If you’re looking for a cold drink, go open up the fridge.) Drink your bourbon neat and at room temperature. That’s the only way you’ll get all the flavor and aroma that was matured into it. To put it another way, if they wanted you to drink it with Coke, they would have put the Coke in the barrel.

Drinking bourbon properly is a sure treat, but the second best thing about it is saying the word. Let’s face it. Walking up to a bar, looking the bartender in the eye, and asking for a Sex on the Beach or a Pink Ribbon just doesn’t have the same ring to it, now does it?