With a book dedicated solely to cooking with bourbon, it’s only fitting Albert Schmid, author of The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook, would include a little bit of the history behind this beloved beverage.
Most people believe a Baptist minister, the Reverend Elijah Craig, was the first person to distill bourbon, circa 1789. It was a very convenient legend for the forces trying to repeal Prohibition. After all, how bad can bourbon be if it was invented by a Baptist minister? But, the truth is that no one really knows who invented bourbon. Some of the favorite candidates include Evan Williams, James Ritchie, and Wattie Boone (Daniel’s cousin).
Despite the myth surrounding its origin, in 1964 Congress officially named bourbon America’s native spirit and the beverage became the most regulated whiskey in the world, having to meet strict criteria in order to be labeled “bourbon.” The requirements for bourbon are these:
- Bourbon must be made from at least 51 percent corn mixed with barley and with rye or wheat or both. Many times bourbon has an even higher percentage of corn.
- Bourbon must be aged in charred new oak barrels.
- Only pure water may be added to bourbon.
- Bourbon must not exceed 160 proof off the still or 125 proof going into the barrel.