The third installment in my summer vacation recap is all about Jim Beam. You can read about the first stop in Cleveland and our first day in Kentucky via the links. On our second day in Kentucky we visited the Jim Beam Distillery and boy was John excited.
We arrived just in time for the tour and the first thing I learned is all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. The U.S. government has a set of regulations that determines exactly what can be called bourbon.
One fun fact is that bourbon can only be made in the United States. In 1964 Congress declared that bourbon had to be distilled and aged in the United States and it can’t be called Kentucky Straight Bourbon unless it has been distilled and aged in Kentucky for at least two years.
Another bourbon regulation is that all bourbon must be aged in brand new charred oak barrels. Distilleries can’t recycle the barrels so they are purchased by all sorts of companies to use for scotch, sometimes wine and furniture among other things.
Each bourbon maker has it’s own mash recipe, but to be a bourbon the recipe must consist of 51% corn.
The color in bourbon comes from the barrels. The only thing that can be added to bourbon is water, if anything else like coloring or flavor is added you can’t call it bourbon.
Now for the fun part, John and I got to clean and imprint our own bottles of Jim Beam Knob Creek! Below is the machine they used to clean, dispense bourbon and label the bottles. When they clean the bottles they have to use the same bourbon that they ultimately fill the bottles with so they don’t alter the flavor in any way.
After they dipped the bottles in wax we each got to put our thumbprints on the top and then they would be down in the gift shop for purchase. I had some fun pictures of this process that got deleted (boo), but here is the bottle right before we put the wax on it:
They had quite the collection of special and commemorative bottles on display. One of which was the I Dream of Jeannie decanter. We learned that the bottle on the show was actually designed after this bottle.
The tour ended in the tasting room and we each got to pick three things to try.
We had a blast on our tour and I even got a fabulous Jim Beam candle to take home. It was definitely my first stop into becoming a bourbon aficionado.
What Jim Beam variations are your favorites?
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