View Full Version : Shotgun houses and bourbon

03-25-2004, 07:13
Having talked with Chris Morris yesterday I was able to find out what they are basing their claim to the term "Bourbon" originating in Shippingport. For those who are not familiar with Louisville and its history, Shippingport is an Island in the Ohio in west Louisville. It was owned in the early 1800's by two French brothers - Jean and Louis Tarascon and their partner James Berthoud. They owned a very large mill and a warehouse. They also attracted a fairly large group of French immigrants from New Orleans to Shippingport. Goods coming down the Ohio would be unloaded in Louisville and carted to the warehouse so that the unladen boat could go through the rapids and over the falls without endangering the merchandise. It would then be loaded back on the boat, sometimes after repairs were made to the boat if it was damaged by the trip over the falls, and continue down the river.

There is a history of Shotgun House here in Louisville that states that this French connection brought Shotgun Houses into the city from New Orleans in the first decade of the 19th century. Brown-Forman is making their claim based upon Tarascon controlling freight going into their warehouses and using their connections with other French traders in New Orleans to market Kentucky whiskey with a Cognac taste and French name. Since many of the French people who came to New Orleans at that time were fleeing the chaos of the French Revolution, there was great sympathy for the French Monarchy - The Bourbon Monarchs. Naming the product for this Monarchy aided sales of whiskey in New Orleans.

This is an interesting theory and deserves some further research.

Mike Veach

03-25-2004, 08:58
great work Mike! -- Greg

03-25-2004, 11:51
Since many of the French people who came to New Orleans at that time were fleeing the chaos of the French Revolution, there was great sympathy for the French Monarchy - The Bourbon Monarchs. Naming the product for this Monarchy aided sales of whiskey in New Orleans.

Mike, I had proposed this as a plausible explanation back in September.

link (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Number=20124&page=&view=&sb= 5&o=&vc=1)

03-25-2004, 12:05
I also believe that the reason they started by calling it "Bourbon County Whiskey" was a way to appeal to the "royalist" without offending the "revolutionist" in New Orleans. They could simply say the county was named to honor the French involvement in the American Revolution.

Mike Veach

03-27-2004, 22:19
Tonight after dinner at a friend's I was served Duff Gordon brandy marked "Jerez", i.e., made in Spain. I was amazed at how bourbon-like it was, both in nose and taste. It had a charred wood aroma very similar to a good bourbon, but slightly more vinous. After downing the dram I looked at the bottle more closely. The rear label said the distiller employed American oak barrels. These would surely either be new toasted or charred barrels or used whiskey barrels. It is very conceivable to me that imported brandy in the the early 1800's tasted like this (except today the Spanish at any rate use American wood for aging which is cheaper and more abundant than scarce Spanish oak). In fact I'll wager the Spanish were exporting some brandy to Louisiana in the early 1800's, New Orleans was home to a large Spanish-speaking population, not just the French-speaking group spoken of earlier. Also, I would think Cognac in the early 1800's may have resembled the Spanish product of today, surely it (Cognac) would not have been as refined and perfumy then as it is now.

For the first time I can see that aged brandy really can resemble bourbon or rather that arguably, it was the other way around, giving support to the idea that bourbon was devised and named to be a credible substitute for imported brandy.


03-27-2004, 23:09
I can just about guarantee that the product was aged in used bourbon barrels, perhaps decharred and recharred, but just as likely not and part of what you were tasting was the residual bourbon in the barrels themselves. I've never heard of anyone in Europe buying new American oak. It's simple economics. A new American barrel will cost them $100+, plus shipping, while a used bourbon barrel costs them about $3, plus shipping. (The price fluctuates but I was told recently that is the current, very low, going rate.) Still, none of that detracts from your point.

03-28-2004, 06:10
It is possible there was residual bourbon in the Duff Gordon, but it could have been charred wood flavour (from new or reused barrels) - it can be hard to distinguish between the two, of course. Certainly a smokey wood quality was there that one doesn't see in cognac, or not the ones I have tried. Today Cognac is transferred from new casks to reused ones after one year. This is to ensure too much fresh wood flavour is not transferred to the spirit. I doubt such refinements were practiced in the early 1800's. I think, except for taste differences reflecting different grape varieties, that European aged brandies at the time resembled each other or at least exhibited that heavily toasted taste that is now the hallmark of bourbon.

Even though the oak casks for Duff Gordon were U.S.-sourced, when all is said and done, this brandy is a foreign product. Yet it shows a marked similarity to a bourbon style of whiskey. So the historical tie-in may be there, but it may not be too, all this is still speculation until harder evidence arises as to the origins of bourbon and the bourbon trade in New Orleans. By the way for those trying to make their own Distiller's Masterpiece bourbon, that is, bourbon shaded with a hint of cognac flavour, this Duff Gordon product may be ideal.


03-28-2004, 06:37
I don't have time to chase the links, but I have said on many occasions (on this board) that this or that bourbon reminded me strongly of cognac. So, I can easily agree with this idea.


03-30-2004, 07:23
One of the ways these trips became profitable was that the flatboat would be taken apart and sold as lumber in New Orleans. This lumber was often used to build shotgun houses. Often the boaters would help build these houses and they brought the knowledge of their construction back to Louisville.
Mike Veach