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  1. #1
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    When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    I noticed that the barrels on "Hell on Wheels" are stenciled "Kentucky Straight Bourbon", and was wondering when Bourbon was first referenced as "Straight"?

  2. #2
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    Re: When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    Quote Originally Posted by Enoch View Post
    I noticed that the barrels on "Hell on Wheels" are stenciled "Kentucky Straight Bourbon", and was wondering when Bourbon was first referenced as "Straight"?
    It was codified and given a meaning (although that meaning was to change) in the 1909 Taft Decision, which means if was in common use before that. It probably came into general use in the 1880s to distinguish real whiskey from compound (i.e., fake) whiskey. The legal meaning of 'straight' now is just aged at least two years, but the more general meaning is whiskey that hasn't been adulterated.
    Last edited by cowdery; 10-04-2012 at 13:24.

  3. #3
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    Re: When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    This is one of the earliest published references, from 1869 (p. 274):

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=sfkMAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA274&lpg=PA274&dq="strai ght+whiskey"&source=bl&ots=b04N1i-WmD&sig=zpVk5yDBZcmzU3TPOCEdgCuRSsY&hl=en&sa=X&ei= NyFuUPnWFoT3

    In this usage, it meant taken neat, not mixed with water (as in toddy) or sugar (the "gum" mentioned is "gomme", French for a rich sugar solution) or anything else.

    Dictionaries of Americanisms in the later 1800's reference this meaning. However, about the same time, it acquired the meaning of whiskey from the distillery, i.e., non-rectified or compounded whiskey. Which is an extension really or allied idea to the concept of taking it neat or pure so to speak.

    Yet another meaning in the books is that straight meant tax-paid from the distillery, bonded as it became, as opposed to crooked, whiskey not tax paid and likely stretched with GNS or something else to enhance the value.

    All these are gleaned from searches in google books and anyone can confirm them.

    Gary

  4. #4
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    Re: When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    I'll pick a nit, as the reference is to straight whiskey, not straight bourbon, though the point about 'straight's' evolving meaning is right on.

  5. #5
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    Re: When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    Fair enough Colonel.

    Gary

  6. #6

    Re: When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    Quote Originally Posted by cowdery View Post
    The legal meaning of 'straight' now is just aged at least two years, but the more general meaning is whiskey that hasn't been adulterated.
    In additional to the general meaning, it is also mightbe the legal meaning. The way I read the regulations, when "straight" is indicated, the whiskey hasn't been adulterated. Unless I am reading it wrong, the term "straight" is used for all bourbon 2+ years old, for other whiskeys that are 2+ years old and have not had any coloring or flavoring added to it. I am getting this from § 5.22(b)(1)(iii), which specifices that Whiskies conforming to the standards (for bourbon, rye, malt, corn whiskey, whiskey) .. stored for a period of 2 years or more shall befurther designated as “straight”, with the exception (from § 5.39 &§ 5.23)
    that if coloring, flavoring, and blending materials are added then the whiskey cannot be designated as a "straight" whiskey. While there are likely legacy products with wording on labels that do not conform with how the CFR currently defines "straignt," the way I read it is if the whiskey is 2+ years and meets the definition of one of the defined class & types of whiskey, it is either straight (with no coloring or flavoring) or not straight (with coloring and/or flavoring, like caramel, sugar, or blending sherry added).


  7. #7
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    Re: When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    Enoch since Civil War times the term Straight Bourbon has generally meant the good stuff.

  8. #8
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    Re: When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    In December, 1909, the Taft Decision created two kinds of whiskey, blended whiskey (which could contain unaged whiskey, neutral spirits, flavoring and coloring) and straight whiskey (which had to be 100% aged whiskey at least two years old, with nothing added). Before that, the term was used informally to mean roughly the same thing, but this made it law. That has been its legal meaning ever since.

  9. #9
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    Re: When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    Straight is not inconsistent with flavoring added: a blend of straight whiskeys can under certain circumstances include permitted flavoring and coloring. In my view, the term straight primarily is intended to refer to added age, meaning whiskey at least two years old and not just bourbon, say, aged for a time.

    Gary

  10. #10
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    Re: When was the term "straight" first used with bourbon?

    Flavoring and coloring can be added only if disclosed, i.e., "straight bourbon whiskey with ..." You can't add flavoring or coloring and just call it "bourbon" or, if 2 years old, "straight bourbon." In the dichotomy of "straight" vs "blended," blends can be flavored/colored while straights cannot.

 

 

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