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  1. #1
    Novice
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    Dec 2003
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    1

    Regional Differences within Kentucky

    Hi all, I'm a bourbon-loving college student who just happens to be researching a fairly common topic around here--bourbon! I've been exploring its history/roots, creation process, modern distilleries, et cetera (all kinds of good stuff), and have learned quite a bit. (Someone once said the best way to learn about something you aren't familiar with is to write a book on it. While I'm only writing a paper, I think it still holds true!) This board has been a nice resource in my learning process.

    When I first started researching bourbon I thought that there might be some sort of distinguishing bourbon characterstic for different regions/counties in Kentucky. However, I haven't really found anything to support this idea. The fact that most of the distilleries are within close proximity of one another definitely doesn't help. I'm also thinking that the tight regulations that distillers have to follow cuts back on the possibility of having bourbons of large varieties (I'm not trying to step on toes here; I'm talking about varieties like you would find comparing scotch to bourbon). Instead, it appears that the different varieties in bourbon that do exist stem more from tradition and brands/marketing than geography. I think that the differences I was initially looking for don't exist because I should be looking at Kentucky as a region in the world of whiskey, rather than different bourbons in the world of.. well.. bourbons.

    Do any of you have any information to support or refute my initial idea of regional distinctions?

  2. #2

    Re: Regional Differences within Kentucky

    You're right, there is nothing like wine's 'terroir' in the bourbon industry. As you suspect, bourbon's legal definition makes the method of production pretty universal. However, variances in the mash bill (mixture of grains) and yeast culture (just about every distillery has at least one proprietary yeast) lend the drink almost unlimited variation. Add to that differing times in barrel, with barrels stored in variable settings (different floors of warehouses, hilltop or valley, spring or fall bottling, et al). Even within a single brand or bottling, those changes can occur over the course of years. All of these are decisions made by humans, so even advances of technology (undeniable and, for the most part, positive) can't unify the output. That's a good thing.


  3. #3
    Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
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    Central LA, Louisiana :-)
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    310

    Re: Regional Differences within Kentucky

    No.


    But welcome to the fold. You must drink it to understand it. Write home for more money for research.

    I think you will find differences come from distillers not from geographic influences. It would be cool if half of KY was Wheat and the other half was rye because of some early grain availability in that area of the state but I do not think you will find a clear line.

  4. #4
    Administrator in exile
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Posts
    3,904

    Re: Regional Differences within Kentucky

    While you might not find evidence to support you theories as far as the distilling process goes, you might be able to use region/climate to explore the differences in the aging process and how it affects the final product. For example, does the climate in Frankfort and Woodford County differ enough from that of Bardstown or Louisville to make a difference in how the burbon turns out after 8-10 years or so? Of course there are endless other factors at play here, but it might make an interesting discussion. Welcome to the forum


  5. #5
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
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    Chicago
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    12,570

    Re: Regional Differences within Kentucky

    About the only regional difference of significance is that city-based distilleries tend to have masonry (i.e., brick) rackhouses placed close together, while country-based distilleries tend to have steel-clad rackhouses placed far apart. There are exceptions, of course, the old Stitzel-Weller plant, on the fringes of Louisville, was steel-clad.

  6. #6
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Feb 2002
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    Kentucky
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    2,942

    Re: Regional Differences within Kentucky

    Inside of the Steel Clad vs Masonry, haven't we gone over that in the past, and the smart money is on Steel Clad?

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Sep 1999
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    Chicago
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    Re: Regional Differences within Kentucky

    Well, Buffalo Trace, which has both, claims its best whiskey (e.g., Blanton's) comes from its steel-clad. However, both the Brown-Forman distillery outside Louisville and their Woodford Reserve near Versailles are masonry, so obviously both types can produce good whiskey.

  8. #8
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Feb 2002
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    Kentucky
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    Re: Regional Differences within Kentucky

    It also seems that the masonry ones are better for the heat cycling that BT and B-F do. My thinking is that the steel clad respond more quickly to temperature changes, and the masonry units would lag a bit. Is it fair to say that none of us could taste a barrel of the same bourbon from a steel clad and a masonry rackhouse and discern the difference?

  9. #9
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Jul 2000
    Location
    Nelson County, Kentucky
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    2,734

    Re: Regional Differences within Kentucky

    Heaven Hill does not store thier barrels in the brick warehouses at Bernhiem...They transport them to Bardstown and store them in the iron clad warehouses...

    Bettye Jo

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Feb 2002
    Location
    Kentucky
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    2,942

    Re: Regional Differences within Kentucky

    That's interesting, BettyeJo. Any idea why? HH has Barrels aging at what, 4 locations in Nelson County, all Iron clad. Deatsville, Hwy333 at the Old Jim Beam plant , by the rock quarry on Bloomfield road and at Heaven Hill ( Any Others?). Do you know if anyone else has whiskey stored at Bernhiem?

 

 

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