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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Bourbon in the 20th Century

    Here is an interesting perspective on the history of the bourbon industry.

    Early history. From the pilgrims until the mid-19th century, the standard for whiskey is essentially "white lightning," a raw, green spirit that is frequently mixed with flavorings to make it palatable. It is appreciated for qualities other than its flavor.

    Bourbon is Born. What we know as bourbon begins with the introduction of the sour mash process and other steps that give distillers better control over their product, around the middle of the 19th century. Routine aging by the distiller, using new charred oak barrels, also becomes widespread during this period, which culminates around the turn of the century with passage of the Bottled in Bond and Pure Food and Drug Acts.

    The Dark Times. The 20th century begins with the growing influence of the temperance movement. Various states adopt prohibition, culminating with the imposition of national prohibition. Repeal is followed by WWII, which distrupts the industry because the distilleries have to make industrial alcohol for the war effort, instead of whiskey.

    The Later 20th Century. The fifties are a period of high demand and tight supply. Because of the aging cycle, producers are not able to adequately supply the demand for quality bourbon until well into the 1950s. People began to try other things and the younger generation doesn't pick up straight whiskey like their parents did. By the sixties, sales are flattening. By the seventies, they are in decline. The decline had bottomed out by the late eighties and overall volume has been essentially flat ever since.

    Today. Today, although overall volume is still pretty flat, within the industry the price mix has shifted in a more profitable direction. It might be said that only in the last decade has the industry really stabilized, so production forecasts can be pretty accurate, prices are strong, etc. The industry today is probably in its healthiest state since the turn of the last century.

    What do you think?

    --Chuck Cowdery

  2. #2
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: Bourbon in the 20th Century

    Looks good to me Chuck. Marketing gimmick or not between single barrel and small batch bottlings we surely have much better bourbons to drink today than we did twenty years ago.

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

  3. #3
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: Bourbon in the 20th Century

    Said Linn of Bourbonia, "... we surely have much better bourbons to drink today than we did twenty years ago."

    And *MUCH* better than most of what you'd find a hundred years ago. One (maybe the only) good thing that came out of Prohibition was that only the highest quality bourbon -- which could meet the bottled-in-bond criteria -- survived it. All the others (and that would have been most brands) disappeared forever. Even Old Forester was a blended whiskey until they had to "go straight" to meet the requirements for being sold for medicinal purposes.

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  4. #4
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Bourbon in the 20th Century

    Proof once again folks that "going straight" is always a good thing. So John just when did *you* become a compassionate conservative?

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

  5. #5
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: Bourbon in the 20th Century

    Wrong pigeonhole.
    [A]bort [R]etry [F]ail

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  6. #6
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
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    Re: Bourbon in the 20th Century

    What I thought, but didn't write, as I was composing the original post was that we may very well be living in the Golden Age of American Whiskey. Based on the current Malt Advocate, I might even say the Golden Age of North American Whiskey. Certainly developments like the return of pot stills (Labrot & Graham), distilleries producing multiple recipes (typified by Buffalo Trace), micro-bottling (e.g., Van Winkle) and micro-distilling (like Fritz Maytag) are exciting if they continue and are joined by other innovations.

    It may be that these are the good old days!

    --Chuck Cowdery

  7. #7
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Bourbon in the 20th Century

    Chuck the expolsion of top shelf super premium brands and their acceptance by eager consumers support your thesis.

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

  8. #8
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Bourbon in the 20th Century

    Love your writing, Mr. Cowdery. How can I view your documentary on bourbon-making, which I've read about?
    It's not at my video store! Thanks---
    destrygal


  9. #9
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
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    Re: Bourbon in the 20th Century

    Thanks for asking and for the kind words. You can buy a copy of the documentary "Made and Bottled in Kentucky" from me and the easiest way is online. Click on my name, below, to go to my web site. If that doesn't work for you, e-mail me and I'll tell you where to send a check to order it by mail.

    --Chuck Cowdery

 

 

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