I'd propose a discussion of what is new in the bourbon world in approximately the last 10 years, in other words, what characterises the bourbon scene today that did not exist in previous generations.
This is the era coinciding with the start of SB, the spread of consumer whisky magazines, the release of books such as Jim Murray's Whisky Bible, the holding of fairs and exhibitions for consumers to taste and rate whisky, and the release of barrel strength bourbons and expressions marketed in general as super-premium (some of this existed earlier but not like today).
I'd list the new phenomena as follows:
- in general a culture of connoisseurship exists - some always appreciated fine bourbon but they were scattered and there was no unity to their efforts
- the concept of the barrel strength bourbon seems truly new, there may have been one or two examples in the 1930's-1980's but they were very rare, and thus a practice has been revived not seen since whisky was sold from the barrel in the 1800's
- the related idea to drink bourbon (albeit carefully and in small amounts!) at barrel strength is truly new I think. This was never done before, bourbon always was diluted by addition of ice or water except for the few who might have drunk bonded whisky neat.
- the idea to use bourbon in certain foods such as bourbon balls and some cooking (bourbon meat balls, in soups and so forth). Isolated or regional examples existed before but the practice is gaining ground.
- the existence of forums and discussion groups (SB being the leader by far) where bourbons can be discussed, rated and argued over and through which information is disseminated.
- the release of bourbons finished in barrels which formerly held another spirit or a wine.
- the beginning - so far very small - of craft bourbon producers, thus bringing things to where they started a very long time ago.
I would say all these are features of the new bourbon culture.