There are a lot of holidays that our great nation celebrates. From January to December and every month in between, you can bet there is a day that we Americans love to celebrate. In fact, the trend towards holidays is so strong that pretty much every single day is a celebratory day for some person, place, or thing.
Bourbon is no exception to this rule. There is, indeed, a national holiday to celebrate the official spirit of the United States. Every year, National Bourbon Days comes around in the U.S., giving us the perfect opportunity to celebrate our favorite hard liquor.
So, when exactly is National Bourbon Day? Why is there a specific day to celebrate bourbon? What makes bourbon special? How did bourbon first come to be invented?
We’re answering all of these questions and more so you can be prepared to celebrate the greatest day of the year.
When Is National Bourbon Day?
Every year National Bourbon Day is celebrated on June 14th. Tucked in between Memorial Day and Father’s Day, National Bourbon Day can fly a bit under the radar. For those in the know, it’s hard to forget how fun celebrating Bourbon Day can be.
According to legend, June 14th is the first day that bourbon was distilled, although this is more symbolic than anything. Whether the 14th of June is the birthday of bourbon whiskey or just a random day of the year, it is what the day represents that matters.
What Is Bourbon?
To celebrate National Bourbon Day, we’ve decided to give you all the details on bourbon, how it’s made, and how you can celebrate on the 14th.
Bourbon is a specific type of whiskey that must be distilled and aged right here in the United States. Bourbon whiskey must be made with a mash bill that contains at least 51% corn and must be aged for a minimum of two years in new charred oak barrels. So long as a whiskey meets these requirements, it can legally call itself bourbon.
If you want to earn the distinction of Kentucky bourbon, a bourbon whiskey needs to be distilled and aged in the state of Kentucky (as the name implies). Bourbon can be aged for much longer than two years — and often is for additional flavor.
Bourbon has been the National Spirit of the United States since 1964, and it has enjoyed booming popularity globally and stateside since the nineties. Bourbon is notorious for its sweet caramel and vanilla notes which come from both the corn and the charred oak barrels.
How Is Bourbon Made?
In order to truly appreciate this amazing spirit on its national holiday, we want to give you a look into how bourbon whiskey is made. Here at Oak & Eden, we take bourbon making seriously to ensure that every bottle you drink is just as good as the last.
Step One: The Mash Bill
Every bourbon whiskey starts with the selection of a mash bill that is at least 51% corn. The other 49% of the grains can come from more corn, rye, wheat, or barley. Our Oak & Eden Bourbon & Spire Whiskey is made with a corn, rye, and barley mash bill that impart the smooth, creamy, and delicious taste that you get in every bottle.
Once the grains have been selected, they have to be mashed before they can be fermented to produce alcohol. The mashing process helps release some of the sugars from the grains to make fermentation faster and easier.
This is done by grinding the mash bill grains very finely, combining them with hot water, and agitating it to release the sugars. This ends up creating a porridge-like mixture called “the mash.”
Step Two: Fermentation
Now that the sugars have been extracted from the mash, they are ready for fermentation. This is where yeast is added to the mash, which eats all the sugars and produces alcohol as a byproduct. This mix is left to ferment for anywhere from two to four days, depending on the type of yeast involved in the fermentation process.
Fermentation is finished when the liquid reaches about seven to 10% ABV, which is somewhere between beer and wine. This liquid is sometimes called the distiller’s beer.
Step Three: Distillation
In order to take this distiller’s beer from seven to 10% ABV all the way above bottling ABV for whiskey or bourbon (typically 40%), this liquid must go through the distillation process. This process helps extract the alcoholic components of the mash while leaving behind any harsh and unwanted byproducts.
Bourbon is made using a column still, which is a continuous process making it the most time-effective distillation method. Column distillation starts by pouring your distiller’s beer into the bottom of the column. There, it is heated with water vapor, causing the alcohol to vaporize and rise up the column.
Throughout the column are placed horizontal plates which cause the vapor to condense again briefly before being vaporized by the heat, leading to different strengths of alcohol as you climb up the still. Once the vapor reaches the desired strength, it is directed into another condensing chamber, where the gas is cooled back down to a liquid.
There are regulations on the maximum distilled proof of a whiskey or bourbon, set at 160 proof (or 80% ABV). Using column distillation, you can distill spirits much farther, up to as much as 95% ABV, which would only be useful for the most neutral of grain spirits.
Step Four: Aging
Now that the spirit is up to a high ABV, it is ready to be aged. Bourbon must be aged in new American oak barrels, which are then charred to the distiller’s discretion. Bourbon must also be aged for two years but can often be aged for much longer before bottling.
The aging process is what gives whiskey and bourbon their colors and depths of flavors. As the bourbon sits in barrels over the years, the wood is allowed to expand and contract with the temperature, pulling bourbon in and out of the wood. This extracts hundreds of natural flavor botanicals from the oak, giving bourbon whiskey its unique taste.
Step Five: Bottling
Once the bourbon has reached maturity, it can be bottled and sold. If your bourbon happens to be an Oak & Eden bourbon, then your bourbon goes through one more step. We have created a first-of-its-kind technique that allows for in-bottle finishing.
Every bottle of Oak & Eden whiskey and bourbon contains a wooden spire specifically chosen and toasted for that blend, which continues to add flavors and depth to your bourbon as it sits in your bottle. This allows our bourbons to reach new levels of complexity that were previously not possible.
How Can I Celebrate National Bourbon Day?
The best way to celebrate National Bourbon day is to enjoy bourbon responsibly. Whether you like to drink your bourbon on the rocks, in a bourbon sour, or as a bourbon mule, June 14th is the perfect day to share your love for America’s signature spirit.
If you’re looking for a few fun and creative recipes to add a little spice to your National Bourbon Day, you can check out a few of our favorite cocktail recipes. Experiment, play around, and remember that bourbon should be enjoyed — have fun, and trust your tastebuds.
Every year, National Bourbon Day comes around to commemorate a true American spirit: bourbon whiskey. Bourbon can only be made here in the United States, and as the signature Spirit of the nation, it’s quite representative of American culture.
National Bourbon Day falls on June 14th, right at the beginning of summer. While some claim June 14th is the day bourbon was first distilled, this is just a folktale.
Bourbon is a type of whiskey that must be made in the United States using a mash bill of at least 51% corn and aged for a minimum of two years in new charred oak barrels. The bourbon-making process is quite rich and textured, giving you the most delicious spirit possible.
Every bottle of bourbon goes through grain selection, mashing, fermentation, distillation, aging, and bottling. Oak & Eden whiskey, including our bourbon, gets an extra step: in-bottle finishing. This helps to give our whiskeys and bourbons an additional chance to extract botanicals from the wood that makes these spirits delicious in the first place.
There is no right or wrong way to celebrate National Bourbon Day, so long as you are having fun and staying safe. You can keep it classic with bourbon neat or on the rocks, or experiment with some of our fun whisky cocktails recipes. However you decide to celebrate this June 14th, make sure you do it with bourbon.