Whiskey is a whiskey, but is a whiskey a bourbon? A bourbon a whiskey?
Take some water and corn, add little wheat, barley or rye, mix together at no more than 160 proof then put it into a container when it’s no more than 125 proof, but be sure to take it out before it reaches 79 proof.
What is it? Bourbon. Whiskey. Kentucky bourbon. Tennessee whiskey.
If you guessed bourbon, you’d be correct. If you guessed Kentucky bourbon, you’d be incorrect—that is unless the aforementioned mixture was actually mixed in Kentucky. Because as it turns out, “Bourbon doesn’t have to come from Kentucky.” So says Jason Foust, Bar Manager of The North End Barbecue & Moonshine and Regional Vice President, Midwest for the United States Bartenders Guild.
“I once got in an argument with a guy for nearly an hour about this,” he said laughing, recalling the fallacy built up around the often charming, caramel-colored spirit that smells heavenly and can warm you up almost instantly when sipped neat.
“There’re actually six things,” said Foust, “that classify a whiskey as a bourbon, none of which require it being made in Kentucky.”
Remembering the many, many times I’ve heard, “All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon unless it’s made in the great state of Kentucky,” and not completely ready to take Foust’s word, I did a little research—and as it turns out, he really does know what he’s talking about. But not just about the unequivocal definition of bourbon, but also about the different styles, the aging processes, the mash bill, let alone the consumption of this bold, albeit smooth spirit. And the really good news—The North End Barbecue & Moonshine started its Whiskey 101 class not only to help educate folks on the widely consumed beverage, but also to teach their palates to identify what they like and don’t like; so they’re better equipped when it comes time to order. And with over 250 whiskey’s currently on the menu at TNE, knowing what you like can certainly help guide the bartender to help you choose a whiskey of your liking—let alone try one or two (or three, I’m not judging) new, exiting combinations of water and grain. Water and grain, mind you, that when mixed properly and aged correctly can bring a smile to anyone’s lips—whether they’re in Kentucky, or anywhere else for that matter.
For more information on TNE's Whiskey 101 and 201 classes, visit their website. Oh, and if you want to know those six things that make a bourbon a bourbon—so says Foust and the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, you’ll have to sign up for class. And let me know if you do … I’d love to hear which ones are your favorite. Me? I used to be a solid Maker's Mark girl, but after Foust’s 101 class, I found a new favorite, High West’s Yipee Ki-Yay blended whiskey. Not only is it delicious, but it’s kind of fun to say, too.
Jason Foust is the founding president of Indiana’s USBG chapter. His position as Midwest Regional VP has him overseeing chapters in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Throughout the country there are only five designated regional vice presidents for the USBG. Foust also sits on the Board of Directors for the National USBG.
The North End opened its doors in May, 2014. TNE is locally owned by Ryan Nelson and Phil Larman; co-owners of Late Harvest Kitchen.
The North End Barbecue & Moonshine | 1250 E 86th, Indianapolis | thenorthendbbq.com