Bourbon may have been born in Kentucky, but it is a beverage enjoyed across the nation, indeed around the world. Whisky is one of the world’s oldest beverages, originating in Scotland over 1000 years ago, and could be considered the father of bourbon. Bourbon itself didn’t come into existence until 1789 when Elijah Craig invented bourbon by aging corn whisky (also known as moonshine) in newly charred oak barrels.
Today bourbon is celebrated across the country in different festivals meant to share the history and love of this unique alcoholic drink. Kentucky itself is home to countless bourbon festivals and events, but the following festivals bring the unique alcohol to other states.
The New Orleans Bourbon Festival
With the ever-popular “Bourbon Street,” it is no wonder that New Orleans holds their own bourbon festival every August. Bourbon may have been born in Kentucky, but many say it was perfected in New Orleans. This festival is to celebrate that perfection, as well as enjoy other parts of New Orleans Bourbon Street culture.
In the 1800s, bourbon from Kentucky was in high demand, and because of this barrels for everything from fish to nail storage were being used to ship the whisky. The barrels were charred well before being used to avoid contamination, but it was through the aging in these barrels that whisky took on its golden red color and its unique flavors. Once the Kentucky distilleries understood what was happening, they were able to perfect their aging process to bring out certain flavors intentionally, giving birth to the bourbon that we know and love today.
Whisky Business, San Antonio
You probably don’t think of San Antonio when you think about bourbon or whisky, but in reality, this vibrant community of distillers is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. In truth, whisky has always had its place in Texas. Although prohibition in the state wasn’t lifted until 1935, Texas politicians and law enforcement officials refused to enforce it after about 1925 when the political power of the state switched parties. Meanwhile, tales are often told of the whisky left behind for the defenders of the Alamo.
There is no doubt that Texans like their spirits. But it has only been in the last few years that bourbon distilleries have really started cropping up in the area. Today, this festival is held to help people understand the history of whisky and give local distillers both education in history and best practices. It brings Kentucky bourbon into a new market with new opportunities for entertaining history lessons and unique tasting opportunities.
Traveling Bourbon Festivals
There may not be a lot of bourbon festivals held by communities across the nation, but there are two traveling festivals that are working hard to bring a love of bourbon to other states not known for the amber liquid.
The first is the Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival, which travels along the East Coast. This year’s festivals have been held in New York, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia. The festival is just what it sounds like – celebrating the culture of spirits and barbeque while tasting a wide range of options from local, national, or global brands and distillers. The goal of this festival is to bring a love of bourbon to new markets, as well as entertain with the history and culture of bourbon lovers.
The second is the Whiskies of the World tour, which travels throughout the country including the East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest. This year’s cities include Washington, DC, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Atlanta, Seattle, and Ft. Lauderdale. This tour gives you the opportunity to learn about bourbon culture and try different bourbons and whiskies from around the world.
In the end, you can’t beat Kentucky bourbon
No matter where bourbon distillers arise or festivals boom, you can’t beat Kentucky bourbon. The original Kentucky distilling and aging methods are legendary and just can’t be beat. When it comes to different types of whisky, bourbon is unique in its color and flavor palette.
Festivals like these, where whisky of all types and origins are featured, allow you to really taste the difference as you shift from sipping on a snifter of fine-aged Scotch Whisky directly from Scotland to the shot of bourbon featuring a red tint in the light. While they may not be in the same class, such comparisons can give you a new appreciation for Kentucky Bourbon.