In late October 2015 I asked Maggie Kimberl to help me set up a web page and a blog, My first blog post appeared on October 25, 2015. It was written because one of the questions I was frequently asked is why is Bourbon over 80% corn not corn whiskey. Since then I have kept a policy of only writing what I want to write about and what interests me. I have asked Maggie to join the site to blog about cigars. This came out of a blog I did about Pairing Tobacco and Bourbon, which led to pairing Bourbon and cigars. I will admit that Maggie is much more knowledgeable about cigars than I am and I enjoy her writings. I think it is a good combination. This blog is the 100th blog post on the site. I have enjoyed writing these blogs and reading the ones Maggie has written. They are not all about Bourbon as I indulge my interest in Brandy and tobacco as well as Bourbon and Rye. That is why today I am going to talk about 100 proof whiskey.
Legend has it that the term proof comes from taking a bit of gunpowder and mixing it with whiskey, then igniting it. If it burned in a hot flash then it was over-proof. If the flame sputtered unevenly then it was considered under-proof. If it burned with a steady even flame it was “proved” and a good whiskey to purchase. When checked with a hydrometer, this was found to be about 50% alcohol thus 50% alcohol became “100 proof”. This was the popular proof to drink whiskey and soon became the standard people looked for when purchasing whiskey. In 1897 it became even more of a standard when the Bottled-in-Bond Act made 100 proof its standard for bonded spirits.
I personally believe that 100 proof is the sweet spot in whiskey. Products that are lower in proof often don’t have much depth of flavor. There are very few 80 proof whiskeys that are not one dimensional in their flavor and are only fit to drink in a cocktail that will enhance the flavor experience. The higher proof alcohols have flavor but the problem there is too much alcohol numbs the taste buds lessening the experience. At least with higher proof spirits you can add your own water to reduce it to about 100 proof. For me I like my Bourbon and Rye at a proof between 90 and 110. I can sip on these products without adding water and enjoy the experience of pairing them with my pipe or a cigar or even foods like cheese, nuts and fruit. I like bonded whiskey and wish more consumers demanded bonded products so more distillers would produce them. Bonded whiskey is also the only true “Vintage” whiskey on the market since every drop has to come from the same season of the same year.
My blog is like 100 proof spirits. It is about Bourbon, but also about Rye, Brandy, Tobacco, Steamboats, Food and other things that interest me. I like to think these blogs are enjoyed by others besides myself and the view numbers do seem to reflect that idea. The blog does reflect my interest in that I enjoy going to good bars and restaurants and that is why I do bar reviews so others can learn about my favorite places to eat and drink. You will never find a bad review because if I do not like an experience I will not write about it. I enjoy talking about people I know who I think have had an influence on Bourbon and Rye and that is why I write the Unsung Heroes blogs. I want others to know these people and recognize them for their work in the industry. I enjoy historical research and I want to share the knowledge I find with others. That is really what being a historian is about – sharing knowledge of the past. I enjoy travel and I like to blog about places I have been in other cities that have good Bourbon and Rye. And of course I enjoy tobacco – both my pipe and cigars.
I hope that these past 100 blogs have been of an interest to you. I look forward to writing the next 100 blogs with as much enthusiasm as the first blog. It will always be about things that interest me. Like 100 proof whiskey half of it will be about alcohol, but like the said whiskey, the other half will be about the other things that add flavor to the mix and makes it all more interesting and complex.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl