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Kentucky: A road trip through the state - Part 18 - Orlando / Florida Guide

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Kentucky – a road trip through the state:- part 18

In 1880 The Kentucky Distillers' Association was formed when 32 distillers met at the Galt House in Louisville. The original aim of the organisation was to protect our signature spirit from “needless and obstructive laws and regulations. ” So this was really a lobby to get the best possible deal for its members.

In 1897 the Bottled-in-Bond Act passed through congress, this placed the responsibility of authenticity on the government by stating the “Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits”. In effect this meant that spirits must be aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least 4 years and must be a minimum of 100 proof. Other requirements were that they must be produced in the US with the distillery location printed on the label.

The next major step came in 1904 when Michael Owens patented a system that could automatically make bottles. Suddenly this new system could cheaply produce four bottles every second. This enabled the bottling of Bourbon to become a routine production process.

In 1909, President William Howard Taft decided to define the composition of whiskey in law. This stated that whiskey should be made from grain and that whiskey flavoured with other spirits would be defined as “blended”. The terms “Bourbon” and “Rye” for identifying the dominate grain were permitted. In 1941 the acceptable grains were expanded from rye, corn and malted barley to include other small grains such as wheat.

1919 up to 1933 was a dark time for the industry because of a bill introduced by Representative Andrew J. Volstead. The Volstead Act as it became known was a bill that provided drastic penalties for making or selling liquor. Most of us know this under its more common name of Prohibition. On January 29th, 1919, Congress ratified the bill prohibiting the production, transportation and sale of alcohol. Enforcement of prohibition began on January 17, 1920. During this period there were only six special permits granted for the production of medicinal whiskey. However as we all know from history production just went underground.

On December 5th , 1933 Congress decided to repeal prohibition, the system was clearly not working and large amounts of tax were being lost. The distillers started working again and by 1937 there were 77 registered distilling companies in Kentucky alone.

In 1988 a new process ‘Small Batch Bourbon’ came to the market. The process involves mixing a few select barrels to get a particular flavour. The method produces “Small Batch” bourbons and has been quite successfully used by some of the smaller distilleries.

I guess the final important date could be 1999 when the Kentucky Distillers’ Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour. This allows visitors a close look at how you produce Bourbon and takes me on to the next part of our tour. This was when we visited a number of different places and you can read about this in part 19.

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