Since the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, when farmers of Scottish and Irish descent tarred and feathered government excise collectors, Kentuckians have fought hard for their bourbon. Federal law makes it very clear that unless your whiskey is made from a mash containing 51 percent to 79 percent corn and produced and stored for at least one of its two years of aging in Kentucky, you can't call it Kentucky bourbon. But if a recent study conducted for the Commonwealth of Kentucky is correct, global warming may soon make it impossible to produce good Kentucky bourbon -- at least in Kentucky.
According to the author, Mike Jones, a researcher at American University, a bourbon's distinctive Kentucky flavor comes from the seasonal warming and cooling of the whiskey during its aging. This is done in white oak barrels that have been "toasted" in order to caramelize the sugars in the wood and then charred on the inside to impart flavor to the whiskey during storage. "When the temperature rises in the summer, the bourbon expands," Jones says, "and with lower temperatures in the winter, it contracts. This movement gives the bourbon its amber color and oak flavor."
Producers consider these temperature variations so critical that during the course of their storage, barrels are shifted from the lower racks in the warehouse to the upper racks. However, the 3-degree Fahrenheit average temperature increase predicted for the state over the next 100 years will mean less variation between winter and summer temperatures. The study's sorry conclusion: "In the future, global warming may affect the weather patterns which are essential in Kentucky for the aging process."
It's yet another reason to cut back on carbon emissions -- your driving may be affecting your drinking.
-- Bruce Stutz
"... A revolution without dancing ... is a revolution not worth having..." -V
"If you drink a quart of Bourbon every week for 5200 weeks, you'll live to be 100" ~ bathroom wall, Hanszen College, Rice University, 1968