Whiskey Town

By BarNerd August 13, 2009

In most industries (books, computers, insurance), promotion events usually end up in the bar down the block. Washington State Bartenders Guild events start there.


If you’re not a bartender, you probably missed Tuesday’s WSBG event at the world-famous Zig Zag , where Bill Samuels Jr., president and scion of the Samuels family (they're the ones who make Maker’s Mark bourbon ), spoke—in the most countrified and genteel manner–to more than 80 bartenders and bar owners about bourbon. (Bourbon, of course, is the American-only version of whiskey, scotch being the Scottish-only version.)

Did you know that the recipe for the Maker’s was created by Samuels' mother when she was trying out different recipes for bread? (The best-tasting bread ended up being the recipe for bourbon)?  Also: The Samuelses are related to not just Robert E. Lee, but two Archdukes of Canterbury and even the James Brothers—as in Jesse James. Six generations of Samuels have made whiskey, and today Maker’s is the largest of the small-batch bourbon distillers, bottling something like 10 million bottles a year.

Samuels' gracious visit on Tuesday is just the latest sign that Washington State is receiving an escalating amount of interest from spirit companies. And with the more interest they have in Washington, the more their marketing budgets will be spent here. (Meaning more events where I get to start at the bar.) More importantly, the attention translates into three very important things, in no particular order: Jobs, jobs and jobs.

Footnote: Just to put to rest the No. 1 myth about bourbon—real bourbon CAN be made outside Kentucky, where Maker’s and most other bourbon is distilled. In fact, since 1964, when our Congress in their great charm and cheer named bourbon “America’s Native Spirit,” bourbon can be distilled anywhere in America, as long as it’s whiskey that is made from at least 51% corn; it’s aged at least two years in charred first-use oak barrels; and it's distilled to no more than 160 proof (etc ). But, if you make the exact same thing in Scotland, it’s just whisky (not to be confused with Scottish whisky ).
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