IS BOURBON POPULAR ANYWHERE OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES?
Bourbon is a distinctive product of the United States. Yet Americans are far from the only ones who appreciate its distinctive flavor.
First, a quick recap: Bourbon is a kind of American whiskey that must be produced in the United States. Its mash bill must be at least 51 percent corn (the rest can be anything), and it must be distilled to no higher than 160 proof. Then, the fresh spirit must be diluted to no higher than 125 proof before it is transferred into new, charred oak casks. There’s no required age statement to be called bourbon.
Most bourbon production takes place in the state of Kentucky, but bourbon can actually be distilled anywhere in the United States. Still, most of the most famous brands and about 95 percent of the industry’s volume come from the Bluegrass State, including Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, and everything from the Buffalo Trace Distillery.
BOURBON: A GLOBAL SPIRIT
Besides us Yanks, who else likes our native spirit? The answer, it turns out, is pretty much everyone. In the first six months of 2021, more than $161 million worth of bourbon has been shipped from the United States to markets around the world.
In terms of export value, Japan is the biggest market, with more than $34 million in bourbon imports in the first six months of 2021 alone. Other key export markets for bourbon include Australia, Canada, Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
That might sound like a lot, but it’s actually down from years past. In 2018, $455 million worth of bourbon was exported around the world. In 2020, it was down to just $319 million. While pandemic disruptions played a big role, it’s also due in part to tariffs between the U.S. and the E.U. stemming from a longstanding aviation trade dispute.
The good news is that the tariffs between the U.S. and the European Union were finally lifted in October 2021, which will go into effect in 2022. The agreement doesn’t include the United Kingdom, where bourbon and Tennessee whiskey still face a stiff tariff–for now.
VERSATILITY OPENS DOORS
Why is bourbon so popular worldwide? Because it’s delicious, of course–but it’s also amazingly versatile in cocktails that highlight global ingredients.
Take, for instance, the highball, the cornerstone of Japanese cocktail culture. Traditionally, highballs are made with malt whisky or blended whisky from Scotland or Japan. But bourbon–especially cask-strength bourbon like all of Barrell Craft Spirits’ releases–also makes an incredible highball. The dilution of the club soda accentuates the sweet and smoky aspects of the bourbon, and a strip of lemon peel highlights its fruity notes.
Or, try Barrell Bourbon in a Boulevardier, a bourbon-centric relative to the Negroni. Instead of gin, bourbon is the Boulevardier’s base spirit. Like the Negroni, the other two ingredients are sweet vermouth and Italian Campari. Complex, spirit-forward, and just the right amount of bitter, a Barrell Boulevardier will take the chill off even the coldest winter evening.