KINSTON — In the United States, where bourbon originates, many are gathering a glass, tossing in some ice and pouring shots of the sweet substance to celebrate National Bourbon Day.
There’s something about bourbon that has garnered international attention since the 18th and 19th
centuries, when the drink was part of the migration of settlers west from the original colonies. Here in the South, bourbon has joined many as an after-dinner drink of choice and the spirit worth celebrating with.
To classify as bourbon, a whiskey must meet these three elements: it must be made in the United States; the mash, which is the mix of grains from which bourbon is distilled, must comprise at least 51 percent and no more than 79 percent of Indian corn; and bourbon should be aged at least two years in a new, charred oak barrel made from American White Oak.
While most bourbon is made in Kentucky, there’s a group of North Carolina natives crafting a bourbon worth sharing and putting the Old North State on the distillery map.
Seventeen Twelve Bourbon in Conover is the first bourbon ever made in North Carolina. The spirit is distilled from corn, rye, and malted barley grown in Catawba County. Founder Zackary Cranford, farmer Russell Hedrick of JRH Grain Farms, and the late Tim Weaver who served as the master distiller teamed up to bring this small batch, artisan spirit to life in 2014.
“It’s a myth that bourbon can only come from Kentucky,” said Cranford. “Our grain is grown less than seven miles from where we make Seventeen Twelve. We are a grain to glass distillery where everything comes from North Carolina.”
It a nod to the state, the distillery is named for 1712, the year when North Carolina became a separate colony.
“This is an American made spirit. We take pride that this bourbon is made from locally grown grains;” said Cranford. “You can’t get any more American than bourbon.”
Bourbon has a distinctive taste to the palate. There’s a hint of butterscotch in Seventeen Twelve thanks to the toasted yellow birch wood that’s left in the barrel for a short period of time. The butterscotch adds the sweetness of a finish to the traditional bourbon flavors of rich caramel and smoke.
“There’s a history to bourbon and a lot of time goes into making bourbon. It is a hands-on, detailed, artisan spirit aged in barrels,” said Cranford. “However you drink bourbon, we want you to enjoy Seventeen Twelve.”
Americans are savoring the richness of this corn-based spirit. According to a report released by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, 22 million 9-liter cases of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey were sold in the U.S. in 2016, generating over $3.1 billion in revenue for distillers.
It was President Lyndon B. Johnson who gave bourbon the official seal of approval in 1964, when he signed an Act of Congress by declaring it “The Official Spirit of America.”
Whether you sip it slowly “on the rocks” (over ice), or “neat” (straight), there’s a perfect recipe for you.
Seventeen Twelve is helping North Carolinians celebrate the day by providing three recipes below for your drinking pleasure. Cheers, friends!
North Carolina Old Fashioned
2 oz Seventeen Twelve Bourbon
1 Sugar Cube
3 dashes Bitters
Add sugar cube, bitters, & cherry into glass. Muddle until dissolved. Fill the glass with ice cubes and Bourbon. Stir and then garnish with an orange rind.
Fig Bourbon Fizzâ¨Serves four
6 oz Seventeen Twelve Bourbon
2 tbs Brown Sugar
8 Fresh Mint Leaves
4 Fresh Figs
12 oz Ginger Ale
Add mint, sliced figs, sugar, and bourbon. Muddle lightly. Then strain into punch bowl. Add ice and top with ginger ale and garnish with fresh mint.
2 oz Seventeen Twelve Bourbon
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
3 oz Ginger Beer
2 Fresh Lime wedge
Add Bourbon and ice into a copper mug. Squeeze 1 fresh lime, then add grapefruit juice and ginger beer. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge.