How to Celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month

Thanks to Congress, it is officially time for you to drink a few fingers of whiskey.

Jonathan Robert Willis

From truffles to tequila to tater tots, it seems as though a different type of food or drink is celebrated every single day. (Get excited: Today is supposedly National Linguini Day! No joke.)

And while it can be hard not to get swept up in the social media frenzy (#nationaldonutday), the history of these dubious holidays is most likely the work of savvy brand marketers. But I like to think that National Bourbon Heritage Month—which was created in 2007 by a congressional resolution—inspired the trend.

Congress’ spirits interest is not a huge surprise given that, according to The Daily Beast’s senior drinks columnist David Wondrich, the Capitol building housed a bar as far back as the 1830s.) The resolution itself states “the history of bourbon-making is interwoven with the history of the United States, from the first settlers of Kentucky in the 1700s, who began the bourbon-making process, to the 2,000 families and farmers distilling bourbon in Kentucky by the 1800s.”

Curiously, however, it is not clear from the text of the 2007 resolution whether or not the month was supposed to be observed in perpetuity or for just that year. (It also states that in 1964 Congress called bourbon “America’s Native Spirit.” It actually didn’t, but that hasn’t stopped bourbon fans and brands from widely quoting the accolade.)

No matter the intention of Congress nine years ago, September has become synonymous with the whiskey. It also doesn’t hurt that the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, which takes place in Bardstown, Kentucky, is also traditionally held this month. (Its events began on Monday.)

So now distillers generally roll out their newest whiskies this month. This year’s crop seems particularly robust, with a number of very rare and extremely limited releases that will disappear almost immediately, as well as a few bourbons you should be able to find on store shelves with relative ease. Here are three to look for and to enjoy this fall.

Four Roses 2016 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon ($99)

Four Roses just released 9,258 bottles of its 2016 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon. I suggest you try to track one down. The brand introduces a special variant every year: Master distiller Brent Elliott blended three different bourbons to create a 111.2-proof barrel-strength whiskey for this most recent incarnation. Mix it in a Manhattan or sip the potent spirit on the rocks.

William Larue Weller ($90)

Whiskey drinkers around the world eagerly await the annual late September release of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection. As a result, most of the bottlings are nearly impossible to get a hold of. But this year, the distillery has miraculously decided to bottle a relatively large number of William Larue Weller barrels: 145 to be exact, compared to just 105 in 2015 and a paltry 39 in 2014. The 2016 Weller is more than 12 years old and made from the brand’s signature mix of corn, barley and wheat, which is a similar mash bill to cult favorite Pappy Van Winkle.

Jefferson’s Reserve Old Rum Cask Finish ($80)

Can’t decide whether to drink rum or bourbon? You can have both, thanks to the newest edition of Jefferson’s, which was made by aging eight-year-old bourbon in used Gosling’s Rum barrels for another 15 months. While the combination sounds a little out there, it has actually been done in the past several times using Scotch. The two spirits work together nicely and the bottling is something a bit unusual for the drinker that has tried everything.