Bourbon: of Love Notes and Legal Opinions

Earlier this week, Sarah blogged about Derby Pie, the Louisville-based pastry that is so unique and wonderful that it warrants trademark protection.  While the nut-and-chocolate pie springs up under many names across the Commonwealth, there is only one pastry that can be called Derby Pie.

Image via ABC News.
Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals similarly found that there is only one brand of booze that can feature a seal of dripping red wax -- Loretto's own Maker's Mark.  The truth is, you don't need the Court of Appeals to tell you that the Maker's trademark is "extremely strong"; the distinctive wax-sealed bottle is unmistakable even to teetotalers.  Now, here at HerKentucky, we've spent more than our fair share of time reading legal opinions.  And, most of us have been known to mix up a bourbon cocktail or two.  Needless to say, this story stoked the geek fires around here. 

Even if legal documents aren't your thing, Judge Martin's opinion is kind of awesome. Before going into the intellectual property issues at the heart of the case, he takes a lot of time to just talk about whiskey. It reads like a love letter to bourbon.  In describing the process that yields Kentucky's signature spirit, he waxes poetic.  In establishing bourbon's role as the greatest of all spirits, he evokes imagery from Harry Truman to James Bond.  Even the footnotes are lyrical, pointing out that  "the spelling of the word “whiskey” has engendered impassioned debate." While Judge Martin and his law clerks clearly had a blast researching this issue, they also got me thinking about the uniquely Kentucky character of bourbon.
Image via KY ABC.
As every Kentuckian knows, bourbon is created from a blend of sour (corn) mash which is aged in charred-oak barrels.  The sweet caramel and vanilla notes are produced by natural sugars occuring in the wood. The process began in the Central Kentucky region known as "Old Bourbon." And, while bourbon can technically be produced outside the boundaries of the Commonwealth, most of us consider Kentucky production a key.  It's been estimated that 97% of all bourbon is produced in Central Kentucky.   (And, really, who would want to know what that other 3% is, let alone drink it?)

Most Kentuckians have a favorite bourbon, whether we use it for drinking or cooking.  I'm a Maker's girl myself; I love the smooth, smoky caramel taste in a cocktail or to provide a complex note in chocolate desserts.     But, whatever flavor profile you prefer in your bourbon,  it's a taste that's wonderfully unique to Kentucky.

What's your favorite bourbon?