Antedating and Origin of Bourbon Whiskey

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 7 02:35:52 UTC 2014

Here are two citations in the 1850s linking Bourbon Whiskey to Bourbon
County, Kentucky. The second cite is from a "Dictionary of

Date: August 6, 1857
Journal: Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
Volume: 57
Article: The Bourbon-Whiskey Traffic
Start Page 22
Quote Page: 23

[Begin excerpt]
Seriously, we presume few are so innocent as to believe that all the
liquor purporting to be Bourbon whiskey, comes to us from Bourbon
County, Kentucky. It is well known that gallons upon gallons of this,
and of other "warranted-genuine" liquors and wines are fabricated at
our very doors.
[End excerpt]

Year: 1859
Title: Dictionary of Americanisms: A Glossary of Words and Phrases
Usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States
Author: John Russell Bartlett
Edition: 2
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Massachusetts
Quote Page 46

[Begin excerpt]
BOURBON. Whiskey from Bourbon county, Kentucky. A term generally used
to distinguish the better kinds of whiskey, which are mostly made from
corn instead of rye.
[End excerpt]


On Tue, May 6, 2014 at 6:17 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Baker, John" <JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM>
> Subject:      Antedating and Origin of Bourbon Whiskey
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> The OED has "bourbon," as a reference to a kind of whiskey, from 1846.  Her=
> e's a few years earlier, from the Louisville Daily Journal (Jan. 20, 1840) =
> (ProQuest Civil War Era):  "WHISKEY.-26 bbls old Bourbon Whiskey, a very fi=
> ne article, rec'd this day and for sale [nov 29] HERAN & LEES."
> Bourbon is usually supposed to have that name because it was originally mad=
> e in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  In a 2013 article in Smithsonian Magazine, =
> e-and-more-tips-on-americas-native-spirit-145879/?no-ist=3D, a bourbon hist=
> orian named Michael Veach argued that the story that the name 'bourbon' com=
> es from Bourbon County doesn't even start appearing in print until the 1870=
> s, and that the name really comes from Bourbon Street in New Orleans, where=
>  bourbon was sold.
> I'm skeptical of Veach's etymology.  Early references to bourbon whiskey al=
> l come from Kentucky, where Bourbon County would have been far more familia=
> r than Bourbon Street.  Here's an 1864 example supporting the traditional B=
> ourbon County origin, from the Louisville Daily Journal (Apr. 9, 1864) (Pro=
> Quest Civil War Era):  "Pure Bourbon whiskey is highly commended by physici=
> ans for hygene purposes, and we all know its valuable social effects.  The =
> difficulty of obtaining an old, reliable, and unadulterated article seems t=
> o increase daily, and we are pleased, therefore, to announce that Mr. R. W.=
>  Gist, late of the 9th Kentucky cavalry, but now connected with our city to=
> bacco inspection, has received samples of seven different products direct f=
> rom Bourbon county, which he has deposited at the drug-store of Messrs. Jef=
> ferson & Alford, corner of Seventh and Market streets.  He is prepared to s=
> ell at prices and in quantities to suit purchasers, and those who are not j=
> udges may rest assured of the perfect purity and mature age of these articl=
> es.  In a few days he will be in receipt of an invoice of Anderson county w=
> hiskey, which is also a superb article."
> John Baker
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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