History of Bourbon
For a whiskey to be properly labeled as a bourbon, most purists will tell you it has to come from Kentucky. Others will say it simply must be American. (As mentioned above, we weren’t kidding about being America’s spirit — Congress has officially recognized bourbon as America’s Native Spirit, so there’s that.) Bourbon must be created from a mash (a mixture of fermentable grain) that is at least 51 percent corn. The other 49 percent is usually a mixture of barley, rye, or wheat. It must be aged in new American oak barrels (whereas many types of whiskey, like Scotch whisky, are often aged in barrels that have previously held wine, port, other whisk(e)y, and so forth). Bourbon must also go into the barrel at no more than 125 proof and it cannot enter the bottle at anything less than 80 proof. Finally, for it to be bourbon, nothing but water can be added, and that is only at the end to proof the whiskey down to what the distiller is seeking.
History of Tequila
While there are multiple theories on the beginning of agave distillation, a common telling involves the Spanish invasion and primitive mud stills. The parched Spaniards couldn’t be without their brandy for too long, so when supplies began to run low, they improvised with mud and agave, essentially creating what we know today as mezcal. (Remember: All tequilas are technically mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas.) In the mid-1500s, the Spanish government opened a trade route between Manila and Mexico, and in the early 1600s, the Marquis of Altamira built the first large-scale distillery in what is now Tequila, Jalisco.
In a move to take ownership of the term “tequila,” the Mexican government declared the term as its intellectual property in 1974. This made it necessary for tequila to be made and aged in certain areas of Mexico, and it also made it illegal for other countries to produce or sell their own “tequila.” The Tequila Regulatory Council was additionally created to ensure quality and promote the culture surrounding the spirit. Mexican states in which tequila can be made and they include: 124 municipalities of Jalisco (including the town of tequila and most of today's tequila production), 8 municipalities in Nayarit, 7 municipalities in Guanajuato, 30 municipalities in Michoacan, and 11 municipalities in Tamaulipas.
History of Mezcal
Mezcal is often confused with tequila. However, they are two very different spirits and should not be confused with one another. Mezcal is another name for the maguey plant, as well as the generic name for spirits distilled from agave. Technically, tequila is a form of mezcal, not the other way around!
400 years ago, when the Spanish conquerors arrived in Mexico, they taught distillation techniques to the native inhabitants and the first distilled spirit in the Americas was born: Mezcal.
Mezcal can be made from 11 different types of agave that are native to Oaxaca, which is where these are mostly made. These agave include quishe, pasmo, tepestate, tobala, espadin, largo, pulque, azul, blanco, ciereago and mexicano, but around 90 percent of mezcal is made from the agave espadin. Mezcal is native to the states of San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Jalisco, Durango, Morelos, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. Oaxaca is considered the official home of mezcal, as it produces 60 percent of the country’s mezcal.