Ah, politics. How can it be so simultaneously infuriating and entertaining? And shouldn’t there be a word for that conjunction of experiences? I bet there is in German.
Anyway, some posturing this week between Senators Schumer (Democrat -NY) and McConnell (Republican, KY) made headlines when bourbon found itself the object of their disagreement.
It seems Senator Schumer was visiting The Bluegrass State yesterday morning, when he playfully noted that his home state of New York (in fact, his home borough of Brooklyn) produced “some of the most wonderful bourbon in the world.” To prove this fact, he dutifully produced a bottle of Widow Jane bourbon, which he said was distilled “right around the corner” from his apartment in New York, and gave it to McConnell as a gift.
McConnell’s response? “There’s no such thing as Brooklyn bourbon.” Seriously, you can watch the entire interaction here.
The best part of this interaction is that both Schumer and McConnell were either lying – or mistaken – and each in their own way.
First of all, that Widow Jane bottle that Schumer gave to McConnell probably wasn’t distilled in Brooklyn. Widow Jane is perhaps best known for a 10 year old bourbon which was – in fact – distilled in Kentucky. It is proofed with New York water. But you can’t really say that makes it a New York bourbon.
Secondly, McConnell should note (and perhaps he does know – he was smiling when he uttered his rebuttal to Schumer’s gift) that the TTB standards of identity do not require that bourbon be produced in Kentucky. In fact, bourbon can be produced anywhere so long as the mash bill is correct (at least 51% corn) and it is stored in charred new oak containers.
So where does that leave us? Given the importance of bourbon to the state of Kentucky, I think it is unlikely that McConnell doesn’t actually know that bourbon can be produced outside his home state. In fact, I’m guessing that he knows it very well and – if given the chance – would change that fact. So I suspect that Mr. McConnell is lying rather than simply mistaken.
Schumer on the other hand, I’m not so sure about. It is possible that the bottle of Widow Jane he’s offering as a gift is their 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon (you can’t actually tell which of their expressions it is from the film clip) – in which case he clearly should know that it most definitely was not distilled in Brooklyn. That would mean he is either lying or – at a minimum – willfully turning a blind eye to the reality of the label. On the other hand, the bottle might simply be their 10 year old Bourbon. How might he know whether that was actually distilled in Brooklyn? Maybe the label isn’t clear?
It seems to me that with a bit of due diligence he could probably figure out that New York is not the source. For example, a quick search of the New York Division of Corporations website shows that Widow Jane Distilleries LLC wasn’t registered in New York until 2010. So tell me, Mr. Schumer. How does a company that didn’t exist in New York until 2010 sell its NY-distilled 10 year old bourbon only a bit more than 7 years after its formation? Is there a rip in the bourbon/space/time continuum?