Drew Hannush’s podcast Whiskey Lore has two interesting new episodes that whiskey history lovers will enjoy. Both poke holes in pervasive myths in the bourbon world: Did Colonel E.H. Taylor have anything to do with the creation and passage of the Bottled in Bond act? And did American cooperage interests push the government into requiring that bourbon be aged in new oak? Hannush found evidence (or actually lack of it) for these claims while researching his new book on Tennessee whiskey history.
Myth One: E.H. Taylor helped to create and pass the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897.
You hear this one often, especially on Bottled in Bond day (3 March) when people often enjoy a glass of Colonel E.H. Taylor bourbon to celebrate. However, Hannush found absolutely no evidence that Taylor had anything to do with the act’s creation or passage. Instead, he quickly latched onto the newly-passed act in the marketing of his bourbon and promoted it heavily as a safe, BiB-act compliant whiskey.
You can listen to the episode here. It’s actually an episode from the first season of the podcast, but he recently re-recorded the second half to add these details and correct the previous E.H. Taylor marketing spin.
Myth Two: American cooperages lobbied the US Government to require that bourbon must be aged in new charred oak containers.
Hannush points out that this isn’t a myth you hear often in the US, but it’s very common to hear while visiting Scotch whisky distilleries. And it’s true — I don’t think I’ve ever heard a tour guide at a bourbon distillery tell this story, but I’ve heard it several times while living overseas. In fact, I can remember a few times that bourbon distillery tour guides said they didn’t know why new barrels were a requirement!
The end of Prohibition wasn’t the relief that cooperages expected, as proposed regulations on the sale and transport of newly-legalized distilled spirits prohibited bulk transport in barrels. However, it turns out that bureaucrats in the Treasury Department’s Federal Alcohol Administration were the ones who actually created this requirement, apparently without action from cooperage interests.