When Did Bourbon Whiskey Become a Distinctive Product of the United States?

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If you’ve ever heard anyone repeat the phrase “May the Forth Be with You” it really has nothing to do with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Star Wars. Bourbon fans know the truth is that it was on May 4, 1964 that the United States Congress gathered together in Washington, D.C. and by a majority vote passed a concurrent resolution that says, “Bourbon Whiskey is a Distinctive Product of the United States and is unlike other types of alcoholic beverages, whether foreign or domestic.” And with that the amber spirit made from at least 51% corn that’s been distilled at no more than 160 proof and aged in a new charred oak container at 125 proof or less became an official part of Americana.

Representative John C. Watts 1951-1971It all started on January 24, 1963 when Representative John C. Watts of Kentucky introduced H. Con. Res. 57 to the 88th Congress. Interestingly, it wasn’t until more than a year later it was agreed to and the rest as they say is history.

Was Bourbon Designated America’s Native Spirit in 1964?

If you read through the text of the entire document below there is one phrase that you will not find in there. Nowhere in the text does it call bourbon America’s Native Spirit. That oft quoted phrase was actually introduced 43 years later in 2007 by another Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning. It was then that Bunning brought forth S. RES. 294 to declare September as Bourbon Heritage Month. Though Bunning was from Kentucky there is nothing in any of these documents that are exclusive to Kentucky. Bourbon is a product of the United States and can be distilled, aged and best of all enjoyed in all 50 states.

Bourbon Whiskey is a Distinctive Product of the United States

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Here is the specific wording from the signed document from May 4, 1964 and below it is the original document from January 24, 1963.



BOURBON WHISKEY DESIGNATED AS DISTINCTIVE PRODUCT OF U.S.

May 4, 1964
[S. Con. Res. 19]


Whereas it has been the commercial policy of the United States to recognize marks of origin applicable to alcoholic beverages imported into the United States; and

Whereas such commercial policy has been implemented by the promulgation of appropriate regulations which, among other things, establish standards of identity for such imported alcoholic beverages; and

Whereas among the standards of identity which have been established are those for “Scotch whisky” as a distinctive product of Scotland, manufactured in Scotland in compliance with the laws of Great Britain regulating the manufacture of Scotch whisky for consumption in Great Britain and for “Canadian whisky” as a distinctive product of Canada manufactured in Canada in compliance with the laws of the Dominion of Canada regulating the manufacture of whisky for consumption in Canada and for “cognac” as grape brandy distilled in the Cognac region of France, which is entitled to be so designated by the laws and regulations of the French Government; and

Whereas “Bourbon whiskey” is a distinctive product of the United States and is unlike other types of alcoholic beverages, whether foreign or domestic; and

Whereas to be entitled to the designation “Bourbon whiskey” the product must conform to the highest standards and must be manufactured in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States which prescribe a standard of identity for “Bourbon whiskey”; and

Whereas Bourbon whiskey has achieved recognition and acceptance throughout the world as a distinctive product of the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate {the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that the recognition of Bourbon whiskey as a distinctive product of the United States be brought to the attention of the appropriate agencies of the United States Government toward the end that such agencies will take appropriate action to prohibit the importation into the United States of whisky designated as “Bourbon whiskey”.

Agreed to May 4, 1964.


And here’s an image of the S. Con. Res. 19 resolution.


Here’s the original document that got it all started on January 24, 1963.



88TH CONGRESS
1st Session
H. CON. RES. 57

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
January 24, 1963

Mr. Watts submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means


CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
Whereas it has been the commercial policy of the United States to recognize marks of origin applicable to alcoholic beverages imported into the United States; and

Whereas such commercial policy has been implemented by the promulgation of appropriate regulations which, among other things, establish standards of identity for such imported alcoholic beverages; and

Whereas among the standards of identity which have been established are those for “Scotch whisky” as a distinctive product of Scotland, manufactured in Scotland in compliance with the laws of Great Britain regulating the manufacture of Scotch whisky for consumption in Great Britain and for “Canadian whisky” as a distinctive product of Canada, manufactured in Canada in compliance with the laws of the Dominion of Canada regulating the manufacture of whisky for consumption in Canada and for “cognac” as grape brandy distilled in the Cognac region of France, which is entitled to be so designated by the laws and regulations of the French Government; and

Whereas “bourbon whiskey” is a distinctive product of the United States and is unlike other types of alcoholic beverages, whether imported or domestic;

Whereas to be entitled to the designation “bourbon whiskey” the product must conform to the highest standards and must be manufactured in accordance with the laws and regulations of the United States which prescribe a standard of identity for “bourbon whiskey” ; and

Whereas bourbon whiskey has achieved recognition and acceptance throughout the world as a distinctive product of the United States: Now, therefore, be it

1 Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate
2 concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that the recog-
3 nition of bourbon whiskey as a distinctive product of the
4 United States be brought to the attention of the appropriate
5 agencies of the United States Government toward the end
6 that such agencies will take appropriate action to prohibit
7 the importation into the United States of whisky designated
8 as “bourbon whiskey”, unless it is clearly labeled to show
9 the country of origin as an integral part of the name.


And here’s an image of the H. CON. RES. 57 resolution.


And on a final note in connecting the dots, my father’s birthday is January 24th while my son’s birthday is May 4th. Cheers!

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