When you buy a bottle of bourbon, you're buying 750 mL of an intoxicating, delicious liquid. But you're also buying a story. It's a story that stretches back to the dawn of America, a tale of backwoods ingenuity and grit producing one of the finest liquors ever to grace the lips of man. In many cases, it's also a story that's specific to the brand of bourbon you're drinking: It was crafted by one family, or one group of friends, who have a gift for distilling and a mastery of using oak barrels to turn a harsh, fiery spirit into something wondrous.
More and more, though, that story is a lie -- at least according to a terrific video on bourbon put out by Bloomberg this week and embedded above.
Bloomberg's Sam Grobart reveals that the 200-plus brands of bourbon on store shelves today all come from fewer than 20 distilleries, so the brands aren't nearly as different as you might expect. And he also shows you that you can't trust bourbon labels to tell you where a given liquid comes from. In the video's most shocking sequence, a reporter visits the Kentucky town that Bulleit bourbon cites on its label as the company's home, to try to find the distillery where that bourbon is made. But when he goes to town hall in Lawrenceburg, he's told that Bulleit does not operate any business there. In fact, it's owned and made by international liquor conglomerate Diageo.
None of this, of course, means that you shouldn't drink bourbon if you like it. Many large distilleries put out liquid that tastes sublime. But if your affection for bourbon stems from its reputation as a handcrafted, artisanal alternative to vodka or rum, you might want to reconsider your priorities. Or at least watch Bloomberg's awesome video!