National Bourbon Day, June 14 – The Military Connection

 In History

Here’s a piece of trivia that might have passed you by on this US Army Birthday: it’s also National Bourbon Day. Now, just for drill, you should know that American “bourbons” are Whiskey. And Americans have been drinking it for centuries, especially the military.

The Continental Army under Gen. George Washington was authorized a whiskey ration on November 4, 1775.  A soldier was rewarded with even more booze if they did something great on the battlefield. Not sure that helped them shoot straighter in an ambush, but it might have made them forget that their boots were worn through.

In 1794, when Congress enacted a whiskey tax, Kentucky farmers and  distillers staged an uprising and threatened a full on revolution- that was called the “Whiskey Rebellion.”  Kind of a harbinger of what happened in Prohibition only more threatening. Instead of just sneaking around, they went for the jugular.

Then there was the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Meriweather Lewis wrote this in his journal during the 8,000 mile journey:

*September 14, 1803, near Marietta, “Set out
this morning at 11 oClock was prevented setting
out earlyer in consequence of two of my men getting
drunk and absenting themselves. 1 f{i]nally
found them and had them brought on board,
so drunk that they were unable to help
*November 18, 1803, near junction of the OhioMississippi
‘ ‘ … landed on the Spanish
side … found a number of our men who had left
camp contrary to instructions and drunk .. .”

The Marine Corps Times story put it this way:

“Today, just the task of getting your still-smashed roommate to get dressed for morning formation can be as difficult as explaining the theory of relativity to your dog.

But imagine making a round-trip journey on foot, by boat and horseback spanning a total of about 8,000 miles — from the St. Louis-area to the Pacific coast in Oregon and back — while most of your party is continuously hammered. And don’t forget that Lewis was also shot in the leg by a member of his own party during a hunt.

Wonder how that happened…”   Read more of the Marine Corps Times story.

The military used it not just for drinking in the Civil War, but medicinally as well (alcohol, you know).

All in all, Whiskey is an all-American drink. So as we celebrate the US Army’s birthday today, let’s remember that the US military is the largest purchaser of Jack Daniels on the planet. No joke.

“Over the entire span of when the program has existed, the U.S. military is the largest purchaser. It has been represented by base exchanges, individual units, as well as other on-base military entities like Officers’ Clubs.” Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett to Business Insider in 2016


The reason Bourbon/Whiskey is brown in color is because of the oak barrels it is aged in. When it comes out of the still, it is clear. Though strongly associated with the South, it can be made anywhere in the United States. But that’s the rule for “bourbon” or “whiskey.” It has to be made in America, it has to be aged in new oak barrels, and it must be 51% corn.

So, bottom’s up,  but please drink responsibly. That does not mean hanging upside down like a bat from the ceiling fan. And for crying out loud don’t take a troop carrier for a joy ride.

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