Today small batch bourbon means a whiskey distilled from a small batch or after bourbon whiskey is placed into barrels then the very best barrels are selected as a reserve. Both exchanges are correct.
In our Colonial times, George Washington won his first election to the House of Burgess on his third try in 1758 after providing the voters with 169 gallons of rum, wine, beer and cider. Washington was fond of Madeira wines and locally made beers. Even though rum was the most popular drink of his day. By the early 1700’s millions of gallons of rum were being made on American shores. Molasses came from the Caribbean and was distilled into rum here. In Colonial America many rum drinks were popular. Some being named as: “Blackstrap” a combination of rum and molasses, “Flip”, a combo of beer and rum, straight rum was known as “raw dram” and “stonewall” was a combination of rum and hard cider. Some historians feel the rum drink called stonewall may very well have lead to the term “stoned.”
Rum soon lost favor to the American frontier with “water of life” or firewater known as whiskey. Cheap to make this grain alcohol was best distilled when using corn or rye. Many of our hard fighting frontiersmen of Colonial America had Scottish or Irish ancestry. The Scots brought with them the workings of distilling alcohol. Many frontiersmen were a mixture of both bloods that of Scotch- Irish and better known as Ulstermen from Northern Ireland. These were men who used the famous Pennsylvania Long Rifles and the ultra-rugged type that followed the likes of Daniel Boone, and were a contingent of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discoverers.
Since the entire new frontier was west of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and it had few roads in 1750 packhorses were commonly used. A horse could carry about 8 bushels of grain and bring 25 cents per bushel back then. The same horse could carry 24 bushels of grain when made into whiskey. The 24 bushels made about 16 gallons of whiskey and at one dollar a gallon the nominal haul of a two-dollar grain investment zoomed to 16 dollars for whiskey. So went whiskey-farming economics along our frontier.
Bourbon whiskey must be matured for at least two years in charred oak casks. Small batch bourbon really has no official requirements. Most of the time today’s higher-priced bourbons spend 4 to 20 years in charred oak barrels. Some are made from corn or rye or both. And bourbon’s name came to be as a county in Kentucky. The town of Maysville situated on the Ohio River in Bourbon County acted as the clearing port for all those whiskey shipments. Maysville acted like the seaport town of Oporto with port wine in Portugal. Although, Oporto still serves as the harbor town for port shipments, Bourbon County, Kentucky is now dry. Not a drop whiskey is made there unless it’s moonshine.