During National Bourbon Day, up your bourbon IQ with these 13 facts you've never heard

So you think you know bourbon just because you live in Kentucky? Well, actually, you probably do.

Most of us around Louisville seem to learn a least a little bit by osmosis. While I don't feel like an expert here in bourbon country, I feel like a downright bourbon genius whenever I leave Kentucky and find just how little so many other folks know about our native spirit. Try going on a bourbon distillery tour sometime and listen to the tourists' questions that we all seem to know the answers to by heart!

And if you ever need to entertain yourself on a long layover, try picking a fight with a chain restaurant bartender who thinks he knows more than you do. I swear I thought I was going to have to arm wrestle the TGIF bartender at the Dallas airport the time he insisted bourbon legally has to be made in Kentucky. (For the record, it only has to be made in the United States, though of course the vast majority is made here.)

I'm ashamed to admit I went several rounds of schoolchild-level argument that escalated to my finally saying, “but it's my JOB, I promise I'm right!” (Which, I promise, had no effect on the debate.)

More: This iconic bourbon is celebrating its 150th anniversary with 3 limited-edition releases

So in honor of National Bourbon Day, I went on the hunt for bourbon tidbits that might come in handy the next time you want to one-up someone's bourbon knowledge. There's a wide and often wacky world of bourbon lore and legend, obscure facts and random trivia. So I asked a few industry insiders to share their pick for the best and learned everything from the story behind Rot Gut Whiskey to the most common spider found in rickhouses to which bourbon is illegal on airplanes.

A collection of bourbon on display at the Frazier History Museum.Aug. 23, 2018
A collection of bourbon on display at the Frazier History Museum.Aug. 23, 2018

Here, in no particular order, are your bourbon IQ boosters.

Bourbon spiders

"The most common spider in the warehouse is the cellar spider, Pholcus phalangioides. Although they produce extensive amounts of webs, and can be quite large, they are relatively harmless."

— Jackie Zykan, Old Forester master taster

The age of bourbon

"Despite what many people think, there is no age requirement for bourbon. As long as it goes into a new, charred oak container, even just for one second, it’s legally bourbon. It will just need an age statement on it if it’s under four years of age."

– Colin Blake, director of Spirits Education, Moonshine University

Where's the best bourbon?

"The upper rows of the warehouses are called the ‘Crow’s Nest.’ That’s where the best barrels often come from — good to know since barrel picks are becoming increasingly popular!"

– Peggy Noe, founder of Bourbon Women

Taxes on bourbon

"There are seven — yes, seven — different taxes on bourbon, accounting for more than half of the cost of each and every bottle. These taxes include local, state, and federal taxes, and an 'ad valorem' tax — a tax that is paid on each barrel every year that it spends aging in the warehouse. That's part of the reason those 'old' bourbons, such as an 18-year, are so expensive. Not only have the angels taken a share every year, meaning the barrel is getting lighter and lighter, but taxes have taken a share, meaning while the distiller hasn't been able to sell any of the bourbon, they've been paying for it anyway."

– Kaitlyn Soligan, Matson & Gilman bourbon tours

More coverage: A change of spirit: How Louisville unearthed its bourbon heritage

New oak barrels

"By law, bourbon must be aged in new oak, and the most common type of tree harvested for North American cooperages is the white oak tree. Growing rates are never constant, and it can take between 60 and 80 years for a tree to reach the necessary size. Depending on size, a skilled cooper can usually craft one to three barrels from a single tree. Each empty barrel weighs about 120 pounds."

– Wes Henderson, Angel’s Envy chief innovation officer

The first licensed distiller

"Evan Darius Williams is most famously known as Kentucky’s first licensed distiller, but he wore many other hats, serving as a very prominent figure in the early development of Louisville. Evan was a Town Trustee, our first Wharf Master, and a Stonemason, building Louisville’s first brick home as well as the county jail."

– Andy Embry, training and development coordinator, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

The history of mint julep cups

"Mint julep cups were originally trophies for races. The drink itself was a necessity. In the 1800s, mint and sugar hid the sharpness and imperfection of the whiskey. As you know if you’ve ever grown it, mint thrives in our climate. Now, we use less sugar and mint because our bourbon is so good!"

– Peggy Noe, founder of Bourbon Women

Rot Gut Whiskey

"Prior to the passage of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, there were no federal regulations on whiskeys. As a result, many of the products available on the market were of lesser quality, or ‘rectified’ — whether it be marrying various barrels together, or the addition of anything from tobacco juice to creosote. This led to a public health crisis, with many people getting sick or even dying. Ever heard of Rot Gut Whiskey? The Bottled-in-Bond Act ensured quality products, serving as this country’s first piece of consumer protection legislation. It would be a full nine years later, in 1906, before the Food and Drug Administration would be established. Priorities!"

– Andy Embry, training and development coordinator, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience

What is small-batch bourbon?

"Despite the fact that bourbon is one of the most regulated spirits in the world, there is no official definition of, or requirement for, what constitutes a 'small-batch bourbon.' A small batch can be drawn from one barrel, dozens of barrels, hundreds of barrels. It means whatever the bottler wants it to mean."

– Carla Carlton, author of "Barrel Strength Bourbon”

More: National Bourbon Month: Drink up at these 5 must-try Kentucky events

Presidential history with bourbon

"President Truman had the most interesting health and fitness plan ever, in my mind. Apparently after his daily pre-dawn walk around the White House, he tucked in to a 'light breakfast' and a shot of bourbon —rumored to have been Old Grandad. We loved this so much we asked the folks at Dish on Market (434 W Market St.) if they’d make it a breakfast special when they joined the Urban Bourbon Trail years ago."

– Stacey Yates, co-host of “Bourbon & Biscuits” at www.culinarylouisville.com

'The Fake Shake'

"Want to tell if your supposedly valuable bottle of bourbon is counterfeit in about 30 seconds? We call it 'The Fake Shake.' When you shake a bottle for a few seconds and put it down on the counter, look at the bubbles that come in up in the top of the foam — the 'beading.' Those beads dissipate very quickly if the alcohol in the bottle is around 80 proof or less. BUT if your label indicates that you have a 100 proof bottle or higher, those same bubbles will stick around for about 20 to 40 seconds. So, since forgers often fill a bottle with cheaper, inexpensive whiskey (80 proof or less) and most bottles that people seek are 100 proof of higher ... a great quick way to spot a fake. Or a neat party trick to guess a bourbon bottle's proof without seeing the label!"

– Phil Kollin, tour leader at Mint Julep Experiences

Willie the Whiskey Row ghost

"There is a common belief that a ghost by the name of 'Willie' inhabits the corridors of Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville, and that he was once a warehouse worker on the street that was literally run over by a load of rolling barrels."

– Jackie Zykan, Old Forester master taster

More: Who run the (bourbon) world? Women, no matter how we drink it

What bourbon is illegal on a plane?

"It is illegal to take George T. Stagg Barrel Proof Bourbon on a plane because, at 141.4 proof, the TSA considers it to be a hazardous material."

– Charlie Robbins, tour leader at Mint Julep Experiences

Happy National Bourbon Day, everyone!

Tell Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at thecjdish@gmail.com and follow @danamac on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Bourbon Heritage Month: 13 bourbon trivia facts you've never heard