Bourbon

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The word 'Bourbon' - sometimes with an initial capital letter, sometimes not - has a number of different uses.

  • A Bourbon may be a member of the House of Bourbon, i.e., the European royal family members of which ruled France, with interruptions, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, Spain from 1700 to the present day, again with significant interruptions, and Sicily and parts of Italy from 1734 to 1806 and 1815 to 1860. Thus we may say that Philip V of Spain was a Bourbon, or a Bourbon king, or that Sicily suffered under Bourbon rule. In this use 'Bourbon' must always have an initial capital and is pronounced BOOR-ben, in English IPA: /'bʊər bən/; more phonetically /buʁˈbɔ̃ / in its native French.
  • A Bourbon may be a type of biscuit. Sometime referred to as a Bourbon biscuit or a Bourbon cream, it consists of two oblong chocolate-flavoured biscuits with a chocolate cream filling. Bourbon biscuits were first made by the London firm of Peak Freans in 1910. In this use, as in the previous, 'Bourbon' must always have an initial capital and is pronounced BOOR-ben, IPA: /'bʊər bən/.
  • Bourbon - note the absence of an article - is a type of whiskey made in the United States and associated particularly with the state of Kentucky. It is distilled predominantly from maize and is aged in charred white-oak barrels, which give it its reddish colour and distinctive taste. Its name derives from Bourbon County in Kentucky, where it was first made, Bourbon County being so named in honour of the royal House of Bourbon. Note the difference between 'I prefer Scotch to bourbon' a (non-count noun) - a general statement about my tastes - and 'I'd like a bourbon (countable), please', i.e., 'I'd like a glass of bourbon' - a response to the question 'What would you like to drink (on this particular occasion)?' In this use 'bourbon' does not have an initial capital and is pronounced bur-ben, IPA: /'bɜːr bən/.