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Censoring Whiskey Myths? Social Media Algorithms Need a Sense of Humor

Posted by Colonel Bourbon on

"Bourbon must be at least 51% corn. The rest is myth, legend, some balderdash, and a good yarn."

-- Colonel Bourbon

We'll start with the conclusion: social media algorithms do not have a sense of humor, and it sounds like they don't appreciate American whiskey (particularly bourbon) and its "history."

On an Instagram account that we have fun with, with memes, quotes and assorted light-hearted material, one post was flagged as false. Here's the meme from the post:

Censoring Whiskey Myths? Social Media Algorithms Need a Sense of Humor

“In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents, so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a “shot” of whiskey.” 

The investigation 

In red type, IG has added: "See why fact-checkers say this is false." When you  click on the link, the fact-checker is the Australian Associated Press, which says "Old West whisky shot legend isn't true."

Now, for the record, we are not disputing that it's not true. In fact, we looked it up and this is what the AAP concluded:

"Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. The Oxford English Dictionary states the term ‘shot’, in relation to whisky, has both Germanic and Old English origins and two linguistics experts and a Macquarie Dictionary editor also told AAP FactCheck the claim was not true."

The AAP announced their findings on September 25, 2019, 14:49 AEST. If you want to read the entire investigation, and if etymology (study of the origin of words), is your thing, you can read it here.

(BTW, Australia seems like an odd place to go to verify old American west stories, but whatever. We like our down-under mates.)

 A traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated, eg "The Legend of King Arthur"  Similar: myth, saga, epic, folk tale

(Photo: King Arthur, "Christian Heroes Tapestry," dated 1385. Public domain.)

Definition of the word legend

leg·end (noun)

1) A traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated, eg "The Legend of King Arthur." Similar: myth, saga, epic, folk tale

So don't go 'round telling folks on Facebook, Instagram, etc, that a fella named King Arthur pulled a sword named Excalibur out of a stone.

When we first saw  IG had flagged the post, one of our copywriters texted:

  • There is no evidence a Miss Bo Peep lost any sheep. The adjective "little," which we have removed from the description, is inconsistent with this platform which recognizes all sizes of sheep herders.


  •  "Jack  and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown..." Deleted. Promoting risky behavior is against terms of service.

There's news, legends, then there's whiskey/bourbon legends.

Look, we know social media apps are struggling with a wild west of misinformation that spreads like a wildfire on important and serious issues, like COVID and democratic republic elections. But the King Arthur story is not equivalent in terms of what needs to be set straight.

And don't get us started on bourbon. Okay, actually, yes because that's where's we're going:

You can quote us: Bourbon must be at least 51% corn. The rest is myth, legend, some balderdash, and a good yarn.

Or quote Michael Veach who has said that the history of bourbon has been written by marketing departments.

Wayne Curtis wrote in the Wall Street Journal about "the fictions in which the distillers love to swaddle themselves."

Bourbon myths are legendary.

Here's one: Why must bourbon be aged in charred new oak barrels?

The legend, depending on the version you hear: A farm burned down. Everything was charred. Including the farmer's new oak barrels. The only thing he had left was the corn. We even (with tongue firmly in cheek) created a wonderfully fun Skull and Bones Cow Bourbon T-shirt paying homage to the legend. Did we mentioned it's lovingly washed in a limestone creek?

Evan Williams is a good bourbon for a good price. You can't go wrong making it an every day pour. We have a bottle on our counter right now: The label says:

"Evan Williams set up his distillery on the banks of the Ohio River in 1783 and is historically recognized as Kentucky's First Distiller of Bourbon. "

Reid Mitenbuller debunked this story in his book, Bourbon Empire: "Truth is, Williams didn't even arrive in America, first landing in Pennsylvania, until 1784. When he finally made his way to Kentucky, distilling was long underway countless others."

Heaven Hill created the brand in 1957. Go visit the Evan Williams Experience. It's a fantastic tour, part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

The point is, the history of America's whiskey is all about myth and legends and rugged individuals who may or may not have done what we now enjoy believing that they did; we tell tales with a fine glass of the juice in hand.

Social media algorithms need a shot of whiskey.

So back to the shot of whiskey. When we first posted that meme, we admit we didn't consider the veracity of the history lesson. We try to be accurate in most things, but as you see on these pages, we all know that the history we enjoy has a lot of balderdash. 

We certainly were not upset to have the post flagged. We were surprised, amused, or perhaps the better word is bemused. We imagine a cyber soul with their tool box of algorithms. We would buy them a drink.

A shot of whiskey. Which was not, we should clarify, paid for by a cowhand's ".45 cartridge."

 (Published by

If you'd like to watch some  bourbon facts (allegedly, as we should always say in this business), we are at your service. Cheers.



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