This aspect that Bourbon Whiskey is not and never was apparently marketed as Bourbon County Whiskey may indeed be significant. E.g., today one would speak of Nelson County's renown in the area of bourbon production. Not, Nelson's renown, which would have little meaning. We speak of the Lincoln County Process associated with Jack Daniels' famous whiskey, not the "Lincoln Process" even though, like Bourbon County, the present day Lincoln County does not encompass a distillery because, in part, its boundaries got smaller. This may point to the fact that "bourbon" in bourbon whiskey does not derive from Bourbon County even though I have read countless sources by now and numerous in the 19th century which say so, e.g., Hoskins' comments in 1859 to which I referred elsewhere.
Some have proposed earlier on this board that bourbon might be a reference to France, after the Royal Family. A similar reading might hold that Bourbon whiskey was the best whiskey because fit for a king. I believe the term Bourbon too was used at the time to mean generally a grandee, poo-bah who could have the best of what he wanted... The Cognac connections (i.e., the similarity to a point in both beverages) might have lingered as well behind such terminology, consciously or otherwise.
Or maybe there is a completely different source for the term, one still related to Louisiana (but not to a famous street in New Orleans), to which whiskey was shipped in large quantities. A lot came from Maysville, on the Ohio River, in (yes) Bourbon County. It is this fact including evidence of early distillation in Bourbon County that has led so many to conclude that the famed whiskey of Kentucky must have been named after that County.
Another State, Louisiana, also was famed for a no less well-appreciated product, sugar. One of the prime varieties of sugar grown in Louisiana was called Bourbon Cane. It made a sugar, dark brown, known as Bourbon sugar. Here is a period discussion of the sugar productions of Louisiana:http://books.google.com/books?id=LfYoAA ... S#PPA57,M1
I could append 20 more which all state the same things, basically.
It seems as the ground got exhausted with intensive planting, this type of sugar became less important after 1850. The name Bourbon Cane comes from Bourbon Island, a place on the other side of the world where this cane variety was first grown. The seeds were brought to the West Indies, and then to America. Canes have different colours. Bourbon's was of two kinds, dark purplish or yellow.
Can Bourbon whiskey, a large amount of which was coming into New Orleans and would have jostled on the levees with Bourbon cane, coffee, pork and other commodities, have taken its name from this now-obscure variety of sugar cane? It might have done so either from the colour of the cane or the colour of the sugar - or both, possibly, since bourbon, unlike common (new) whiskey, can be yellow or dark brown. And, bourbon is a relatively sweet liquor, much more so than any liquor not aged in a new charred barrel. It is "rich" in the terminology of the French scientist Berthelet who was plumping for aging wines and spirits in new charred barrels around 1800.
I think this is possible, but at present it is speculation, I haven't found anything that links the two together. The case is merely "circumstantial", inferential, and not that strong. But stranger things have happened in the history of comestibles and their nomenclature.