What Is Bourbon Whiskey?

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What Is Bourbon Whiskey?

Van Winkle Family Reserve

A Bourbon Whiskey, or more commonly called a Bourbon, is whiskey made anywhere in the United States that follows a strict set of regulations as set forth in the Spirits Act of 1964.

The regulations set forth in the Spirits Act are as follows:

  • Bourbon must be made from a mashbill comprised of at least 51% corn with the remainder of the mashbill comprised of any combination of wheat, rye and barley.  All three need not be included.
  • Bourbon must be stored in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Bourbon must enter the barrel at no greater than 125-proof (62.5% alcohol by volume).
  • Bourbon cannot be distilled beyond 160-proof.
  • Bourbon must be bottled at a minimum of 80-proof (40% alcohol by volume)
  • Once distilled, bourbon can receive no added colors or flavoring.

Kentucky Bourbon MUST be made in Kentucky.

Straight Bourbon must follow all of the regulations that bourbon does, but also must be aged for a minimum of 2 years and if aged less than 4 years, must have a precise age-statement on the bottle. This means that all Straight Bourbon Whiskey expressions that lack an age-statement are at least 4 years old.

Some examples of each type of bourbon we’ve looked at are listed below:

Bourbon: FEW Bourbon, Sonoma Bourbon and Hudson Baby Bourbon

Kentucky Bourbon: Evan Williams*, Old Forester*, Willett Pot Still*

Straight Bourbon: Elijah Craig, Woodford Reserve, Noah’s Mill

*Each of these expressions is also a Straight Bourbon