Bourbon Notes

What makes Bourbon, well, Bourbon? There are a lot of questions and misconceptions regarding Bourbon and what makes it what it is versus other whiskeys.

Here is what legally makes it Bourbon:
  • Only whiskey produced in the United States can be called bourbon
  • Bourbon must be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
  • Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% abv)
  • Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels
  • Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period, however:
    • Bourbon that meets the above requirements, has been aged for a minimum of two years, and has no added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits may (but is not required) to be called Straight bourbon
  • Bourbon that is labeled as Blended (or as ‘a blend’) may contain added coloring, flavoring, and other spirits; however, at least 51% of such a product must be Straight Bourbon
And here are just some interesting tidbits to break out at dinner party or something:
  • Bourbon can actually be produced anywhere in the U.S. where it's legal to distill alcohol, not just Kentucky
  • While the majority of Bourbons are produced in Kentucky, they've also been produced in Indiana, Illinois, New York, Virgina, Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri and Pennsylvania
  • To be considered "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey" it must only be produced in Kentucky (a bit obvious on that one)
  • Bourbon has been in production since the 18th century- originally as a way to use surplus corn grown on farms to turn a profit
  • There are several theories but no one person is legitimately credited with the invention of Bourbon
  • What is now Kentucky was first settled by Scottish, Scotch-Irish, English and French settlers who probably brought their distillation techniques from Europe and just used grains that were readily available
  • Though 51% of the mash bill must be corn, a typical Bourbon mixture is over 70% corn, with the remainder usually a mixture of wheat, rye, and/or barley
  • The name Bourbon is derived from its historical association with an area known as Old Bourbon, around what is now Bourbon County, Kentucky
  • Bourbon County, KY was named for House of Bourbon royal family in France; of which the last official reigning monarch, Louis XVI, provided the colonists with financial and military assistance during the American Revolution


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