With the summer coming to an end there is still time for celebration. September is National Bourbon Heritage Month. Let me explain what makes a whiskey a bourbon (all bourbons are whiskeys but not all whiskeys are bourbons).
Federal Law states that in order to be called a bourbon a few requirements must be met.
- Produced in the United States
- Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
- Aged in new, charred oak barrels
- Distilled to no more than 160 proof
- Entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof
- Bottled at 80 proof or higher
- Nothing can be added during the bottling other than water
If the product is made meeting these requirements, it can be sold as a bourbon. However, the exception is straight bourbon, which has to be aged for a minimum of two years. If a straight bourbon is aged less than four years, it must have the age stated on the bottle.
I would love to give you the origin of bourbon, however, there are many conflicting legends and claims; some more credible than others.
If all bourbons are made this way, do they all taste the same? The answer to the question is no. Remember 51% is the minimum amount of corn that can be used. Distillers may decide to use more than that. The length of time the bourbon has been aged will affect the taste. Where the bourbon is placed to age in the Rick House, as well as the addition of other grains such as wheat or rye affect the end result. These are areas where distillers get to use their creativity.
We will be celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month the entire month of September. Be sure to stop in and pick up your favorite bottle or maybe try a new selection.
I will leave you with this old Kentucky Proverb – “Keep Your Friends Close and Your Bourbon Closer.”
Coborn’s, Inc. Liquor Category Manger II
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