The ABC's of Bourbon

I might as well start this blog with the basics of bourbon and just like when we started to read as little children we had to learn the basics.

6 years ago

I might as well start this blog with the basics of bourbon and just like when we started to read as little children we had to learn the basics. Well here are the ABC's of Bourbon

A – Bourbon can actually be made anywhere in AMERICA.

B – Bourbon must be made with new charred oak BARRELS.

C – CORN must make up 51% (or more) of the grains used.

D – It must be DISTILLED to a maximum of 80% abv (alcohol by volume). (160 Proof)

E – It must ENTER the barrel at no more than 62.5% abv. (125 Proof)

F – It must be FILLED (bottled) at no less than 40% abv. (80 Proof)

G - It must be GENUINE, no artificial colors may be added.

"All Bourbon's are Whiskey but not all Whiskey's are Bourbon"

The Laws of Bourbon

On May 4, 1964, the United States Congress recognized bourbon whiskey as a "distinctive product of the United States" by concurrent resolution. Bourbon may be produced anywhere in the United States where it is legal to distill spirits, but most brands are produced in Kentucky, where bourbon production has a strong historical association. Iron-free water that has been filtered through the high concentrations of limestone, unique to the area, is often touted by bourbon distillers in Kentucky as a signature step in the bourbon-making process.

Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period.

Products aged for as little as three months are sold as bourbon. The exception is straight bourbon, which has a minimum aging requirement of two years. In addition, any bourbon aged less than four years must include an age statement on its label.

Bourbon that meets the above requirements, has been aged for a minimum of two years, and does not have added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits may (but is not required to) be called straight bourbon.

Bourbon that is labeled as straight that has been aged under four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.

Bourbon that has an age stated on its label must be labeled with the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle (not counting the age of any added neutral grain spirits in a bourbon that is labeled as blended, as neutral-grain spirits are not considered whiskey under the regulations and are not required to be aged at all)

Bourbon that is labeled blended (or as a blend) may contain added coloring, flavoring, and other spirits (such as un-aged neutral grain spirits); but at least 51% of the product must be straight bourbon

Bourbon Heritage Month

On August 2, 2007, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) officially declaring September 2007 to be National Bourbon Heritage Month, marking the history of bourbon whiskey. Notably, the resolution claimed that Congress had declared bourbon to be "America's Native Spirit" in its 1964 resolution. However, the 1964 resolution had not contained such a statement; it had declared bourbon to be a distinctive product identifiable with the United States The resolution was passed again in 2008.

Does Bourbon have to be made in Kentucky?

As of 2014, approximately 95% of all bourbon is produced in Kentucky. The State has more than 5.3 million barrels of bourbon that are aging – a number that exceeds the state population. However, Bourbon does not have to be made in Kentucky.

What are some great Bourbon trips?

Bardstown, Kentucky is home to the annual Bourbon Festival held each September. It has been called the "Bourbon Capital of the World" by the Bardstown Tourism Commission and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival organizers who have registered the phrase as a trademark.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is the name of a tourism promotion program organized by the Kentucky Distillers' Association and aimed at attracting visitors to the distilleries in Kentucky, primarily including: Four Roses (Lawrenceburg), Heaven Hill (Bardstown), Jim Beam (Clermont), Maker's Mark (Loretto), Town Branch (Lexington), Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg), and Woodford Reserve (Versailles).

What about Tennessee Whiskey?

Tennessee is home to other major bourbon makers, though most prefer to call their product "Tennessee whiskey" instead, including giant Jack Daniel's. It is legally defined under Tennessee House Bill 1084, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and at least one other international trade agreement as the recognized name for a straight bourbon whiskey produced in Tennessee.

Although some Tennessee whiskey makers maintain a state mandated pre-aging filtration through chunks of maple charcoal known as the Lincoln County Process which makes its flavor distinct from bourbon, U.S. regulations defining bourbon neither require nor prohibit its use. Prior to 2013 the Lincoln County Process was not legally required for products identified as Tennessee whiskey

What grains can Bourbon be made from?

To be legally sold as bourbon the whiskey's mash bill requires a minimum of 51% corn, with the remainder being rye, wheat, malted barley, singly or in any combination. A mash bill that contains wheat instead of rye produces what is known as a wheated bourbon.

How is Bourbon made?

The grain is ground and mixed with water. Usually, though not always, mash from a previous distillation is added to ensure a consistent pH across batches, creating a sour mash. Finally, yeast is added and the mash is fermented. It is distilled to (typically) between 65% and 80% alcohol using either a traditional pot still or the much less expensive continuous still. Most modern bourbons are initially run off using a column still then redistilled in a "doubler"  that is basically a pot still.

How is Bourbon aged?

The resulting clear spirit, called "white dog," is placed in newly charred American white oak barrels for aging, during which it gains color and flavor from the caramelized sugars in the charred wood. Changes to the spirit also occur due to evaporation and chemical processes such as oxidation. Bourbons gain more color and flavor the longer they age in wood. Maturity, not a particular duration, is the goal, as bourbons aged too long can become woody and unbalanced.

How much alcohol is in Bourbon?

After maturing, bourbon is withdrawn from the barrel, usually filtered and diluted with water, and bottled to at least 80 US proof (40% abv). Most bourbon whiskey is sold at 80 US proof. Other common proofs are 86, 90, and 100, and all "bottled in bond" bourbon is 100 proof. Some higher-proof bottlings are marketed as "barrel proof," meaning that they have not been diluted or have been only lightly diluted after removal from the barrels. Bourbon whiskey may be sold at less than 80 proof but must be labeled as "diluted bourbon".

What can you do with used Bourbon barrels?

After processing, barrels remain saturated with up to ten gallons of bourbon, though 2–3 is the norm. They may not be reused for bourbon, and most are sold to distilleries in Canada, Scotland, Ireland, Mexico, and the Caribbean for aging other spirits.Some are employed in the manufacture of various barrel-aged products, including amateur and professionally brewed bourbon-barrel-aged beer, barbecue sauce, wine, hot sauce, and others.

Brian Certain

Published 6 years ago