Bourbon is a type of American whisky. By law, it can be made in any state, although pretty much all production occurs in Kentucky, the only state lucky enough to be allowed to put its name on the label.
The reason for this preferential treatment? Well, when the product is named after one of your counties (Bourbon County, itself named after the French Royal family at the time that the county was established), and as a state you have been influential in the history of the product, it’s only fair that you be allowed some special privileges!
Like with Scotch, there are some official technical requirements that a whiskey must meet in order to be legally labelled Bourbon, the first of which is that the whiskey must be made in the United States. To my mind (which admittedly boggles when confronted with too many technical details, especially when written in legalese), these are the further stipulations that are of interest to whiskey drinkers rather than manufacturers:
- Bourbon is made of grain, and the mixture must be at least 51% corn.
- The product must be entirely natural – in other words, no chemical additives. Yay for organic produce!
- The whiskey must be aged in new charred oak barrels (once used, these are then often passed on to Scottish distilleries). The charring gives the whiskey its colour, so generally, the longer the whiskey has been aged, the darker it will be.
- The bourbon must be aged for a minimum of two years.
- If it is aged for less than four years, makers are required to put the whiskey’s age on the bottle label.
Want some more funky fundamentals? Click here to return from Bourbon Is Brilliant! to the Whisky Basics page.