Bourbon (Popular brands: Jim Beam, Evan Williams, Maker’s Mark)
By federal law, bourbon must contain at least 51% corn in its mash, but not exceed 79% corn. If its contents exceed 79% corn, it must be labeled as corn whiskey. Bourbon is considered a straight whiskey. It must be distilled at 160 proof (eighty percent) or less. It must be aged a minimum of two years in NEW charred oak barrels (most bourbons are aged four years or longer). Most American Whiskies are distilled in continuous stills.
Since bourbon is a straight whiskey, it cannot be blended with anything except water, to lower the proof. Most bourbons are sold at eighty proof.
To be considered “Kentucky Bourbon,” the product must be distilled and warehoused at least one year in Kentucky.
Sour mash is made by taking at least 25% of the spent mash from a previous batch of whiskey and allowing the new batch to ferment for 72 to 96 hours. This allows consistency from batch to batch.
Tennessee Whiskey (Popular brands: Jack Daniels, George Dickel, Gentleman Jack)
Tennessee whiskey differs from bourbon in some phases of production. After distillation, Tennessee whiskey is poured into a vat and filtered through layers of maple charcoal, usually prior to aging. Also, it must be produced in Tennessee.
Blended Whiskey (Popular brands: Seagram 7 Crown, Traveler’s Club, Gold Crown, Kessler)
Blended whiskey is made from a combination of bourbon and grained spirits. Each brand attempts to construct just the right combination of whiskies. Every blend on our shelves contains a number of straight whiskies in their formulas. A blend must contain at least 20% straight whiskey. This category did not exist prior to prohibition.
Rye Whiskey (Popular brands: Jim Beam Rye, Wild Turkey Rye)
Rye whiskey refers to whiskey made from a mash of at least 51% rye.
Bottled in Bond
This refers to straight whiskey that is aged in “bonded” United States government warehouses for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof.