Put simply, Bourbon is a type of American whiskey made primarily with corn. Now if you want to get fancy with it, there are five things that make Bourbon what it is according to The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits. All bourbon must be:
- Made with at least 51% corn grain. More can be used, but anything less is whiskey, not bourbon.
- Aged for no less than two years.
- Aged in a brand new oak cooperage (barrel or bucket).
- Distilled to no more than 160 proof, and bottled at no less than 80 proof.
- Manufactured in the United States of America.
Even though bourbon can be produced anywhere in the United States, products produced overseas are not allowed to claim the title of “bourbon whiskey”. Bourbon whisky gets its name from its historical association with the area called Old Bourbon in Bourbon County, Kentucky. It has been reported that more than 97% of bourbon whisky is made in or near the “Bourbon Capital of the World”, Bardstown, Kentucky.
Bourbon is an improvement over the whiskeys of the past because the aging, bottling, yeast, water source, and grain composition have evolved over the decades and centuries to produce a superior whiskey in taste, color, and smoothness.
You may notice that we use the tem bourbon and whisky interchangeably. That’s because all bourbons are whiskeys, but all whiskeys are not bourbons – remember, they must meet the above standards to hold the title bourbon.
Thanks to television shows like Mad Men, and a recent expansion of product lines from legendary distillers, bourbon drinks and cocktails are gaining popularity. Down here in Kentucky, the Bourbon Trail distillery and bar tours have created a whole new generation of whiskey connoisseurs and enthusiasts who are eager to convert from other mainstream liquors.
Speakeasy bars that whip up classic bourbon cocktails using a variety of bitters are also booming. The nondescript entrance to PDT (Please Don’t Tell) located in East Village, New York (below). Modern speakeasy bars are becoming some of the hottest destinations in major cities around the world.