Bourbon - like pretty much any other whisk(e)y – has a long and confusing history full of mythinformation and half-truths.
Let’s deal with the basics. There are concrete guidelines for Bourbon production and these are what make Bourbon… Bourbon. These rules include:
These rules are what make Bourbon unique and separate it from other styles of whisk(e)y made both in America itself and in other parts of the world.
Did you know: Tennessee Whiskey is also considered Bourbon. It is made in the same way and It adheres to the same regulations. What sets it apart (other than specifically coming from Tennessee) is that it goes through another step in the production that bourbon does not. This step is called the ‘Lincoln County Process’. This process involves either filtering or steeping the white dog or new make spirit though charcoal chips or pellets before it is put in the barrel for aging. This helps remove impurities from the whiskey.
On the shelf you will find a few different styles of bourbon. These can include:
Small Batch – Refers to the bottle coming from a small batch of barrels that were vatted together before being bottled. Different brands and distilleries have varying ideas on how ‘small’ the batch has to be to qualify.
Examples – Bakers, Four Roses Small Batch, Knob Creek Small Batch
Single Barrel – This means the whiskey in the bottle came from a single barrel. Many times the bottle will have some numbering on it noting how many bottles came from that barrel. Many times these are release at a higher proof or even at cask strength, but not always.
Examples – Four Roses Single Barrel, Blanton’s Single Barrel, Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
Cask Strength or Barrel Proof – If you see this it means that the bourbon was not cut or diluted with water to a lower proof before being bottled. The whiskey is the same proof that it came out of the barrel at.
Examples – Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Booker’s
Bourbon is a big ingredient used in many classic cocktails. Here are few that are definitely worth trying out: