Five facts about Bourbon.
All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. A strict set of standards from the government regulates what’s what. Learn more about what defines “America’s native spirit” and the difference between bourbon and whiskey below.
Fact 1: Just 'cause it's whiskey doesn't mean it's bourbon.
Bourbon is kind of like whiskey’s “sweet spot.” Because corn is a sweet grain, the more corn, the sweeter the whiskey—and bourbon needs to be at least 51% corn. Tennessee whiskey? Not bourbon. Canadian whisky? Nope. Scotch? Definitely not bourbon… you get the idea.
Fact 2: Bourbon is All-American.
In 1964, under President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration, Congress declared bourbon "America’s native spirit". Today, bourbon is recognized around the world as America’s native spirit, led by Jim Beam®, the world’s No. 1 bourbon.
Fact 3: From barrel to bottle.
The only thing that can be added to bourbon is water (and only to bring it down to proof). Other whiskey makers can add colors (often caramel) and flavors to their products. But then, they can’t call their whiskey bourbon.
Fact 4: Bourbon must be aged in new barrels.
By law, bourbon must be aged in NEW charred oak barrels. Scotch whisky often recycles barrels first used for bourbon. Perhaps they’re hoping to steal some of the bourbon’s deep flavor and complex character.
Fact 5: The name is everything.
It can’t say “bourbon” on the label if it’s not distilled and aged in the United States. It can’t be “Kentucky Straight Bourbon” unless it’s distilled and aged in Kentucky for at least 2 years. And it can’t say Jim Beam® unless it’s been made by seven generations of one family.
By law, bourbon must be:
- Made of a grain mix of at least 51% corn.
- Produced in the USA.
- Free of additives (except water to reduce proof, where necessary).
- Aged in new, charred oak barrels.
- Aged for a minimum of two years to be called "straight" bourbon.
- Distilled at no more than 160 proof (80% ABV).