Guide to Bourbon & American Whiskey
Most bourbons are marketed as 80-proof products, but some, particularly the newer boutique, small-batch, single-barrel and barrel-proof products are much higher in alcohol content. By law, bourbon can be distilled anywhere in the United States, but the vast majority of it is produced in Kentucky, where it must be distilled and warehoused for at least one year in order to carry the “Kentucky Bourbon” designation on the label. The best bourbons are produced using select higher quality grains and are barrel aged much longer.
Every bourbon is made from a mixture of corn, rye and barley malt fermented together with the individual distiller’s own strain of yeast. The amount and quality of each individual grain used, along with the type of barrel used to age the bourbon, creates distinct variations and tastes. Bourbons feature fragrant aromas and tastes of smoky oak, spice and caramel (although none can be added). The best add complex layers of toast, nuts, vanilla cream and long, sumptuous finish. Bourbon can be enjoyed in a Manhattan cocktail, Old Fashioned cocktail, Mint Julep, Bourbon Sour, Sazerac, or mixed with water, cola or ice.