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Bourbon 101

Many cultures are known for their native spirits, products that combine the finest ingredients and use recipes passed down for generations.  And today, in America, there's only one native spirit that fits this definition: Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey.

Bourbon in America has deep roots.  The deepest of these roots begins with early bourbon makers like the Jacob Beam Family, whose craft and craftsmanship helped define the category. 

Today, bourbon offers many varieties.  From modern recipes using winter wheat like Maker's Mark, these bourbons recreate the aging processes of turn of the century.  

Others include whiskies that capture the deepest, boldest, and richest flavors of the barrel wood like Jim Beam Devil's Cut, and super-premium Small Batch bourbons. 

All of these products trace their roots back to the earliest distillers, like Jacob Beam, that have continued their way of making bourbon for over 200 years.

Try these Popular Bourbons:

A Bit of History

Bourbon tells the story of how the early settlers of this great nation created a unique whiskey with a recipe unlike any other. Born in Kentucky in 1774, the first bourbon makers transported the liquid in used barrels and began to char the insides which produced sugars that added a gold color as well as a caramel taste. From there the rest is history…until 1918 when the Abstinence campaign, Prohibition came to life.

During this time, all spirit creation and selling was prohibited, it was not until December 5, 1933 when Prohibition was repealed that the production of spirits sprang back into America's culture. The day Prohibition ended is still celebrated today as Repeal Day.

In 1964, President, Lyndon B. Johnson, who was known to be fond of bourbon, declared America's native spirit by an act of Congress. This act is a living symbol of the fact that bourbon is really the only major distilled spirit that can trace its roots back to American soil. 

What It Takes For A Whiskey To Call Itself Bourbon

Like spirit categories, Bourbon producers today follow internationally recognized legal standards, their own industry standards, as well unique time-honored practices in areas such as recipes, yeast, barrel selection, aging and blending. 

  • All Bourbon must contain at least 51% corn in the mash.  Second, all Bourbon must be stored in new charred oak barrels – no used barrels allowed.  Barreling must be at least 125 proof and bottling must be at least 80 proof.  
  • Lastly, 'Straight Bourbon' whiskey must be aged for at least 2 years.  And similarly, and perhaps to state the obvious, to be called 'Kentucky Bourbon' whiskey, the whiskey must be made in Kentucky. 
  • The Bourbon Production process has 6 steps, selecting ingredients, cooking, mashing, fermentation, distillation and aging.
  • Once these steps are completed and the liquid is bottled, the bourbon is ready to enjoy, on the rocks, neat or in cocktails such as an old fashioned, bourbon and cola or Manhattan.

It All Started in Kentucky in 1795

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