If you’ve spent time perusing the many bourbon-focused websites, blogs, social media groups and messaging boards sprinkled across the internet, you’ve seen the hype that
As with every other aspect of American history, American whiskey’s heritage and tradition are rich and vast, spanning multiple generations. American whiskey’s history stretches back hundreds of years. It is closely tied to the culture and tradition of the immigrants who brought the art and craft of whiskey production from their homelands.
Like wine, beer, gin, and virtually all other alcoholic spirits, the whiskey liquor category is multi-faceted and tremendously diverse. With numerous categories and distinctions involved in the whiskey genre, connoisseurs of the spirit have had countless opportunities and options to experience all that this dynamic category of spirit has to offer.
Whiskey hails from a part of the world with concentrated cultures of people, all of whom built upon, evolved, and refined their respective crafts of how they believed whiskey should be best produced. Over time, distillers from all over the region began experimentation with various ingredient profiles, mash bills, and aging periods. These efforts ultimately resulted in countless strains of whiskey, each with its own unique flavor profiles.
As immigrants from these regions began immigrating to the newly blossoming country that would become known as the United States of America, they brought their spirits of creativity, experimentation, and quality craftsmanship. These traditions continued and served as the foundation for what would become known as “American Whiskey.”
If you’ve spent time perusing the many bourbon-focused websites, blogs, social media groups and messaging boards sprinkled across the internet, you’ve seen the hype that
Old Grand-Dad 114 is an underappreciated piece of bourbon history. Since we’ve already reviewed Old Grand-Dad and Old Grand-Dad Bonded, today it’s only fair to
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Jim Beam Black is a premium product that elevates the brand’s standard-expression white label offering. Those accustomed to the flavor of Jim Beam white label
Wild Turkey 101 might be one of the most underappreciated bourbon brands on the market. Yeah, that’s a loaded statement. But hear me out. First,
In this whiskey review, we’ll take a look at a bourbon that has generated a lot of buzz in the nine years or so since
Rowan’s Creek Bourbon is an excellent iteration of a modern Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that appeals to whiskey aficionados from all walks of life. The
Recently, I was asked to review Evan Williams Green Label – a brand extension of the more familiar Black Label product. The only problem: I’ve
For many whiskey drinkers — present company included — Ezra Brooks holds a special place in their distilled spirits journey. If Jack’s name-recognition serves as
Today, we’re going to take a look at Jim Beam Bourbon — the No. 1 selling bourbon, both domestically and internationally. The brand’s most widely
Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon is the No. 2 selling Bourbon whiskey in the United States. Its price point — on the upper edge of
If you haven’t tried Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, you are either a newcomer to the American whiskey category — or actively avoiding it. Jack Daniel’s
Some brands simply need no introduction. For whiskey, that brand is Jack Daniel’s. We’ve all heard someone next to us at the bar order a
Maker’s Mark is a true pioneer — a brand that has truly played an important role in the history of Bourbon Whiskey and its trajectory
Legent Bourbon is one of those modern-day bourbons that doesn’t quite easily fit into one of the established and traditional categories that make up the
Officially introduced to the public in 1992, Booker’s Bourbon hit the whiskey market right away with great fanfare. Having been the first “small batch” bourbon
Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a highly respected bourbon with a reputation for being one of the best premium small batch Kentucky straight bourbon
Knob Creek is one of America’s most famous Bourbon whiskey brands. The brand has been a popular bourbon for many years now, and it has
A classic American whiskey with its roots in the Bourbon whiskey market dating back to 1753, Michter’s Small Batch Bourbon US*1 is essentially an institution
Odds are, if you know anything about the world of bourbon whiskey, then you’ve most likely heard about Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon whiskey. Introduced in
Evan Williams Honey Bourbon is a wonderful choice for anyone desiring a mild, light, and well-crafted bourbon. The bourbon is flavored with real honey, and
1792 Bourbon Review Originally known as Ridgewood Reserve 1792 and later, 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, today’s iteration of the brand is known simply as “1792 Bourbon”.
Evan Williams Single Barrel is one of the bourbon industry’s most acclaimed and famous spirits. The bourbon is the only single barrel variety with a
The story of Merica Bourbon is one that any true American patriot can get behind. Originally founded by Derek Sisson, the brand is American veteran-owned
Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon is a popular mid-range bourbon that has been around for decades. The brand has become a consistent and reliable choice
Angel’s Envy is an excellent option when considering your next bourbon to explore. The famed brand of bourbon is owned and made by the well-known
Since 1888, Four Roses Bourbon is a proven and high-quality bourbon line with a loyal consumer base. The Four Roses brand is highly respected for
If you are in the market for a rich, delicious, and delightful alternative to your usual whiskey bourbon choice, we think that Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Hailing from one of America’s oldest working distilleries, Buffalo Trace Bourbon is the quintessential traditional American single barrel Kentucky bourbon. Having been released to the
Blood Oath Bourbon, specifically Pact No. 6, is an exquisitely blended bourbon that is highly esteemed in the bourbon world and well known for its
Bulleit Bourbon is a tremendously popular straight bourbon choice among many whiskey loyalists who value quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. The spirit is loved
Odds are, when asked to name a bourbon, the first brand to come to most Americans’ minds will be Jim Beam, and for good reason.
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Don’t sleep on this wheated bourbon with Stitzel-Weller lineage. Rebel Yell Bourbon is often left out of the wheated discussion. It is a borderline value
As many whiskey aficionados are all too familiar with, American whiskey has a storied history with a tremendously high bar for quality already having been
Over the last 200 years, American whiskey has gone through numerous evolutions and branched out into wonderful subcategories. Currently, American whiskey is considered to have seven primary groups. These subcategories are Bourbon Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Rye Malt Whiskey, Malt Whiskey, Wheat Whiskey, Tennessee Whiskey, and Corn Whiskey.
Bourbon whiskey has its roots deeply entrenched in American tradition. This type of whiskey relies heavily on corn as being the primary ingredient. It has been distilled in the United States since the early 18th century, with the majority of its early production taking place in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
Given its immense popularity in the American South, Bourbon whiskey has created a massive market in the domestic spirits industry. It has come to represent roughly two-thirds of America’s annual liquor spirit exports.
Rye whiskey is another well-known type with a rich history. It possesses many similarities to bourbon whiskey, with a few distinct differences. Unlike bourbon whiskey, which relies heavily on corn as its primary ingredient, rye whiskey must be distilled with rye gain representing at least 51% of its ingredient profile. This creates a noticeable difference in rye whiskey’s flavor compared to that of bourbon whiskey.
Another important distinction of rye whiskey compared to bourbon is its predominantly spicy and fruity flavor. Bourbon, on the other hand, which is distilled primarily using corn, develops a more sweet and robust flavor profile. This difference is the most important to whiskey connoisseurs, as it demarcates the main difference between rye whiskey and bourbon.
Rye malt whiskey is different from other whiskeys within the broader “American Whiskey” genre because it relies heavily on malted rye during the production process. While sharing many similarities with rye whiskey, rye malt whiskey utilizes malted rye instead of rye during the mixing process.
Malt whiskey is defined by its heavy use of malted barley during the fermentation process. Current laws and regulations imposed upon malt whiskey producers require that the entire batch of malt whiskey be made at a single distillery.
This stipulation grants the producers the ability to label their product as being single malt whiskey. Additionally, American laws require malt whiskey to have a minimum alcohol by volume rating of 40%.
Wheat whiskey distinguishes itself from other American whiskeys primarily through its high use of wheat in its mash bill. Legally, a “wheat whiskey” made in America must have a mash bill composed of 51% wheat at a minimum. Besides this important difference in ingredient profile, wheat whiskey is very similar to its peers in the whiskey industry.
Tennessee whiskey is, as you may very well have guessed by its name, a straight whiskey produced in the state of Tennessee. Fundamentally, Tennessee whiskey is very similar to bourbon, with the small but important distinction of it not being produced in Kentucky.
Another noteworthy fact about Tennessee whiskey is that it utilizes the Lincoln County Process during the filtration stage of production. While the process is fairly time consuming, it is essentially an additional step during the filtration process. The whiskey is steeped in maple charcoal before being put into charred oak barrels to begin the aging process.
As with most other whiskies listed earlier, Corn whiskey differs from its peers essentially in one fundamental way. Its reliance on a mash bill of at least 80% corn, and its unique chemical properties that do not require it to be aged, have made corn whiskey a popular and cost-effective spirit for production in the United States.
Additionally, corn whiskey is famous for its traditionally higher than average alcohol percentages. With an average alcohol by volume rating of 80%, corn whiskey easily eclipses the 40% to 60% alcohol by volume rating of most other American whiskey categories.
While the production process of almost any type of liquor and spirit is tremendously complex, time-consuming, and delicate, we have laid out a simplified summary of the major points involved in the following paragraphs.
Essentially, all American whiskey begins with a set of fairly universal ingredients. The combination of these ingredients, and the recipe by which each type of whiskey is made, is known as a “Mash Bill.” Mash bills vary in their ingredient ratios, depending on the intended type of whiskey to be produced, and are heavily responsible for each unique whiskey’s flavor profile.
Once the mash bill is set, the grain mash mixture is soaked in hot water for an extended period of time, causing the mixture to begin releasing sugars. This new mixture composition is called “Wort.” The wort mixture is then introduced to yeast, which acts as an enzyme to further break down the sugars. As the yeast begins acting upon the sugar molecules, the sugar becomes alcohol. This new mixture is called “Wash.”
The third step in the whiskey production process is the distillation of the wash mixture. The wash mixture is poured into a “Still,” which is very similar to a vat. The still begins heating the wash mixture until vapors form. These vapors travel through ductways until they begin to cool and condense again. This process is repeated 2 to 3 times, generally, until the original wash mixture reaches the desired alcohol content.
The fourth and final step of the whiskey distillation process is the aging of the mash mixture. This process is when the wash mixture, having completed its distillation cycle, is poured into wooden barrels to begin the aging process. In many instances, oak barrels are used throughout the aging process. Oak barrels significantly contribute to the coloring and flavor profile of the whiskey. On average, whiskey should be aged for at least three years, with many high-end whiskey brands aging their bourbon for ten or more years.
With an entire category of whiskey named after the United States, it should be no surprise that the country has an extensive list of world-renowned distilleries. For brevity purposes, we have included a few of the nation’s most prominent ones below.
As a result of America’s prominence in the international whiskey market, the country has developed a massive following of loyal customers. The American whiskey industry exports roughly 163 brands each year, with that number steadily increasing with each passing year. With that being said, we have included a few of America’s most famous whiskey brands below.
By American law, for a spirit to use the “Bourbon” label for its product, the liquor must be distilled using a mixture of grains consisting of at least 51% corn. Additionally, bourbon must always be aged in brand new, unused, charred oak barrels.
Conversely, the distinction of “Whiskey” is given to alcoholic spirits made of a mash bill containing at least 51% rye grain or wheat. Unlike bourbon, whiskey can also be aged in various types of previously used barrels. The whiskey category is much more comprehensive than just bourbon and contains multiple varieties of mash recipes and flavor profiles.
Bourbon has a much more specific and stringent production process that defines itself as “Bourbon.” Whiskey is a much broader term that is more inclusive of spirits with different production processes.
Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, and Jack Daniels all have viable claims to having America’s oldest distillery, depending on which criteria is applied to the judgment.
Many historians believe that the distillery located at what is currently known as “Buffalo Trace Distillery” is the oldest continuously operating facility in the United States. Having been in continuous operation since 1755, the facility has expectedly gone through many changes and names over the centuries. Currently, the oldest currently standing structure at the facility dates back to 1792, lending significant credibility to its reputation of being America’s oldest continuously operating distillery.
Alternatively, Jack Daniels possesses the oldest “registered” distillery in America title. The distinction of being a registered distillery is important because many of America’s oldest distilleries were unregistered for generations. The Civil War, religion, cultural norms, and Prohibition were all responsible for creating long periods of restriction on the bourbon industry, causing many distilleries to go “underground” in lieu of being shut down. For these reasons, historians are not able to conclusively identify many of America’s oldest distillation sites.
However, from a purely age standpoint, Burks’ Distillery may well be the oldest of America’s distilleries. Purchased in 1954 by “Maker’s Mark,” the facility is believed to have begun producing bourbon in 1773. While the distillery has experienced multiple periods of being closed due to the reasons stated earlier, the distillery has been formally recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the distinction of being the world’s oldest distillery.
So there you have it, three famous American distilleries, all with their own respectable and viable claims to being America’s oldest distillery, each for its own unique reasons. We’ll leave the final conclusion up to you to decide.
Kentucky rates, by far, as America’s highest whiskey producing state year after year. In 2019 alone, Kentucky’s whiskey distilleries produced a combined total of 2.1 million barrels of whiskey. In addition to that staggering fact, Kentucky’s whiskey production has grown by roughly 350% since 2020, with no other state even seeing triple-digit growth percentages in the same time frame.
With roughly 4.3 million people currently living in Kentucky and an average production of 2.1 million barrels of whiskey each year, nearly two barrels of whiskey are produced each year for every person living in Kentucky.