American whiskey, as the name suggests, is produced in the United States of America and is prepared from a fermented mash of cereal grain.
The primary types of spirit that comprise American whiskey are;
A minimum mash of 51% of the named grains is contained in these products, for example, wheat whiskey must use 51% of wheat in its mash and other grains in smaller quantities. Similarly, a rye whiskey must use a 51% rye mash.
Similarly, Bourbon whiskey is legally defined as the one obtained from a mash of 51% Corn, and small batches of other grains.
Other variants that are included under this classification are blended whiskeys, spirit whiskeys, grain whiskeys and straight whiskey blends – all devoid of a preponderant grain specification.
Title 27 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations governs the labelling and production of American whiskey. Internationally speaking, there are various countries that recognise and designate products like Tennessee whiskey and bourbon as American whiskeys. The laws overseeing the sale of American whiskey outside United States will be determined by the country in which it’s being sold. In some countries, the regulations can be stricter than U.S. law.
In Canada, products like Tennessee whiskey and bourbon should satisfy the American regulations concerning their manufacture and labelling. However, this is not required in some other countries as there is no uniformity concerning laws.
The following variants of American whiskey are listed in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations:
All the above mentioned whiskey types should be distilled to a maximum of 80% alcohol by volume (160 U.S proof) to adequately retain the flavour of the original mash and to effectively deter the addition of caramel, colouring and other flavouring agents. All these products with the exception of corn whiskey should be mandatorily aged for a brief period in charred new oak barrels. However, Canadian law doesn’t require American corn whiskey to be aged at all. Conversely, if it’s aged then it should be in uncharred oak containers.
Straight whiskey is distilled to a maximum of 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) and should be aged for a minimum of two years with the initial alcohol concentration being 62.5% at the most. Any kind of different spirits, additives and colourings should strictly not be added to the blend. Whiskeys devoid of a grain type like corn, rye or bourbon should be distilled to a maximum of 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) from a fermented mash of grains using such a technique that the original features of whiskey are retained.
Produced from a mash of 51%-80% corn and matured in unused charred white-oak barrels. It’s considered to be sweeter than other types of American whiskey.
It’s mandatory that this variant contains a minimum of 80% corn and should be matured in uncharred oak barrels. Corn whiskey is inexpensive, aged for a short while and produced for immediate consumption.
Comprises a minimum of 51% rye and matured in unused charred oak barrels rendering this whiskey spicy and ideal for old fashioned cocktails.
This type should be produced in the American state of Tennessee from a mash of at least 51% corn and matured in unused charred oak containers. Maple charcoal is used to filter this whiskey type before bottling. Jack Daniels – a popular American whiskey brand is known for producing this type of whiskey.
The mash should contain a minimum of 51% wheat and be matured in unused charred white-oak containers to be termed as wheat whiskey. It’s quite similar to bourbon except for the grain component and represents a softer style.
It’s an American term used to designate whiskey that hasn’t been aged and is also called white whiskey or moonshine. These types are bottled immediately upon distillation with added water.
This category includes single malt and many craft or micro-distillery offerings and blended and flavour infusions that cannot be classified in the above mentioned categories.
It’s a mixture that comprises straight whiskey or a blend of straight whiskeys containing a minimum of 20 percent straight whiskey, either in combination or separately, neutral spirits or other whiskey. For a whiskey to be recognised with a specific grain type (i.e. wheat, malt, blended rye or bourbon), the straight whiskey should contain a minimum of 51% blend of that grain type.
Produced in the United States and aged in used or new uncharred oak containers. It’s made at more than 80% alcohol by volume.
It’s a blend of neutral spirits and a minimum 5% of certain stricter whiskey categories.