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Bourbon Whiskey Brands

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Bourbon – a barrel-aged distilled spirit; it is a type of American whiskey mainly produced from corn. The roots of this name can be traced back to the French Bourbon dynasty although the precise inspiration remains shrouded in mystery.

However, many suggest that it’s named after Bourbon County, Kentucky or Bourbon Street, New Orleans – both named after the dynasty. Historical records say that this popular drink has been distilled since the 18th century and the use of the term can be traced back to the 1820s.

Bourbon whiskey is traditionally emblematic of the American south (particularly Kentucky) although it can be manufactured anywhere in the United States. In 2014, bourbon made up about two thirds of the distilled spirits exported by America and the revenue obtained from domestic sales accounted approximately $2.7 billion.

Bourbon Whiskey History

Scottish, Irish and other European migrants introduced the process of distillation in Kentucky during the late 18th century. The origins of bourbon whiskey are not well documented and there are many presentable conflicting accounts, some being more credible. Some whiskey enthusiasts credit Elijah Craig - distiller and Baptist minister, as the inventor of bourbon. He is said to have pioneered aging whiskey in charred oak casks, which gives bourbon its reddish colour and distinct flavours.

Others in Bourbon County claim that a man named Jacob Spears was the first to label his offering as bourbon whiskey. His home called Stone Castle on Clay-Kiser Road, spring house and warehouse still survive to this date.

Both the popular accounts cannot be extensively verified with the Craig story being fictitious and the other one being obscure outside the county. Hence, the invention of bourbon cannot be attributed to a single inventor as there are multiple brains behind its invention.

This can be confirmed by the fact that Europeans have been aging their whiskey in charred barrels for centuries before the conception of bourbon. However, farmers in Maryland and Pennsylvania were the first ones to conceive the idea of bourbon whiskey. This was formerly considered as a drink for poor American farmers before becoming popular among all classes of the society. The production was subsequently moved to Kentucky due to rising taxes and has become prominent there since then.

Bourbon Whiskey Legal Requirements

Many would ask, “What is bourbon whiskey?

“Most trade agreements state that the name bourbon strictly applies to products made in the United States. Canadian and EU law also have the same definition although local regulations will apply as per the country where it’s being sold. The Federal US Standards for consumption are as follows:

  • Bourbon should be made in the United States.
  • The grain concoction from which it’s obtained should contain at least 51% corn.
  • The product (bourbon) should be matured in an unused charred oak cask.
  • Should be distilled to more than 160 U.S. proof (80% alcohol by volume).
  • Poured into the barrel for maturing at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume).
  • Bottling should be done at the standard 80 proof or more. (40% alcohol by volume)

Bourbon Whiskey Origin

As mentioned before, bourbon can be produced anywhere in the United States, but it’s mostly produced in Kentucky. Limestone is abundantly found in Kentucky and is required for filtering bourbon. That’s why 95% of all bourbon is produced in this American state with more than 5.3 million barrels being aged there too. This number exceeds the total population of Kentucky where also incidentally the annual bourbon festival is held each year in September. The most popular bourbon brands are based in Kentucky.

Bourbon Whiskey Production Process

The mash should contain at least 51% corn with the rest being any cereal grain. A mash bill comprising wheat instead of rye is called a wheated bourbon whiskey. The grounded grain is mixed with water and finally yeast is added to ferment the mash.

The double distillation process is done using a pot still for modern bourbon production. The resultant spirit is called ‘white dog’ and is matured in new charred oak barrels. Straight bourbon should be matured for at least 2 years although no such restrictions apply to blended bourbon. This whiskey should not be over-aged and maturity instead of the aging duration is crucial for both prime bourbons and their less expensive counterparts.

Typical Character and Style of Bourbon

  • Vanilla
  • Toffee
  • Oak
  • Cinnamon
  • Dried fruit

Bourbon Whiskey Uses

Bourbon whiskey can be mixed with other drinks, taken neat or diluted with water, as per your preference.

Some of the famous bourbon cocktails are Manhattan, the Whiskey Sour, the Old Fashioned and the Mint Julep.

A number of chefs have been known to incorporate bourbon whiskey into their recipes; it was historically used for medicinal purposes. It’s also used in many confections like banana bourbon syrup for waffles, chocolate cake flavouring, pumpkin pie, desserts containing fruits like grilled peach sundaes served with salted bourbon caramel and brown sugar shortcake with warmed bourbon peaches and is also used as an optional ingredient in several American pies.

Bourbon is a must try for whiskey lovers all over the world. Some of the world’s most popular and bestselling bourbon brands are Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark, and more.

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Ezra Brooks Bourbon
Still bottled and aged the old fashioned way – in new charred American white oak barrels, Ezra Brooks is then charcoal filtered for an
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7
First released in 1982, MaQintosh available Premium Whisky quickly captured the imagination of whisky lovers in India.
Jim Beam Devil's Cut Bourbon
Unleash the bold spirit of Jim Beam® Devil’s Cut®, a premium bourbon with depth and complexity that comes from liquid extracted from in
Banker's Club Bourbon
Over the last few decades Laird has expanded its focus on Applejack to become a broadly diversified spirits supplier.
Old Forester Bourbon
Created in 1870, Old Forester is the only bourbon continuously distilled and marketed by the founding family before, during and after P
Jim Beam 8 Star Bourbon
Beam's Eight Star is a blended whiskey containing around 75% grain.
Amador Double Barrel Bourbon
You’ll discover complex flavors of vanilla, oak, brown sugar and spice.
W. L. Weller 107 Bourbon
The Weller line of wheated bourbons are extremely popular these days, thanks in part to their close relation to the infamous Van Winkle
Jim Beam Kentucky Fire Bourbon
Jim Beam® Kentucky Fire™ is rooted in our bourbon heritage.
Pennypacker Bourbon
Watered down apple juice, hint of caramel, toasted oak, and mint.
Russell's Reserve Bourbon
Master distiller Jimmy Russell and his son Eddie have combined over 80 years experience in the industry to create a benchmark in small
Basil Hayden's Bourbon
In 1796, Master Distiller Basil Hayden Sr. broke 'the rules' by mixing small grains into the mash of a traditional corn base.