A Lesson in Bourbon Law
Here in the South, it is important to know the difference between bourbon and whiskey – Because as the saying goes: all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.
For a whiskey to be considered bourbon, it must follow a strict set of guidelines during the distilling process. This is where it can get a little confusing. To clear things up, we met with Teddy Nixon, Bar Manager at Bar Mash in Charleston, South Carolina, for a quick lesson in “Bourbon Law.”
“Whiskey is basically just a blanket term for anything distilled from cereal grains,” Nixon explains. “That can be anything from corn, rye, barley, wheat.” Bourbon gets a little more specific, which is where “Bourbon Law” comes in.
To be classified as bourbon, whiskey must:
- Be made in the United States.
- Contain at least 51 percent corn.
- Be aged in new charred American oak barrels.
- Be distilled at no higher than 160 proof.
- Be put in the barrel at no higher than 125 proof.
- Be bottled at no lower than 80 proof.
For Nixon, it is these rules that make bourbon a higher quality product than general whiskey. “You don’t know exactly what you’re getting when it just says whiskey on the bottle. When it says bourbon, you know what your having.”
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