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6 Rules about Bourbon and Whiskey

I went to a wedding this weekend where the groom’s uncle provided the reception alcohol as his gift. Nice guy, right? Absolutely, however, they only served one ale, a few wines and one whisky – Crown Royal Apple, mixed with cranberry juice.

While waiting in line at the bar to get the Crown cocktail, I struck up a conversation with one of the guests, Pat. Like me, Pat started drinking whiskey a couple years ago. Some of his favorites are brands we keep on the shelf here at Dive BarBenchmark, from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, Wild Turkey 101 (Pat’s everyday choice), Woodford Reserve (my everyday choice), Redemption and Eagle Rare.

“I learned that bourbon is always whiskey, but whiskey is not always bourbon,” Pat said.

Experienced whiskey lovers probably already know this, but for some novice drinkers, it’s always great to walk away from a conversation with a new friend and new outlook on whiskey.

The Rules of Bourbon When I got home from the wedding, I did some research about bourbon and whiskey. If you need something to put yourself to sleep later, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has a long list of strict guidelines on what can be called bourbon and what can’t (and standards of other spirits, too).

Because I don’t want to put you to sleep, here’s a short summary of their rules and others about Bourbon Whiskey:

Rule #1. To be called bourbon, it must be made in the United States. (Crown Royal is Canadian, and doesn’t have an “e”, so that’s definitely not bourbon.)

Rule #2 – Bourbon must be made from a fermented mash of at least 51% corn. (Anyone else thinking of the old TV Show “Moonshiners” right about now?) Like moonshine, when first distilled, bourbon comes out clear. The color comes from the aging process.

Rule #3 – It must be distilled at no more than 160° proof.

Rule #4 – It must be stored at no more than 125° proof in unused, uncharred oak barrels.

More on proofs later.

Rule #5 – Bourbon must age for two years (That’s longer than some relationships last!) Some of the whiskey’s we have at Dive Bar range in ages from 8-20 years.

Rule #6 – It cannot contain any additives. That takes away from the flavor anyway! All those flavored whiskeys, like Crown Royal Apple, even if made in the U.S., wouldn’t count to be called bourbon. We still stock some of them for you, though!

If you’re ready to try one of Pat’s favorites or maybe one of your own, come in and see us at Dive Bar to eat, drink and relax.

Next Monday, March 27 is International World Whiskey Day. Dive Bar is closed on Monday’s, but we still encourage you to celebrate the day with your favorite whiskey!

Until next time - cheer!

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