By: Scott Ritenbaugh


All Bourbon is Whiskey, but not all Whiskey is Bourbon…

There five things that make a bourbon a bourbon, as defined In Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations and as acknowledged by the United States Congress on May 4, 1964, when it recognized bourbon as a “distinctive product of the United States.”:

  • It is made in the United States
  • II is made from at least 51 % corn
  • II is distilled no higher than 160 proof
  • It is put into a barrel at no higher than 125 proof
  • It is put into a new, charred oak container

You might notice something that’s missing. Aging. There is no age requirement in the legal definition of bourbon. That being said, it’s nearly impossible to get the color and flavor out of a barrel without aging the spirit inside. There are two classifications of bourbon that do have age as part of their definition: Kentucky Bourbon and Straight Bourbon.

KENTUCKY BOURBON – To be called Kentucky Bourbon it must be produced, then aged for at least one year in the state of Kentucky.

STRAIGHT BOURBON – To be called Straight Bourbon it must be aged for a minimum of 2 years. (If less than 4 years, it must have an age statement on the label.)


SINGLE BARREL* – Although there is no legal definition of what a single barrel means, it’s implied that all the bourbon in a bottle of single barrel bourbon came from one barrel.

SMALL BATCH* – The term small batch also has no legal definition. While some distilleries define how many barrels make up a small batch, many do not. Jim Beam popularized the term when they launched their small batch collection in 1992: Booker’s, Baker’s, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden.

* No Legal Definition

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