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Bourbon

It began in the 1700s with the first settlers of Kentucky. Like most farmers and frontiersmen, they found that getting crops to market over narrow trails and steep mountains was a daunting task. They soon learned that converting corn and other grains to whiskey made them easily transportable, prevented the excess grain from simply rotting, and gave them some welcome diversion from the rough life of the frontier. Since then, generations of Kentuckians have continued the heritage and time-honored tradition of making fme Bourbon, unchanged from !he process used by their ancestors centuries before.

What's in a name?


One of Kentucky's three original counties was Bourbon County, established in 1785 when Kentucky was still part of Virginia. Farmers shipped their whiskey in oak barrels- stamped from Bourbon County- down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. The long lrip aged the whiskey, with the oak wood giving it the distinct mellow flavor and amber color. Preuy soon, whiskey from Bourbon County grew in popularity and became known as Bourbon whiskey. In 1964, Congress officially recognized Bourbon's place in our history- and our future- by declaring it "America's Official Native Spirit" and distinctive product of the United States.

The Bourbon Processes

The typical grain mixture for bourbon, known as the mash bill, is 70% com-with the remainder being wheat, rye (or both), and malted barley. A mash bill that contains wheat instead of rye produces what is known as a wheated bourlxm. The grain is ground and mixed with water. Usually, though not always, mash from a previous distillation is added to ensure a consistent pH across batches-and a mash produced in that manner is referred to as a sour mash. Finally, yeast is added and the mash is fermented. The fermented mash, referred to as the wash, is then distilled to (typically) between 65% and 80% alcohol. Distillation was historically performed using an alembic or pot still, altbougb in modem production, the use of a continuous still is much more common. The resulting clear spirit is placed in charred-oak ba.rrels for aging, during which it gains color and flavor from the carrnelized sugars in the charred wood. Changes to the spirit also occur due to evaporation and chemical processes such as oxidation. Bourbons gain more color and flavor the longer they mature. Maturity, not a particular age, is the goal. Bourbon can age too long and become woody and unbalanced. After maturing, bourbon is withdrawn from the barrel, usually diluted with water, and bonled to at least 80 US proof (40% abv). Most bourbon whiskey is sold at 80 US proof. Other common proofs are 86, 90, 94, 100, and 107, and whiskeys of up to 151 proof have been sold. Some higher-proof bottlings are marketed as "barrel proof", meaning that they have not been diluted or have been only lightly diluted after removal from the barrels. Bourbon whiskey may be sold at less than 80 proof but must be labeled as "diluted bourbon".

While All Bourbon is Whiskey, Not All Whiskey is Bourbon

In order for a spirit to be called a "Straight Bourbon Whiskey", it must be made from a fermented mash of not less than 51% com and aged for at least two years in a new, charred white oak barrel. Once these basic requirements have been met, variations can be made to create distinctive flavors and aromas. In the case of the Small Batch Bourbons (Baker's, Basil Hayden's, Booker's & Knob Creek), these variations include extra aging, special recipes, distinctive proofs and hand-bottling for superior taste and quality.

Helping the American Economy


Today, Bourbon is a signature industry that helps create nearly 10,000 jobs, generates more than $125 million in taxes each year and is a growing international symbol of Kentucky craftsmanship and tradition. Bourbon tourism is skyrocketing too, with nearly 2 million visitors from all 50 states and 25 countries to the world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour in the last five years alone.

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