Tuesday, August 16, 2011

An Education: Does Bourbon Have to Come From Kentucky?

Just a small post: On reviewing answers from wiki.answers.com and answers.yahoo.com it seems there is still a lot of confusion on where bourbon comes from and what is the distinction between it and Tennessee whiskey. Simply bourbon comes from the United States. The country provides the boundaries, not the state of Kentucky. Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, often confused to be bourbon, is not. It is not bourbon because it goes through an extra process of charcoal filtration, called the Lincoln County Process, and it is made in Tennessee. Tennessee whiskey is made in Tennessee, bourbon is made anywhere. Bourbon production has nothing to do with the water, the county, nor the state it is distilled in. To legally be called bourbon the spirit must be made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn, it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels and it has to be made in the U.S. (anywhere in the U.S.).  From what I have read, to give the post "expert validation," John Hansell also seems to believe that Tennessee whiskey is not bourbon because of charcoal filtration - a fairly strong statement which essentially labels Tennessee whiskey as an entirely unique product apart from bourbon, rather than a class under bourbon.

To Note: Not all Tennessee whiskey goes through the Lincoln County Process, but as a general rule, when most people say Tennessee whiskey they mean a bourbon which has undergone the process. A similar distinction could be made between Scotch and Irish whiskey. Historically what was considered Irish whiskey, now called pure pot still whiskey, was a mashbill of malted and unmalted barley, compared to scotch with 100% malted barely. Not all Irish whiskey has both malted and unmalted barley but when speaking of Irish whiskey in the traditional sense one should think malted/unmalted barley. Though I'm sure some of you will debate this.

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