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Bring on the Bourbon

The beginning of summer is almost here just in time to shine a light on one of the United States’ most beloved spirits, so in celebration of Bourbon and Old-Fashioned Day, here are 14 things you should know.

  • Originating in Bourbon County, Kentucky, bourbon whiskey is one of the most popular spirit categories in America. According to IWSR, “bourbon held a 26 percent volume share of the whiskey market in the U.S. in 2016. In 2021, that number had grown to a 30 percent share and IWSR forecasts it to grow to a 31 percent share by 2026.”
  • Whiskey can be made anywhere in the world, whereas bourbon is only produced in the United States. In fact, bourbon is America’s one and only native spirit and was designated as such by an Act of Congress in 1964 officially declaring bourbon a “distinctive product of the United States.”
  • While all bourbons are considered whiskey, not all whiskey are bourbon. By definition, whiskey is a distilled spirit made from grains and almost always aged in an oak container for maturation before it is bottled and released. The most common grains are barley, corn, rye and wheat.
  • In the United States, there are certain laws governing the creation of bourbon just as there are laws in place for the production of whiskey in other countries. One of the biggest requirements for the U.S. is that the spirit must be made from a mashbill or recipe that contains a minimum of 51% corn.
  • Bourbon must also be distilled at no higher than 160° proof and may not be more than 125° proof when barreled.
  • The spirit must be aged in charred new oak vessels to carry the name Bourbon. If it is aged for a minimum of two years, it may be labeled as ‘Straight Bourbon Whiskey.’
  • Different distillers may use different grains in addition to corn to create a unique flavor profile. Distillers who use wheat in high proportions of their bourbon create a lighter style of whiskey, while those who use rye tend to make a bourbon with a bit more spice character.
  • During distillation, producers can opt for column stills to produces a lighter-style spirit, or pot stills to produces a richer, more robust spirit.
  • Also, the length of aging and the type of oak vessel will have an impact on the final product. The longer the spirit is matured in oak, the more flavors they will pick up from the aging process. Oak imparts baking spice flavors of vanilla, cinnamon and clove.
  • The overall flavor profile can be impacted by other factors including the length of initial fermentation, the distillation proof and the location of where the spirit is aged.
  • Though Kentucky supplies the majority of the world’s bourbon, bourbon may be made anywhere in the United States as long as they follow the rules of bourbon production.
  • Bourbon is a great mixer for any cocktail including the Old Fashioned, which is an iconic whiskey cocktail. Thought to have been developed in the early 1800s, the Old Fashioned is one of the earliest whiskey cocktails in modern record. The three-ingredient classic cocktail is a simple combination of whiskey (usually bourbon or rye), sugar and bitters.
  • Bourbon pairs beautifully with most everything from barbecue brisket to buttered popcorn to crème brûlée.
  • As an ode to America’s most beloved spirit, September was declared as Bourbon Heritage Month in 2007.

Be sure to check out some of the great Bourbons in Empire’s portfolio below:

Ready to find a Bourbon your customers will love?
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*Please note: Linked products are subject to market availability and pricing. Contact your sales rep for more distributor information about these items.

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