What’s the Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey? And Other Things You Need to Know Before the Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Who is out there enjoying the Kentucky Bourbon Festival happening in Bardstown, Kentucky? We’re headed to the festivities this weekend to celebrate Kentucky’s native spirit, but before we go, we wanted to share a few things about the beverage that you may not know!

Many of us in Kentucky consider ourselves experts in the bourbon field (drinkers and thinkers, of course), and we’re happy to spread our knowledge and share our bottle with anyone who saddles up on the next bar stool.

Despite the myth surrounding its origin, in 1964 Congress officially named bourbon America’s native spirit and the beverage became the most regulated whiskey in the world, having to meet strict criteria in order to be labeled “bourbon.” All bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbon. Bourbon distinguishes itself from whiskey in five key ways:

  1. The mash bill, or recipe, must contain at least 51 percent corn.
  2. Bourbon is distilled to no more than 160 proof, or 80 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
  3. Bourbon is aged in new, charred oak barrels. Fun fact: almost all of those barrels, once used, are sent to distilleries in Scotland to age their whiskeys.
  4. It must enter the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof, or 62.5 percent ABV.
  5. It must be bottled at 80 proof (40 percent ABV) or higher.

One of the most common misconceptions about the production of bourbon is the myth that the spirit can only be called bourbon if it is produced in Kentucky. In actuality, a bourbon can only be called “Kentucky Bourbon” if it is distilled in Kentucky, and 95 percent of all bourbon manufactured comes from the Bluegrass State.

We hope to see you this weekend at the Bourbon Festival in Bardstown! Enjoy responsibly.



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