Friday, October 18, 2013

10 Bourbon Terms You Should Know

{Photo: Jennifer Hess}

As with wine or any spirit really, once you get on the path from aficionado to connoisseur, it helps to have a little bit of information about what exactly you're drinking, to better understand the nuances between different kinds of Whiskey.

Our favorite people over at Serious Eats have put together a list 10 Bourbon Terms You Should Know, and we agree that these are probably the most important things you should be familiar with when you start talking about Bourbon.

And a lot of these aren't subjective questions of opinion and taste--some of these are legal definitions! 

"By law, bourbon must be made from a grain mixture that's at least 51% corn (in a bit, I'll explain what the other 49% is). Bourbon is aged in new charred-oak barrels, and it's distilled to no more than 80% alcohol by volume (ABV). When it's pumped into the barrels, it enters the casks at no more than 62.5% ABV. Finally, when it's bottled, it has to be at least 40% ABV."

Straight Bourbon
"One term you might see on a label is "Straight Bourbon." This category has additional legal requirements beyond those of regular bourbon. Straight bourbon must be at least two years old. If it's older than two but younger than four years, it must carry an age statement, and that age statement must reflect the youngest bourbon in the bottle. Finally, straight bourbon may not contain added colorings or flavorings."

Cask Strength
"Also known as barrel-proof bourbon, a cask-strength bourbon is undiluted. If it comes out of the barrel at 124.6 proof, that's what you get in the bottle. Cask strengths vary from barrel to barrel, based on a number of factors, such as warehouse placement, weather conditions, and so forth. The strength of the bourbon depends on how much of the liquid has evaporated over time. If more alcohol evaporates out, it'll be lower proof. If more water evaporates, it'll be higher. Therefore every barrel is different. Booker's, for example, ranges from about 121 proof to 130."

For more the rest of the list, visit 10 Bourbon Terms You Should Know on Serious Eats! 

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