The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits mandate that anything sold as bourbon must be:

  • Made from a grain mixture (the mash) that is at least 51% corn.
  • Aged in new, charred oak barrels.
  • Distilled to no more than 160 proof, or 80% alcohol.
  • Entered into a barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof, or 62.5% alcohol.
  • Bottled at 80 proof or more, at least 40% alcohol.
  • Made in the United States.

Notice that, although most bourbon is from Kentucky and it’s known as Kentucky’s whiskey, bourbon doesn’t have to be made in Kentucky at all. It can be made anywhere in the United States. Nevertheless, many bourbons made outside of Kentucky choose not to call themselves bourbon, like Jack Daniels. Jack Daniels is, by definition, a bourbon whiskey, but they market themselves as Tennessee Whiskey.

I had always thought that bourbon whiskey had to be made in Kentucky.