There is something about bourbon that’s captured our global attention. In North America, sales have soared and in the U.S., where bourbon originates, one of the nation’s most popular whiskey makers reversed a decision to water down its recipe in an effort to meet worldwide demand. This country needs National Bourbon Day.
Some say the rise in bourbon sales is due to the growth of small-batch and single barrel bourbon in the 1990s, while others say it has to do with the resurgence in popularity of hard-liquor swilling characters and settings on television shows such as Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire. Whatever the reason, you’ll want to raise a glass of the sweetened amber spirit June 14 as the world celebrates the splendor of this great whiskey on National Bourbon Day!
Legal Definition of Bourbon
Bourbon’s legal definition varies somewhat from country to country, but many trade agreements require that the name “bourbon” be reserved for products made in the United States. The U.S. regulations for labeling and advertising bourbon apply only to products made for consumption within the United States; they do not apply to distilled spirits made for export. Canadian law requires products labeled bourbon to be made in the United States and also to conform to the requirements that apply within the United States. But in countries other than the United States and Canada, products labeled bourbon may not adhere to the same standards. For example, in the European Union, products labeled as bourbon are not required to conform to all the regulations that apply within the United States, although they still must be made in the U.S.
The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, codified under 27 CFR §5.22(b)(1)(i), states bourbon made for U.S. consumption must be:
Produced in the United States
Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn
Aged in new, charred oak containers
Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume)
Entered into the container for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume)
Bottled (like other whiskeys) at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume)
Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period. Products aged for as little as three months are sold as bourbon. The exception is straight bourbon, which has a minimum aging requirement of two years. In addition, any bourbon aged less than four years must include an age statement on its label.
Bourbon that meets the above requirements, has been aged for a minimum of two years, and does not have added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits may be – but is not required to be – called straight bourbon.
A bourbon that is labeled as straight that has been aged under four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.
Bourbon that has an age stated on its label must be labeled with the age of the youngest whiskey in the bottle (not counting the age of any added neutral grain spirits in a bourbon that is labeled as blended, as neutral-grain spirits are not considered whiskey under the regulations and are not required to be aged at all).
Bottled-in-bond bourbon is a sub-category of straight bourbon and must be aged at least four years.
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