Is There a Rule That Bourbon Must Be Produced in Kentucky?

Kentucky, bourbon, and Kentucky. There isn’t much else more associated with the Bluegrass State than brown spirits. Bourbon is a Kentucky mainstay, from exploring the Bourbon Trail to purchasing a bottle for bourbon cocktail recipes.

Bourbon must be made in the United States to be classed as such, but does it have to be produced in Kentucky? The short answer is no, according to Melissa Rift, Old Forester’s master taster.

“Bourbon doesn’t have to be made in Kentucky,” Rift informs Southern Living. “You can make bourbon anywhere in the United States, not just [the] continental United States.”

Is There a Rule That Bourbon Must Be Produced in Kentucky?

Does Bourbon have to be made in Kentucky?

No, bourbon does not have to be brewed in Kentucky, but it should be properly labeled.

“If another country wants to make a spirit that is by definition a bourbon, but is not made in the USA, it cannot use the term bourbon on the label,” O’Donnell said in an interview with Southern Living.

What is Bourbon?

Bourbon is a type of whiskey produced from corn. While all bourbon is whiskey, not all whiskey is bourbon. Bourbon is a type of whiskey, and Rift provides an easy method to remember it.

“Whiskey is a family tree, and bourbon is like a member of the family,” she said. “So with lots of different types of spirits, you have rules and regulations of what defines that spirit and then you have subcategories within it that are styles and types—and members of the family—of that spirit.”

Bourbon whiskey is subject to some of the most stringent regulations. O’Donnell adds that to be regarded as a bourbon, the whiskey must follow certain rules:

made in the USA; Made with at least 51% maize, matured in virgin white oak barrels, distilled to no more than 160 proof, entered barrel at no more than 125 proof, and additive-free.

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What’s the difference between bourbon and Kentucky bourbon?

Is There a Rule That Bourbon Must Be Produced in Kentucky?

According to O’Donnell, a Kentucky bourbon must be brewed in Kentucky.

“Usually, you will see ‘Kentucky Straight Bourbon’ on a bottle,” she said. “That indicates the whiskey was created in Kentucky, follows all bourbon laws, and has been matured for at least two years. If you see an age declaration on the bottle, it was matured for less than four years. After four years, Kentucky Straight Bourbon does not require an age statement on the label.”

According to Rift, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, regulates the correct labeling of bourbon bottles.

“Anytime you’re putting something on your label, whether it’s bourbon whiskey, straight bourbon whiskey, straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey, those regulations are kind of checked by the TTB,” she said. “If you were to say Kentucky bourbon and you actually made and aged all of your products in Indiana, then you would get dinged by the TTB.”

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Why is so much bourbon produced in Kentucky?

In the end, climate and history are the driving forces behind Kentucky’s whiskey production.

“The first settlers of Kentucky were well-versed in preserving grains—specifically corn—and distilling their leftover harvest,” O’Donnell explains in her article. “These early immigrants began producing bourbon-style whiskey in Kentucky as early as the late 1700s.

Kentucky’s severe winters and hot summers continue to provide a suitable maturation environment for bourbon today.

“As whiskey ages, it relies on the temperature and humidity to give it both its gorgeous color and delightful flavors of vanilla and honey,” O’Donnell said.

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