American whiskey is commonly divided into six categories; Bourbon, Tennessee, Rye, Wheat, Corn and Blended whiskey. The categories are created by differences in the type and amount of grains used during the mashing and in storage time.
Bourbon: Because of the fact that almost all Bourbon is made in Kentucky many people believe this is a requirement, but in fact Bourbon may be produced in any state. The only prerequisites are that it must be made in the US, contain at least 51 percent corn and that it must be stored for at least two years in new, charred oak barrels. Lastly, the raw spirit may not be distilled to more than 80 percent alcohol by volume. Two examples of Bourbon are Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark.
Tennessee: Tennessee whiskey is closely related to Bourbon but there are a few differences; Tennessee whiskey must be produced in the state of Tennessee and is always filtered through sugar-maple charcoal. The filtering process usually takes 10 days to complete. There are only two active Tennessee Whiskey brands: Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel.
Rye and Wheat: Only a small amount of Rye whisky is bottled as Straight Rye Whiskey – most of it is used in blending to add character to other whiskeys. To be called a Rye whiskey, the spirit must be made from at least 51 percent rye, distilled at less than 80 percent and stored in new, charred oak barrels for at least two years. Rye whiskey is slightly more powerful and bitter than Bourbon. Most current Rye whiskies are made in Indiana and Kentucky. Wheat whiskey must be made from at least 51 percent of wheat and is quite uncommon. An example of a Rye whiskey is Wild Turkey Straight Rye Whiskey.
Corn: This type of American whiskey was developed due to the abundant supply of corn, and is a predecessor to Bourbon. As the name suggests corn is the main ingredient; the mash must consist of at least 80 percent corn. Another difference between Corn Whiskey and Bourbon is that Corn whiskey does not have to be aged in wood. If Corn Whiskey is to be aged, any maturation must be done in either un-charred barrels or used Bourbon barrels.
Blended: Blended American whiskey only contains 20 percent of Rye and Bourbon whiskey; the remaining 80 percent are made up of a neutral mass-produced industrial spirit. As a result, American blended whiskey is very cheap. It is also much lighter than for example Tennessee and Bourbon whiskies.
Our pick: Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon