American Whiskey Types

June 28, 2011 01:17PM
American whiskey is distilled from a fermented mash of cereal grain. The production and labelling of American whiskey are governed by the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.
Outside of America, various other countries recognize certain types of American whiskey, such as Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey, as indigenous products of America that must be produced (although not necessarily bottled) in the America. When sold in another country, American whiskey may also be required to conform to other local product requirements that apply to whiskey in general when sold in that country, which may in some aspects involve stricter standards than the American. law.


Canadian law also requires that products labelled as Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey must satisfy the laws of the America that regulate its manufacture “for consumption in the America”. Some other countries do not specify this requirement. This distinction can be important, as American. regulations include substantial exemptions for products that are made for export rather than for consumption within America.

Some key types listed in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations are:

Rye whiskey, made from mash that consists of at least 51% rye.

Rye malt whiskey, made from mash that consists of at least 51% malted rye.

Malt whiskey, made from mash that consists of at least 51% malted barley.

Wheat whiskey, made from mash that consists of at least 51% wheat.

Bourbon whiskey, made from mash that consists of at least 51% corn (maize).

Corn whiskey, made from mash that consists of at least 80% corn (maize).

Unless the whiskey is labelled as blended, to be labelled as one of the types listed above, the whiskey must be distilled to not more than 80 percent alcohol by volume, and the addition of colouring, caramel and flavouring is prohibited. All of these except corn whiskey must be aged (at least briefly, although no minimum aging period is specified) in charred new oak containers. These restrictions do not exist for some similarly named products in some other countries, such as Canada. American corn whiskey does not have to be aged at all – but, if it is aged, it must be aged in un-charred oak barrels (either new or used).

If the aging for one of these types of whiskey reaches 2 years or beyond, and the whiskey has not been blended with any other spirits, colourings, or additives, the whiskey may additionally be called "Straight" – e.g. "straight rye whiskey".
Other types of American whiskey that are defined by federal regulations include the following:
Straight whiskey, (without reference to any particular grain) is a whiskey aged in charred new oak containers for 2 years or more, distilled at not more than 80 percent alcohol by volume, with no addition of colouring, caramel, or flavouring, and derived from less than 51% of any one grain.

Blended whiskey is a mixture which contains straight whiskey or a blend of straight whiskeys at not less than 20 percent on a proof gallon basis or in combination, whiskey or neutral spirits. The other 80 percent of the content may include un-aged grain distillates, grain neutral spirits, flavourings, and colourings.

Light whisky, which is produced in the United States at more than 80% alcohol by volume and stored in used or un-charred new oak containers.
Spirit whisky, which is a mixture of neutral spirits and at least 5% of certain stricter categories of whisky. However, it is important to note that these various labelling requirements and "standards of identity" do not apply to products for export from America. Thus, exported American whiskey may not meet the same labelling standards when sold in some markets.

Tennessee whiskey is another important American whiskey labelling.
There are only four brands of Tennessee whiskey that are currently bottled:
Jack Daniel's, George Dickel, Benjamin Prichard's and Collier and McKeel.

Tennessee whiskey is a recognized name defined under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a Straight Bourbon Whiskey lawfully produced in the state of Tennessee. Three of the four brands of currently produced Tennessee whiskey use a production process that involves a filtering stage called the Lincoln County Process, in which the whiskey is filtered through a thick layer of maple charcoal before it is put into casks for aging. Aside from the NAFTA definition, Tennessee whiskey is not otherwise officially recognized as a type of whiskey in the U.S. federal regulations, and it has no other strict legal definition.

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