What Is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey?

A bourbon is an American Whiskey, with corn being the primary in its mash — at the least, 51%. Outside of this fundamental rule, there are a few other laws whiskey makers have to adhere to — in order to qualify and officially be eligible to label their product as a “bourbon.”

So, What Is a Straight Bourbon Whiskey?

A straight bourbon whiskey is obviously a bourbon at its core, but it differs slightly. The salient characteristics of a straight bourbon whiskey are:

  1. First & foremost, it has to be aged for a bare minimum of 2 years, and in new charred oak barrels. The emphasis on the word “new” should be noted here as other whiskeys other than bourbon can utilize used barrels. It’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, as both end up producing some finest whiskeys out there; but, a distinction nonetheless.
  2. If a straight bourbon is aged less than four years, it needs to be specified on a bottle with an age statement. Moreover, note that the statement needs to declare the age of the youngest spirit.
  3. There can be no added flavorings or colorings.

Defining Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

At the end of the day, a “Kentucky straight bourbon” is nothing but a straight bourbon whiskey with at least 51% of corn grain in a mash and one that is produced in the state of Kentucky.

Some of the resonating and must-try Kentucky Straight Bourbons are produced from brands that have permeated our everyday lives. A few prominent ones are:

  • Maker’s Mark
  • Basil Hayden’s
  • Woodford Reserve
Basil Hayden's Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
Basil Hayden’s Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. Image source: Total Wine & More.

It should be noted that although bourbons are usually associated with being produced in Kentucky, any region in the United States can participate in such an enjoyable activity. However, in general, bourbons can only be made in the U.S.

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How To Drink a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

There aren’t any legally defined rules on how to consume one’s drink. Ask ten random folks, and they might have their own style of quaffing this fine spirit. Taste is something that can be debated for a lifetime, and no one will be none the wiser.

The best solution for trying out a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey is to imbibe it neat the first time. Drinking a whiskey neat at room temperatures is ideal for assimilating its authentic taste, feel, and aroma — unless otherwise recommended from the distillery itself. And of course, modifications can be made by adding ice, water, mixer, juice, what have you, but if you’re spending your money on some fantastic bourbons out there, you owe it to yourself to get the real taste by sipping it neat. If not always, then at least once.