Have you ever been inside your local liquor store browsing the whiskey section and find yourself trying to make sense of the label? Distillers can put things on the label that have very little meaning at all. But there are things American whiskey distillers are forced to abide by if they want there product to be labeled as bourbon, rye, wheat, corn or straight whiskey .
Mainly what determines a whiskey’s label is what it’s made of (it’s mash bill) American whiskey is usually made up of three ingredients corn, rye and barley. In some cases distillers will substitute the rye for wheat to get a somewhat lighter, smoother flavor.
Bourbon – must have a mash bill made up of at least 51% corn.
Rye – must have a mash bill made up of at least 51% rye.
Wheat - must have a mash bill made up of at least 51% wheat.
Corn – must have a mash bill made up of at least 80% corn.
Got that? Good because that’s not all that.
The whiskey coming off the still cannot exceed 160 proof and then must be diluted down to at least 125 proof before it enters the barrels for aging. The whiskey is aged in new, charred-American Oak barrels. Once the distillers find the whiskey to their liking they must bottle the whiskey at no less than 80 proof.
Now that we got that out of the way let’s move on to the definition of straight whiskey.
Straight whiskey, whether it be straight rye or straight bourbon, has to do with the aging process. Whiskey label straight and has been aged for at least 2 years, if however it is aged under four years it must be labeled with an age statement to be labeled straight whiskey.
Well there you have it a breakdown of the whiskey label. It may be a bit confusing at first but after awhile you’ll find yourself looking for marking on the label and know exactly what it means.