Binny’s Mailbag: Finished Bourbon

What could be more tempting than sneaking a peek at somebody’s mail? Here’s your chance to see the kinds of letters we get every day. Have a question of your own? Email us at spirits@binnys.com. wine@binnys.com or beer@binnys.com.

 

“…

I am extremely concerned about whiskeys being called bourbon, yet being aged in sherry/wine/brandy casks. Isn’t there a strict law about what can and cannot be called bourbon?

-YK

…”

 

Angel's Envy

Hi YK!

Yes and no. The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (pdf) covers what needs to happen to whiskey before it can be called bourbon:

 

  • It has to be made from at least 51% corn.
  • It has to be aged in NEW, charred oak barrels.
  • It can’t be distilled higher than 160 proof and can’t be put into a barrel for aging at higher than 125 proof.
  • It has to be bottled at 80 proof or higher.

 

Bourbon that you see with sherry or port cask aging is FINISHED in those casks. These bourbons generally spend several years in the legally required new charred oak barrels, and then are finished in refilled port, sherry or whatever barrels for a short time, usually 3-9 months. Angel’s Envy is a great example of this – a bourbon that saw years in charred oak barrels that then sees extra time finishing in port casks, giving it its characteristic gobs of round fruit.

 

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