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Distinctly sweeter than its Scottish and Irish counterparts, American whiskey includes bourbon, rye, Tennessee, and corn whiskey. Bourbon undoubtedly encompasses the lion’s share of the category with the bulk of its production centered in Kentucky, where the rare bottles of Pappy Van Winkle were made. This brown spirit is made with a mashbill of minimum 51 percent corn, usually mixed with rye and malted barley, and aged in new oak barrels. Bourbon was declared the country’s native spirit by a 1964 Congressional resolution.
Before Prohibition, rye was the spirit most Americans preferred in cocktails such as the Manhattan and Old-Fashioned. After decades of preferring milder bourbon, today imbibers once again covet rye’s spicy, peppery bite. Tennessee whiskey—of which Jack Daniel’s is the most famous example—essentially undergoes the same distillation process as bourbon, but is also slowly filtered through sugar-maple charcoal.
Corn whiskey, most commonly dubbed moonshine or white lightning, has made a significant comeback among small-batch distillers. Without being mellowed in wood, the clear, robust spirit is often rough around the edges.
Bourbon was likely named for the royal House of Bourbon, the 16th-century rulers of France, Naples, and Luxembourg
The Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 is a protective measure against ill-made whiskies that led to a tradition of well-regarded liquor
George Washington distilled rye at Mount Vernon and his preference for the spirit sparked the 1791 Whiskey Rebellion
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