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American Whiskey

Education: American Whiskey

American whiskey is distilled from a fermented mash of cereal grain. It must have the taste, aroma, and other characteristics commonly attributed to whiskey.

Some types of whiskey listed in the United States federal regulations are:
  • Bourbon whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% corn (maize). 
  • Corn whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 80% corn. 
  • Malt whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% malted barley 
  • Rye whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% rye. 
  • Rye malt whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% malted rye.
  • Wheat whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% wheat. 
These above-listed types of American whiskey must be distilled to no more than 80% alcohol by volume, and any addition of coloring or flavoring is prohibited. These whiskeys must then be aged in new charred-oak containers, except for corn whiskey. Corn whiskey does not have to be aged but, if it is aged, it must be in un-charred oak barrels or un-charred used barrels. The aging of corn whiskey usually is brief, e.g., six months.
 
If the aging for one of these types of whiskey reaches two years or beyond, the whiskey is then additionally designated as "straight" e.g., "straight rye whiskey". A whiskey that fulfils all these above requirements except that it is derived from less than 51% of any one specific type of grain can be called simply a "straight whiskey" without naming a grain.
 
There are also other some categories of whiskey that are recognized in the U.S. regulations, such as:
 
  • Blended whisky, which is a mixture which contains straight whisky or a blend of straight whiskies and, separately or in combination, whiskey or neutral spirits, and may also contain flavorings and colorings. 
  • Light whisky, which is produced in the United States at more than 80% alcohol by volume and stored in used or uncharred new oak containers. 
  • Spirit whisky, which is a mixture of neutral spirits and at least 5% of certain stricter categories of whisky. 
American blended whiskeys combine straight whiskey with grain neutral spirits (GNS), flavorings and colorings. The percentage of GNS must be disclosed on the label and may be as much at 80% on a proof gallon basis. Blended whiskey has the same alcohol content as straight whiskey but typically has a milder flavor.
 
Another important labeling in the marketplace is Tennessee whiskey, of which Jack Daniel's, George Dickel, Collier and McKeel, and Benjamin Prichard's are the only brands currently bottled. In practice, it is essentially identical to bourbon whiskey. Whiskey sold as "Tennessee whiskey" is defined as Bourbon under NAFTA and at least one other international trade agreement, and is similarly required to meet the legal definition of Bourbon under Canadian law. However, some makers of Tennessee whiskey do not label their product as Bourbon and insist that it is a different type of whiskey when marketing their product. Three of the four currently produced brands of Tennessee whiskey are filtered through sugar maple charcoal, which is claimed to remove some unpleasant flavors and odors and produce a cleaner spirit.

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