Welcome to the second instalment of our World of Whisk(e)y series! In this post, we will be discussing America. As the birthplace of bourbon, America is a key player in the world of whisky.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the distilleries and brands that make America one of the most important whisky-producing countries in the world.
A brief history of American whisk(e)y
Whisky has been produced in America since the early 18th century. The first commercial distillery was set up in Pennsylvania in 1753, and by the late 18th century, there were around 200 distilleries operating across the country.
The American whisky industry really began to take off in the early 19th century, thanks to a number of factors including the availability of corn (a key ingredient in bourbon), an increase in demand for whisky due to the popularity of cocktails, and improved transportation infrastructure which made it easier to transport spirits around the country.
During Prohibition (1920-1933), many distilleries were forced to close down but some managed to stay afloat by producing alcohol for medicinal purposes. After Prohibition was repealed, the American whisky industry slowly began to rebuild.
Today, there are hundreds of distilleries across the United States producing a wide variety of whiskies. bourbon is by far the most popular type of American whisky, but other styles such as rye, Tennessee whiskey, and wheat whiskey are also produced.
So whether you’re looking for a classic bourbon to sip on neat or something a little more experimental, you’re sure to find an American whisky that suits your taste.
American Whiskey Consumption
Theres no doubt that whiskey is a popular spirit across the USA. But have you ever wondered which states consume the most?
Our handy map shows the percentage of whiskey sales across the total spirit sales in that state across a 52 week period, which ended 17th April 2021. (Data source: NielsenIQ)
Top 5 states
- Kentucky – 45.9%
- Indiana – 26.7%
- West Virginia – 26.5%
- North Carolina – 25.7%
- Missouri – 25.2%
Types of American whiskey
There are four main types of American whiskey: bourbon, rye, Tennessee whiskey, and wheat whiskey.
Bourbon is the most popular type of American whiskey and is made with at least 51% corn. The rest of the grain bill is typically made up of wheat, rye, or barley. Bourbon must be aged in new charred oak barrels and can’t contain any added flavours or colours.
Rye whiskey is made with at least 51% rye and is often spicier than other types of whiskey. It can be made with any combination of grains, but the most common are rye, corn, and barley. Rye whiskey must be aged in new charred oak barrels and can’t contain any added flavours or colours.
Tennessee whiskey is a type of bourbon that is produced in Tennessee. The main difference between Tennessee whiskey and bourbon is that Tennessee whiskey must be filtered through sugar maple charcoal before it is aged in new charred oak barrels. This process gives Tennessee whiskey a unique flavour that many people enjoy.
Wheat whiskey is made with a mash bill that is at least 51% wheat. Wheat whiskey is usually lighter and sweeter than other types of whiskey. It can be made with any combination of grains, but the most common are wheat, rye, and barley. Wheat whiskey must be aged in new charred oak barrels and can’t contain any added flavours or colours.
Blended whiskey is a mix of two or more types of straight whiskies. The most common type of blended whiskey is Scotch whisky, which is a blend of malt whisky and grain whisky. Blended whiskies are usually lighter and less complex than single malt or single grain whiskies.
American whisky flavour profile
As there are four different types of American whisky, there can be a lot of variation in flavour.
Bourbon tends to be the sweetest, while rye is the spiciest. Wheat whiskey is somewhere in between, and corn whiskey is the lightest and most neutral-tasting.
This range of flavours is due to the different types of grain that are used in each type of whisky. It means that there is a whisky out there to suit every palate.
Popular American Whiskies
There are a range of popular American whiskies, including:
The Jim Beam distillery was founded in 1795 and is one of the oldest bourbon producers in the US. It is now run by the seventh generation of the Beam family.
Jim Beam bourbons are some of the most popular on the market, and they offer a range of flavours to suit every taste.
Maker’s Mark is a small-batch bourbon that is hand-crafted in Loretto, Kentucky. It is made using a unique red winter wheat which gives it its distinctive flavour.
Buffalo Trace is another small-batch bourbon that is produced in Frankfort, Kentucky. It is made using a variety of different grains, including corn, rye and wheat.
Bulleit Bourbon is a high-rye bourbon that is produced in Shelbyville, Kentucky. It is made using a recipe that dates back to the early 1800s.
Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey that is produced in Lynchburg, Tennessee. It is made using a process known as the Lincoln County Process, which involves filtering the whiskey through sugar maple charcoal.
Wild Turkey is a bourbon that is produced in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. It is made using a mash bill that consists of 51% corn, 37% rye and 12% barley.
Knob Creek is a bourbon that is produced in Clermont, Kentucky. It is made using a mash bill that consists of 60% corn, 36% rye and 12% barley, which gives it a higher rye content than most bourbons.
There are many different types of American whiskies, each with its own unique flavour profile.
The America whisky secondary market
The American whisky secondary market is thriving, with many collectors seeking out rare and limited edition bottlings.
While bourbon is the most well-known type of American whiskey, there are actually many different types of American whiskies, each with its own unique flavour profile.
The American whisky secondary market is also thriving, with many collectors seeking out rare and limited edition bottlings.
So, whether you’re a bourbon fan or not, there’s sure to be an American whiskey that’s perfect for you.