Bourbon is undeniably on a major roll. Over the last few years, sales of the whiskey have shot up around the world. While we love that bars and stores now boast big selections of the spirit, we still hear plenty of misinformation about the liquor. So to set the record straight, we’ve debunked some of the most common bourbon myths. Cheers!
Jack Daniel’s is bourbon.
An easy bar bet to win is to ask your friends to find the word “bourbon” on a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. You’ll stump them every time, since the spirit is a Tennessee whiskey, not a bourbon. What’s the difference? Jack Daniel’s goes through a special charcoal-filtering process before it’s put into barrels.
All bourbon is made in Kentucky.
While most bourbon comes from the Bluegrass State (according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, 95 percent of the planet’s supply is born there), by law the alcohol can be distilled anywhere in the United States. And we’ve tasted bourbons from across the country, like those from Upstate New York’s Tuthilltown Spirits and Chicago’s Few Spirits.
Older bourbon is better.
Nearly every week, we’re asked about super-premium and super-old bourbons such as Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Years Old and Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old. Though these bottlings are beloved by bartenders and drinkers, they are really the exception and not the norm. Older bourbon isn’t necessarily better: If the spirit spends too long in a barrel, all you’ll taste is the wood.
You can’t add ice & mixers.
Don’t let anybody tell you how to drink your whiskey. You should enjoy it any way you want. And in fact, a bit of water helps open up the bourbon just as it does Scotch. If you want to add ice, use a jumbo cube that chills thoroughly but melts slowly. Bourbon is also, of course, delicious in cocktails. We particularly like it in a simple and refreshing Presbyterian and the classic Mint Julep.
Bourbon is made from a secret recipe.
While there are many bourbons on store shelves, there are just three basic formulas for making the liquor. Knowing which ones your favorites employ will help you discover new brands that you’ll also like. Check out our list of recipes and corresponding whiskies, which we compiled with bourbon expert Bernie Lubbers.
Learn more about bourbon and get lots more cocktail recipes in our bourbon guide.