cocktail education

What is a Kentucky Straight bourbon?

In this new edition, the Profesor explains what a bourbon is, and what a Kentucky Straight type bourbon is.

You have already read it in bourbon bottles such as those of Jim Beam or Maker’s Mark, the “Kentucky Straight” label has a reason to be. But first, we will briefly explain what a bourbon is.


What is a bourbon?

A bourbon is a type of American whiskey. To produce it you need a recipe (called mash, a mixture of grains from which the product is distilled) with a minimum of 51% corn. The mash is distilled at 160 proof or less. The distillate must then be stored in new charred oak barrels at 125 proof or less, and must not contain any additives. (Source: World Whisky Scotch Association).


Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Now, with this in mind, let’s talk about Kentucky Straight bourbon. This type of bourbon needs to follow certain guidelines to qualify as such.

First, it is necessary to adhere to the rules of a Straight Bourbon:

 It must be made in the United States (any state, not just Kentucky). Contain at least 51% corn in the mash bill. Must be distilled at no more than 160 proof. Encapsulate at no more than 125 proof. Must be placed in a new charred oak containers (not necessarily a barrel)  .

Bourbon barrels in a distillery

Second, in addition to following the guidelines for a Straight bourbon, it must be aged in the charred oak barrel for at least two years. In case it has been aged less than 4 years, it is necessary to indicate it on the label.

Third, and finally, to classify as a Kentucky Straight Bourbon it is necessary to follow the guidelines of the Straight Bourbon and also to have been distilled and aged for at least 1 year in Kentucky.


Some Kentucky Straight bourbon whiskeys

Buffalo Trace

Four Roses

Heaven Hill

Jim Beam

Maker’s Mark

Wild Turkey

Woodford Reserve


How to taste a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey?

Although purists like to drink it neat at room temperature (no ice!), you can add a few drops of water to air it out and open up the bourbon aromas. To taste it this way, it is advisable to use a glass called a brandy snifter, a short-stemmed, balloon-shaped glass.


Bourbon is very versatile and can also be enjoyed in cocktails.

The Kentucky Mule – recipe by mixologist Bobby Neal

1.5 oz of Buffalo Trace Bourbon

0.5 ml of orange juice

4 oz of ginger beer


Garnish: orange slice

Type of glass: copper mug

Preparation: combine bourbon and ginger beer in the cup with ice. Add orange juice. Mix with a stirring stick. Decorate with an orange slice.


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