September is Bourbon Heritage Month. Here's everything you need to know about bourbon, the quintessential American spirit.

The calendar is filled with made-up holidays like National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12) and National Hug Your Cat Day (June 4). But National Bourbon Heritage Month is very real. In fact, it was established as a holiday by the US Senate back in 2007, which means that we all get a full 30 days to celebrate bourbon. And celebrate it we shall.

First, see our primer on bourbon. Then behold: 13 fun facts about this quintessential American spirit.

  1. In 1964, Congress recognized bourbon as a “distinctive product of the United States.”
  2. Bourbon is most closely associated with Kentucky, but it can be produced anywhere in the United States, with bourbon distillers located in California, Texas, New York, and everywhere between.
  3. Bourbon must be comprised of at least 51% corn, and can be composed of nothing besides water, grains, and yeast.
  4. Bourbon must be distilled to no higher than 160 proof (80% ABV).
  5. Bourbon cannot enter a barrel any higher than 125 proof.
  6. Bourbon must be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof.
  7. Bourbon must be aged in new charred oak barrels.
  8. Bourbon has no minimum aging requirement, but to be labeled “straight bourbon,” the product must be aged at least two years. Any bourbon aged less than four years must include an age statement on the label.
  9. Unlike rum and certain other spirits, a bourbon’s stated age must be that of the youngest whiskey in the bottle.
  10. There are more bourbon barrels in Kentucky than there are people. 
  11. Bourbon takes its name from Bourbon County, Kentucky, which takes its name from the French royal family.
  12. Bourbon County was ravaged by Prohibition, and no whiskey was produced (legally) in the county between the years of 1919 and 2014.
  13. The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is held each September in Bardstown, KY to honor and showcase the bourbon making process and the storied history of this Kentucky-centric industry. It began in 1991 as a bourbon tasting and dinner, and has grown tremendously since then. In recent years, more than 50,000 people have attended from all over the world.

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  • Kevin Gray Kevin Gray says:

    Hi Frederic — that’s a great point, and an old stat leftover from the original version of this story. We’ve updated that entry. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • The 95% Kentucky claim was made as an off the cuff comment and has been repeated ever since. Considering how much Bourbon comes out of Indiana these days, it is hard to use a number that high.

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