By Herb Sparrow
Bourbon can be distilled anywhere in the United States, but it has to be made in this country alone by act of Congress.
Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels.
All bourbon must be distilled from at least 51 percent corn. Different distilleries use different recipes: Some use more corn; some add rye, barley, wheat and other grains. But all are required to use at least 51 percent corn.
When bourbon leaves the still for the last time, just before barreling, it cannot exceed 160 proof. Bourbon needs to be no more than 125 proof when it’s put inside the barrel.
When bottled, all bourbons must be at least 80 proof, although many will exceed this.
Bourbon cannot be enhanced with any artificial colorings or additives at any point in the process.
Hit the Trail!
Each of the seven distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail offers a distinct visitor experience. All offer tastings of their famous products.
A new visitor center last year was added to the distillery’s unusual Spanish Mission-style architecture. The original buildings were built in 1910 on the banks of the scenic Salt River.
Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center
Three types of tours ranging from a half-hour to 75 minutes are offered from the sleek center. Groups can visit the rickhouse where thousands of barrels of bourbon are carefully aged, and have a tasting of the company’s signature products.
Tours that begin in the large two-story still house that was dedicated last fall provide an extensive look at Jim Beam’s large distilling facilities; they include opportunities to pour grain into a cooker and help fill a bourbon barrel. The unusual tasting experience features self-service dispensing machines representing all of the company’s brands.