Different Brands/Makers Of Bourbon, What Does Proof In Alcohol Mean?
Bourbon has been linked to American history. It was the drink of choice for the pioneers of the country in a time when gunslingers roamed the land. It was in this time, when the country was young, that the term proof came about.
Many liquor salesmen would try to water their product down so they could sell more of it. That is when the consumers began to gauge the liquor with a rudimentary test. The bourbon would be pour over a small amount of gun powder and then the fumes would be lit with a match. A bad bourbon would wet the powder and not ignite. A good bourbon, packed full of alcohol, would burn blue and then ignite the powder underneath. This “proved” that the alcohol was up to par; it was proof.
The term proof is still used to prove the alcohol content of bourbon, but without the gun powder. Bourbon makers are required to list the proof of the liquor on the bottle. You’re likely to see 80 proof on a bottle of bourbon, which translates into 40% alcohol content. Proof is simply twice the percentage of alcohol inside the bottle.
Bourbon makers know that, to be legally called bourbon, the liquor must be at least 80 proof. You might be shocked to know that only a few different companies actually make bourbon in the United States. There are distinctly different labels and different styles of bourbon, but chances are that they are owned by Beam Inc., Heaven Hill, Sazerac or Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. Most of the bourbon sold commercially in liquor stores will be owned by these companies.
The mass produced brands of bourbon will likely be aged in larger barrels. These include makes like Jim Beam, Evan Williams or Wild Turkey. This means that the flavor will be much more mellow than small batch bourbons. The liquor has less contact with the wood of the barrel and will absorb less of the flavor. Although, there are whiskey lovers out there that swear by large barrel aging saying that it imparts level of flavor.
Some small batch bourbons will be very flavorful. Makes like Knob Hill and Woodford Reserve are owned by larger companies, but distill their own style of bourbon. Smaller barrels mean more contact with the wood and sharper flavors being imparted into the bourbon. The important thing is to do your research when looking to purchase a bottle of bourbon.