If rosé was the unofficial drink of Summer then bourbon is fall’s alcoholic mascot. There are plenty of reasons to fall for bourbon as the seasons change and the temperatures drop but for many people the amber colored spirit remains a mystery. Here are some facts to help you get more acquainted.

American bourbon has to be made in the United States, not just Kentucky. Although somewhere around 96% is made in the commonwealth of Kentucky.

Barrels must be new, charred and oak. Most use American white oak, but that is not mandatory.

Corn is the primary grain in bourbon and needs to make up 51% of the recipe to be deemed bourbon. Most bourbons (not all) have somewhere between 70%-80% corn.

Distilled bourbon must be no higher than 160 proof or 80% abv (alcohol by volume).

Bourbon must be entered into the barrel at no higher than 125 proof or 62.5% abv to be called bourbon. This is called “Entry Proof”

Bourbon must be filled into the bottle at no less than 80 proof or 40% abv.

Genuine bourbon does not allow for any coloring, flavoring, alcohol or other additives once the whiskey leaves the barrel.

Much like choosing a good wine, finding the right bourbon can be a daunting task.

Philadelphia bourbon enthusiast and American Whiskey Ambassador Tim Heuisler says the trick is starting slow.

“For people interested in bourbon and trying it for the first time, I recommend starting with lower proof bourbon. I always recommend trying any Bourbon neat first. If it’s not quite what you were looking for, a dash of water or an ice cube could open it up a bit. Usually, bourbons lighter in color are going to be a bit more approachable, especially if you find yourself looking at a shelf — that is a great way to know which direction to go in,” Heuisler says.

If you find yourself easily overwhelmed, Heuisler has a few tips for finding what kinds of bourbon could be your best match based on your favorite flavors.

“For someone that likes spicier flavors, I would suggest the rye category — which is still an American bourbon. If you like sweeter flavors, I would suggest something like Maker’s Mark because the mash build used to make the bourbon tends to be on the sweeter side thanks to them using wheat instead of rye. For someone who likes rich or savory flavors, I would suggest Bakers or Knob Creek — both of these bourbons are full-bodied and have rich flavor profiles,” Heuisler says.

If all of this information has whet your appetite for more bourbon knowledge, Heuisler will be in Philadelphia this weekend as part of the free Bourbon Boxcar tour.

The Bourbon Boxcar event gives guests a hands on sensory experience of the journey bourbon has taken over the centuries to where it is today. The pop-up will transport you to parts of Kentucky so you can experience the spirit the way it was intended. This is an event for guests ages 21 and over. Those interested in attending must register at www.bourbonboxcar.com to secure their spot. Space is limited.

jperry@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5749

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