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Bourbon is America’s whiskey. By definition, bourbon is at least 51 percent corn, produced in the United States, and aged in new, charred oak barrels for at least two years. It doesn’t, contrary to popular belief, have to be made in Kentucky.

When it comes to whiskey, it commonly comes down to bourbon vs rye or bourbon vs Scotch. There’s plenty of good bourbon out there for competitions like that, but it’s not all about ratings. Some of the best brands like Jim Beam, Four Roses, and Maker’s Mark taste just as good neat as they do in classic cocktails like the Manhattan, Mint Julep, and Old Fashioned. Read VinePair’s full bourbon guide for everything you need to know about America’s whiskey.

Bourbon is a type of whiskey, made with a mixture of grains (mash bill) containing at least 51 percent corn. Bourbon can be produced anywhere in the United States, not just Kentucky as is widely believed. The liquor must be distilled to no stronger than 160 proof, and the distillate must then enter charred new oak barrels at 125 proof or less.Bottles can be labeled “Straight Bourbon Whiskey” when they have aged in charred new oak for at least two years.

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