In 1870, George Garvin Brown, founder of Old Forester, created the first bottled bourbon. Bottled and sealed, his signature guaranteed quality. But why does Old Forester call it whisky? And is bourbon different than whiskey or whisky? Here’s your quick lesson.
By definition, bourbon must be 51 percent corn, distilled to no more than 160 proof, barreled at 125 proof, aged in new, charred oak barrels, and made in the United States. But even here, there are rules keeping brands from calling their bourbon a “straight bourbon.” In order to be considered “straight bourbon”, it must be aged in its charred oak cask for a minimum of two years. If bourbon is aged less than four years, the age of the bourbon must be included on the label.
Now for the difference between between whisky and whiskey. In the Irish spelling, “whiskey” includes an extra ‘e’ whereas the Scottish spelling excludes the ‘e’. This is due to differences in translation in Scottish and Gaelic. American whiskies typically use Irish spelling with the extra ‘e’ as well, although Scottish and American whiskies are usually distilled twice while Irish whiskies are distilled three times.
So from what we have learned, we now know that Old Forester definitely meets each of the rules necessary to call itself a bourbon, and even a straight bourbon. However, Brown decided to call Old Forester “Straight Bourbon Whisky,” paying homage to his Scottish roots while respecting the sanctity of Kentucky Bourbon.