Over the past decade, bourbon has exploded in popularity. According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, “America’s native spirit” is an $8.5 billion industry that employs more than 17,000 people in Kentucky alone. There are more than 6.6 million barrels of bourbon aging in the state, enough to supply each Kentuckian with a barrel and a half of whiskey.
Whiskey can be classified as bourbon as long as it adheres to several rules: the mash bill must be at least 51% corn, it must be aged in new charred oak barrels, it must be distilled to no more than 160 proof, put into barrels at no more than 125 proof, and bottled at no less than 80 proof. To be called straight bourbon, it must be aged for at least two years. One common misperception is that bourbon has to be distilled in Kentucky, which is not true — it can be distilled anywhere in America as long as it adheres to these rules.
Distilleries continue to open across the country, making uniquely regional styles by experimenting with percentages of other grains in the mash bill (rye, wheat, barley, oats, etc.), barrel sizes, still types and even barrel finishes. Small distilleries often work with local farmers to source their grains, and the aging process of the bourbon varies greatly depending on the particular climate, from the hot and humid South to the frigid tundra of Alaska.
View the photo gallery above to find examples of bourbon made in every state in the country (and D.C.), and see more 50 states of spirits below.