Trying to read a bourbon label can be challenging. But if you know the procedures and all that is involved, it may help you find a needle in the haystack that will blow your socks off.

A bourbon label typically gives you the age, state, and brand. And, with these, you can easily lay your hands on the dram of your liking and speak in-depth about the drink.

Brand and Distillery 

  • The most striking and vivid detail on a bourbon label is the name of the brand or distillery. This is what sets the bottle apart and gives the first impression of the drink to the customer. However, there are more interesting things to it. Generally, the brand name gives the details of the distillery where the bourbon was produced.


  • Mentioned right below the brand and distillery, the age of the drink is the next most distinguishable detail on a bourbon label. Bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. Nonetheless, there are many instances in which the bourbon brand does not reveal the age of the dram. These are branded as no age statements. In the U.S., the lack of an age statement on bourbon is not uncommon. Bourbon whiskeys only display an age statement if the whiskey used is under four years old. Like scotch, a blended Bourbon’s age statement must reflect the age of the youngest Bourbon used. But this doesn’t imply that the higher the age, the better the bourbon. The alcohol ages as long as it sits in the oak barrel.

Type of Barrel  

  • Bourbons are stored in new charred oak barrels and corn whiskey, which contains at least 80 percent corn, is stored in a used charred oak barrel or in a new un-charred oak barrel. Straight whiskies, aged for two years straight, mature in new oak barrels while straight corn whiskey can be aged in new un-charred ones as well.

Bourbon State and Type 

  • Another unmissable detail on the label, mentioned below the brand and age, is the state and the type of bourbon that is in the bottle. All the details are mentioned on the label. This gives information about the state which may affect the aroma and flavor undertones of the pour.

Alcohol Content

  • Needless to say, the alcohol content is what defines the quality and the type of whisky that is being produced. This is denoted by the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage or by the term ‘Proof’ for American bourbons. The latter is just twice the ABV; which means 80-proof denoted 40 % ABV. Bourbons are distilled at not more than 160 proof and then stored at less than 125 proof and corn whiskey is stored at 160 proof. The coveted ‘bonded’ or ‘bottled-in-bond’ bourbon has 100 ABV or 50-proof and is produced in a single distilling season (January to December). It is then matured for four years under the US government’s supervision. This American whiskey label must specify the distillery and other details of bottling as the government takes responsibility for its safety.

Size of the Bottle 

  • Regular bourbon drinkers can easily guess the bottle size by taking a glance at it. However, you can simply eliminate all the guesswork and be sure of the volume by a quick look at the whisky label.

Other Details 

  • The Expression is another detail that you may or may not find in most details these days. Brands mostly give their or the distillery’s name which is popularly known, along with the age. However, to commemorate special occasions or to attract audience attention, some special expressions are launched. Another term that might be printed on the whisky label is small batch. This generally indicates a handcrafted limited edition release but it is commonly used as a marketing strategy to attract buyers.

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