In most places around the world, the term “bourbon” is restricted to bourbon which is specifically made in the United States. But the name “bourbon” is synonymous with Kentucky. Ninety-five percent of the world’s bourbon whiskey is produced in Ky, where an abundant source of limestone-filtered water is credited by many as the reason bourbon is Kentucky’s signature spirit.

Bourbon produced for U.S. consumption is required to be made from a grain mixture that contains at least 51% corn and aged in new, charred oak barrels. In addition, it must be distilled to not more than 160 proof, set for aging in the barrel at 125 proof or less, and bottled at no less than 80 proof.

Bourbon has no aging requirement with the exception of “straight” bourbons, which must be aged for a minimum of two years.

Often caramel or amber in color, bourbon can offer a wide variety of complex flavors to the palate, from fruit to toffee to hints of honey. Bourbon notes and flavors may also evolve as a sip goes from start to finish.

Enthusiasts may drink the best Kentucky bourbon straight, with ice (“on the rocks”) or with a few drops of water. Bourbon may also be mixed with soft drinks or other drinks (iced tea for example). It is the key ingredient for the mint julep and bourbon ball candies, and is becoming ever more popular in cooking and gourmet recipes.

For more on the best Kentucky bourbon, visit Bourbon Country, or better yet, experience the bourbon-making process on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail. You can tour distilleries around the state and learn everything there is to know about what goes into each outstanding bottle of bourbon — then purchase a bottle to enjoy at home.