American whiskey history facts brands

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With new bars from Brooklyn to San Francisco devoting shelves and shelves to everything from Jack Daniel’s to small-batch bourbons, it’s never been easier to become acquainted with American Whiskey, The U.S. of A.’s most potent, ballsy, rip-roaring spirit.

So what is American whiskey, exactly?

For one thing, it’s not just bourbon. There’s rye, Tennessee, corn, and more recently, other, unofficial styles from microdistilleries cropping up everywhere from New York to Michigan to California. And although no one is saying scotch is crap (the Scots and Irish were the ones to bring whiskey to the States, after all), the American variety can be much more approachable—it’s noticeably sweeter, not as smoky, and for the most part, less expensive. Generally, American whiskey is made up of a mixture of corn, rye, wheat, and barley (collectively referred to as the mash) and is aged in charred-oak barrels, but each variety has its own characteristics.

Read more: American Whiskey History Facts Brands: Wine + Cocktails: GQ