Cracking the Code: Whiskey Labels

Cracking the Code: Whiskey Labels

Whiskey Labels
Whiskey Labels

by Stephen Netherton

Have you ever looked over a whiskey bottle’s label and thought, “what does that phrase mean?” Or, have you been curious about why particular terminology seems to be present on most bottles, but some is unique to a particular brand? And most important of all – what is fluff and what is legitimate?

Being an informed consumer helps to avoid potential buyer’s remorse. Believe it or not, many federal regulations address the particular phrasing permitted on whiskey labels. However, not everything on the label is subject to regulation.

Below is an overview interpreting some of the common phrases, descriptors, and claims found on whiskey labels. It may not be the equivalent of Rosetta Stone, but it could save you from falling for a marketing ploy.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Bourbon Brands

By Scott Hill

“Can you taste that Jim Beam funk?”

“This has that typical Buffalo Trace sweetness.”

These, and many more, are all statements that I hear when sampling the many different whiskey brands produced by the small handful of extremely large and diverse bourbon producers.

These statements have often caused me to wonder what, if any, definable characteristics makes each bourbon product line* unique.  This post provides one man’s observations** of just that – six major bourbon distilleries and six basic descriptions of what to expect from each.

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