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100 Proof Whiskey Meaning: Alcohol Content Explained (2023)

What Does 100-Proof Whiskey Mean

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Lydia Martin

If you’ve ever been conversing with someone about whiskey (or alcohol in general), you may have mentioned the word “proof” several times.
Proof is the “proof of alcohol” that is in the spirit. The higher the proof, the more alcohol there is in the bottle. So what does 100 proof whiskey mean?
We’ll talk about that (and more) in today’s article.

What Does 100-Proof Whiskey Mean?

100-Proof Whiskey
A 100-proof whiskey means that the whiskey has 100-proof of alcohol. That doesn’t mean it’s 100 percent all alcohol, though.
The alcohol by volume, or ABV, is the amount of alcohol in the spirit. It is cited as half of the proof, so 100-proof alcohol has 50 percent ABV.
A 100-proof whiskey is pretty strong and can get you drunk quickly. Think of it this way: for every serving of a 100-proof whiskey, 50 percent of it is pure alcohol (ABV).
The term “proof” originated from soldiers in the British Royal Navy who doused their gunpowder in a bit of rum to test if its “alcohol proof” was high enough.
If it ignited whilst wet (the rum had to be around 57 percent ABV, or 114 proof), you had a bunch of very happy soldiers who’d merrily chug away at the rum. If it didn’t, well… you’ll probably feel the wrath of very armed soldiers. [1] Read: What is Whiskey Proof?

100-Proof Whiskey’s Alcohol Strength

A 100-proof whiskey’s alcohol strength is 50 percent of its volume. So if you were to pour a one-ounce whiskey into a glass, half-ounce of it is alcohol, and the rest is water.
Most standard whiskeys have 80 proof, or 40 percent ABV. A 110-proof alcohol has 55 percent ABV, 120-proof 60 percent ABV, and so on.
Whiskeys with higher proof tend to have an alcoholic burn on the nose and palate.
It is said that anything over 100 proof is considered high. However, you will find legal options in the market today that have anywhere from 151 to 190 proof.

Popular 100-Proof Whiskeys

Old Forester 100 Proof Signature Bourbon

Old Forester 100 Proof
Average Price: Around $30
Distillery: Old Forester
Tasting Notes:
The Old Forester 100 Proof Signature Bourbon is a classic bourbon bottle with a solid 100 proof.
It’s quite popular with bartenders because its unassuming, friendly flavor profile will marry well with other ingredients it’s mixed with. It has a sweet oak undertone, laced with dark chocolate, caramel, and cherry.
This one has a bit of a harsh alcoholic burn from the high proof, but not too much that it turns you off. All in all, a nice dram, but nothing too special.

Knob Creek 9-Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Knob Creek 9-Year
Average Price: Around $40
Distillery: Jim Beam
Tasting Notes:
The Knob Creek 9-Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is made with a corn-heavy mash bill and aged in American oak casks.
We find that this is one of Knob Creek’s best expressions. It has the sweetness of warm vanilla and brown sugar, contrasted by the zestiness of citrus and orange peel.
A dash of cinnamon and earthiness are peppered here and there. It has a medium-length finish that will leave your mouth feeling dry and satiated and ready to take another sip.
All in all, a great bang for your buck — it feels like an expensive drink for less than $50.

E.H. Taylor Four Grain 100 Proof Bourbon

E.H. Taylor Four Grain 100 Proof on desk
Average Price: Around $100
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Tasting Notes:
As the name suggests, the E.H. Taylor Four Grain 100 Proof Bourbon uses four types of grain for its mash bill — corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley — instead of the usual three.
This has a Bottled-In-Bond label, meaning it was produced in a single distillery during one distillation season by a single distiller.
Among the three, this one is the least harsh on both the nose and palate, which is surprising considering its high proof.
The golden spirit has a light aroma and a fruit-forward profile. Some people might find this dram too sweet, but those with a sweet tooth will gravitate towards this.


Can you drink 100-proof whiskey straight?
Yes, you can drink a 100-proof whiskey straight. However, expect it to sting a bit because the high alcohol heat will burn through your nose and palate.
If you can’t take the sting, it’s best to enjoy the dram with a bit of water or serve it on the rocks. But what’s the highest proof whiskey?
Is 100-proof whiskey flammable?
Yes, 100-proof whiskey is flammable. Its 50 percent water content would not be enough to extinguish the fire if you were to set the whiskey aflame accidentally.
A 100-proof whiskey also won’t hinder gunpowder’s ability to ignite if you were to douse it.

Final Thoughts

To put it simply, a 100-proof whiskey means that half of the liquid inside the bottle is straight-up alcohol, and half of it is water.
Proof is also referred to as alcohol by volume, or ABV. The ABV is considered half the proof, so a whiskey with 100 proof has a 50 percent ABV.
Any liquor that’s 100 proof and higher is considered a strong drink and can get you drunk easily if you’re not careful. The higher the proof of the alcohol you drink, the faster you’ll get drunk.
Whiskeys with 100 proof also tend to have an alcoholic burn on the nose and palate. Some people might find this too strong for their liking. Adding a bit of water or serving the dram on the rocks will do wonders in taming the high-proof whiskey.

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