Does Bourbon Have To Be Made in Kentucky? (2023 Updated)

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Bourbon has a long and storied history, dating back to the early days of the American colonies. Since then, it has been an essential part of American culture, enjoyed by Presidents and everyday citizens alike.

But does bourbon have to be made in Kentucky? Let’s find out.

Should All Bourbon Be Made In Kentucky?

Cream of Kentucky

Not necessarily. There is no denying that Kentucky is the spiritual home of bourbon. The state’s climate and water supply are perfectly suited for distilling, and its long tradition of craftsmanship is unrivaled.

However, many other states also produce high-quality bourbon. Indiana, for example, has a similar climate to Kentucky and is home to several respected distilleries. Tennessee also has a strong bourbon tradition, with some of the most famous brands produced there.

So while Kentucky may be the undisputed king of bourbon, many other states also have a claim to the title. In the end, it’s up to the drinker to decide which bourbon they prefer.

Whether it’s from Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, or any other state, the important thing is that it’s delicious.

What Makes A Whiskey Bourbon? 

There are a few things that make a whiskey bourbon. First, it must be made in the United States. 

Second, it must be made from a grain mixture of at least 51% corn. 

Third, it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. Fourth, it must be distilled to no more than 160 proof and bottled at no less than 80 proof. 

Finally, it must not contain any additives. These requirements result in a spirit that is smooth, rich, and full of flavor. Learn how to make bourbon here

Some Bourbons Made Outside Kentucky 

Some Bourbons Made Outside Kentucky 

Remus Repeal Reserve Straight Bourbon

Remus Repeal Reserve is a 2018 limited release, straight bourbon whiskey from MGP of Indiana. The whiskey is aged in new, charred oak barrels and bottled at 47% ABV.  

Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon

Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Texas

Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon is made in Texas. The company produces small-batch bourbons made from local heirloom grains and aged in oak barrels for two years. 

The barrels are then stored in a temperature-controlled warehouse. This aging process gives the bourbon its unique flavor profile, including notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak.

Read: King of Kentucky Bourbon Guide

Oppidan Four Grain Straight (Batch 001)

Oppidan Four Grain Straight with glass on table

Batch 001 of Oppidan Four Grain Straight is made in the heart of America – straight from the good ol’ cornfields of Indiana. This golden spirit is distilled using a unique blend of four different grains, including corn, rye, wheat, and malt. The result is a smooth, well-rounded whiskey with hints of sweetness and spice.


5 States Where It Can Be Made 

5 States Where It Can Be Made 

1. Texas

Texas makes several bourbons. Some of the more well-known Texas whiskey brands include TX Blended Whiskey, Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky, and Yellow Rose Distilling Co.’s Outlaw Bourbon. 

TX Blended Whiskey is a blend of corn, rye, and barley aged in oak barrels. The Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whisky is made with blue corn sourced from local farms in Texas. The Yellow Rose Distilling Co.’s Outlaw Bourbon is made with rye, wheat, and corn. 

These bourbons are produced in small batches and are limited in availability. As a result, they are all highly sought after by bourbon aficionados.

2. New York

New York

New York bourbons have a mash of corn, rye, and barley like many bourbons. The climate in New York is perfect for aging bourbon, and the state’s regulations stipulate that the spirit must be aged for a minimum of two years in new, charred oak barrels. As a result, New York bourbons tend to be smooth and rich, with hints of vanilla and caramel. 

Some of the most popular New York bourbons include Finger Lakes Distilling Bourbon, Taconic Bourbon, and Hudson Baby Bourbon. Whether you’re looking for bourbon to sip neat or use in a cocktail, you can’t go wrong with a bottle from New York.

3. Illinois

Many different bourbons are made in Illinois, but some of the most popular include KOVAL and FEW. These brands have built up a loyal following among bourbon lovers for many years. 

Illinois also has several smaller craft distilleries producing some very exciting bourbons. So whether you’re looking for a classic bourbon or something new and innovative, you’re sure to find something to suit your taste in Illinois.

4. Washington


There are a lot of great bourbons made in Washington, but our personal favorite is Dry Fly bourbon. It’s made with a mix of corn and triticale [1], and it has a smooth flavor. The other great thing about Dry Fly is that they use locally sourced ingredients, so you know that you’re getting a high-quality product. 

We also really like their packaging – it’s simple and elegant, making the bourbon stand out on the shelf. 

5. Virginia

One of the most popular Virginia bourbons is Bowman Brothers, known for its unique flavor profile that includes vanilla, spice, and oak notes. If you’re looking for a truly special bourbon experience, check it out. 

This straight bourbon has a deep amber color and a rich, complex flavor that has earned it numerous awards. So whether you’re a bourbon fan or just getting started on your whiskey journey, be sure to give Virginia bourbons a try.


Can bourbon be distilled outside of Kentucky?

Yes. While bourbon does have a strong association with Kentucky, the fact is that it can be distilled anywhere in the United States. 

A whiskey must meet a few specific requirements to be classified as bourbon. As long as these criteria are met, the whiskey can technically be called bourbon, regardless of where it was produced.

Is Kentucky whiskey the same as bourbon?

Not necessarily. While all bourbons are whiskeys, not all whiskeys are bourbons. The spirit must be produced in the United States to be classified as a bourbon. Additionally, bourbons must be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume) and bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume).

Final Thoughts

The state of Kentucky has a long and rich history of whiskey production, and it’s home to some of the most famous distilleries in the world. However, bourbon doesn’t have to be made in Kentucky to be considered genuine. Bourbon can be produced anywhere in the United States, as long as it meets certain regulatory requirements. 

As a result, many excellent bourbons on the market aren’t made in Kentucky. So whether you’re looking for a traditional Kentucky bourbon or something a little different, you’re sure to find a whiskey that suits your taste.



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here or feel free to give Lydia a tip.

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