What is Straight Whisky?

Are you in love with your favourite drink – whiskey or bourbon, as most Americans call it? There is no better way to end your day than grabbing a glass of fine or straight whiskey from the counter.

When it comes to choosing the right bottle of whiskey, you want to be keener on the words written on the bottle. These words are significant in determining the type of whiskey you are drinking, especially the production process and the country of origin.

A single word on a bottle of whiskey can have a big difference. It is the same case when it comes to applying the word straight on a bottle of whiskey. Most whiskey drinkers and bargoers believe that this word sets the ground for some quality whiskies.

The truth is that it sets the ground for some qualifications that your whiskey must meet before being sold in the market. In this article, we disclose what it means to drink straight whiskey.

Defining a straight whiskey 

Whiskey has its definition that makes it a unique liquor in the market. According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau, there are certain specifications and standards that a drink must meet to qualify as a whiskey.

To fit the definition of whiskey, the drink must be distilled from a fermented grain of not more than 95% ABV. It must be stored in an oak barrel and taste like what you normally feel when drinking your whiskey. The whiskey must also be bottled with a minimum of 40% ABV.

Straight whiskey is just one of the whiskeys that fit the definition of whiskey we have given here. Simply put, straight whiskey should be aged in new charred oak barrel for at least two years. Most types of American whiskeys can be defined as straight whiskey, including wheat, malt, rye, bourbon, and many other drinks you find in the market.

For instance, a straight whiskey meets the requirements for producing a whiskey in terms of aging and the ingredients used. It means that apart from being aged for two years minimum, a straight whiskey must also be distilled for not more than 80% ABV. It should include at least 51% corn and be barrelled in not more than 62.5% new charred oak.

This is why you will see a straight bourbon whiskey on the bottle label or a straight rye whiskey. The major difference is the type of ingredients used in making the whiskey. For a straight whiskey only, it means at least 51% of a single grain has been used in the production, and it doesn’t qualify as bourbon or rye.

Can you blend a straight whiskey?

It calls for faith to believe it. This is where the definition of American whiskey or bourbon comes from. The word blending is used in many ways. For instance, when you talk about American blended whiskey, the whiskey is made of 20% straight whiskey only. It also means that the rest of the whiskey is made of neutral spirits. The rest of the drink does not comply with what makes bourbon, rye, or straight whiskey for that reason.

A straight whiskey can be a combination of two or more whiskeys made from the same state. 

It doesn’t have to be blended to get that title; it is just allowed to blend naturally. For example, Kentucky straight bourbon can include two or more straight bourbons made in Kentucky with no further label requirements.

When blending your whiskey with products from different states, you must add the blended designation. It means there is always an unending list of blended straight whiskeys allowing for two or more straight whiskeys from different locations to be mixed. For instance, you can have a blended straight rye whiskey, which is  a mix of two of more straight ryes that are made from different states blended.

What is the origin of straight whiskey?

The origin of straight whiskey dates back to 1909, during the reign of President Howard Taft. The definition is built upon the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, which has been famous in the world of whiskey for these years. Since then, there have been several improvements to the definition of straight whiskey. For instance, some specify that a straight whiskey or bourbon must be aged in a new charred barrel, with all the standards of a straight whiskey being adjusted in turn.

There should be no additive in a straight whiskey.

Now, we all know that a straight whiskey should be aged for at least two years in new charred oak. But that is not enough. A look into any additives that should be used in making the drink and the rule changes a lot. Whiskey should not be made using an additive in colouring or flavours. This part of whiskey definition matters a lot more than the two years it spends being aged.

The only thing a producer can do after the whiskey is matured is to batch it with other barrels of straight whiskey. You can chill-filter the whiskey and bring it down to cool using water. The whiskey producer can choose which of the steps they want to use to make the whiskey. For example, a non-chill-filtered, cask strength single barrel straight whiskey is not likely to go through this whole process.

On the other hand, most of the whiskeys that lack the “straight’ designation are allowed to have at least 2.5% of additives in them. This will include all types of American whiskeys like bourbon and rye. However, some specifications are to be included in those instances, and the TTB is responsible for doing that.

Which are the best straight whiskeys to try out?

If you are drinking whiskey for the first time, a straight whiskey would be the best option in the market. On your next tour of the whiskey world; you want to try some of these drinks:

 Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey: This whiskey drink was pioneered by Augustus Bulleit, dating over 150 years ago. It is made of the highest quality ingredients. It has a bold, spicy character due to its high rye content. It is clean and smooth, making it one of the best straight whiskeys you can have for the day.

Collingwood Blended Canadian Whiskey: This whiskey has been distilled and aged in barrels for at least three years. It includes no minimum percentage of rye-grain whiskey. With its sweet notes of honey and flowers, it makes it one of the best drinks you can introduce to your friends this holiday.

Glenmorangie Signet Single Malt Scotch Whiskey: This bottle of whiskey is made for anyone looking for the best of straight whiskey. It comes in a combination of distilled chocolate malt barley and is popular for its dark and roasted bitter flavours. It has 46 proof and boasts hints of ginger, orange, vanilla, and other unique ingredients.

Final Thoughts

For a drink to be confirmed as a straight whiskey, it must meet all the specifications and rules highlighted in this article. For instance, it must be distilled in less than 160 proof, stored in less than 125 proof, and made of 51% corn.

The best of whiskey is waiting for you on this other side of the world– pick a fine, straight whiskey and enjoy it with your boys’ club. If you are new to whiskey, you can try some of the three bottles mentioned here. A straight whiskey stands out from the rest for its unique ingredients and production.

Did You Enjoy This?

Then consider joining thousands of other people who receive my monthly newsletter. It’s a collection of knowledge and guide for Cigars and Bourbon. It’s free to subscribe. Be part of my my team.

Recent Posts