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Issue 129 - Non-Regulated vs. Regulated

Whisky Magazine Issue 129
July 2015


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Non-Regulated vs. Regulated

American whiskey terms

When you pick up an American whiskey bottle, you'll see some terms that are regulated and offer great insight, while others are just marketing drivel that do not amount to a hill of spent mash. Hopefully, this quick-hitting guide helps you select the perfect bottle in your next shopping experience.


These are common terms without government classification or definitions. While some terms are straightforward and legally bound by labelling laws, others are generic and offer no help.

Sour Mash – Is a production technique of taking the backset of the previous distillation run and adding it to the new mash. The earliest record of the ‘Sour Mash' technique dates back to a woman's distillery in 1818, but it's crucial to developing flavour and initiating fermentation. Everybody uses this technique, but if you see ‘Sour Mash' prominently on the bottle and ‘Bourbon' is nowhere to be found, that means they likely had the product approved under a separate whiskey category.

Handcrafted – The use of ‘Handcrafted' is why several brands are currently being sued. What does it mean? Well, that's a good question. It's not a regulated term, and technically, all whiskies use hands and machines during manufacturing.

Small Batch – A method credited to the great Booker Noe, Small Batch is a technique of mingling choice barrels. Before this technique became widespread in the 1990s, brands dumped hundreds, sometimes more than 1,000 barrels for a bottling batch...

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