If you've ever wondered what you pay Congress for, then rest assured that one item was to name bourbon America's official native spirit. Not only that, but the elixir has to be made in the U.S.A. in order to bear the name bourbon The rules that govern its production are strict, too, which Albert W.A. Schmid spells out in the introduction to his collection, "The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook" (The University Press of Kentucky, $24.95):
- "Bourbon must be made from at least 51 percent corn mixed with barley and with rye or wheat or both. Many times bourbon has an even higher percentage of corn, but it never exceeds 79 percent of the mash. (When the percentage of mash reaches 80 percent, the beverage becomes corn whiskey.)
- "Bourbon must be aged for at least two years in charred new oak barrels. If it is aged less than four years, a statement of age must be placed on the label.
- "Only pure water may be added to bourbon.
- "Bourbon must not exceed 160 proof off the still or 125 proof going into the barrel."