Ever wonder why it says Straight Whiskey on your bottle? We did so we did some searching. It started with the passing of the 1906 Food and Drug Act
1. Has to be a distillation of fermented cereal grains(ex: wheat,millet, rice, corn, barley, oats, and rye). Grains and not molasses because molasses is the base for rum.
2. Once distilled in cannot be above 80% abv(alcohol by volume) and must be 62.5% or lower before barreling.
3. Only water may be added to dilute it any further.
4. Has to be aged in New charred oak barrels.
5. Aged a minimum of 2 years to be considered Straight, preferably 4 years and if blended with 2 and 4 year the youngest has to be on the label.
The only modification before bottling that is allowed is batching whiskey from different barrels(sometimes different distilleries but they have to be from the same state). Chill filtering and adding water to reduce the proof but not below 40% ABV(alcohol by volume).
The horrible unsanitary conditions in manufacturing plants is the reason it came about. Also because of inferior products, fraudulent labels and imitation whiskeys.
In December of 1909, President Howard Taft announced the results of his hearings with the “Taft Decision” that formally defined the types of whiskey still present today. Taft said that for a whiskey to be called “straight,” water was the only thing that could be added. If anything other than water was added to the whiskey, it had to be called a “Blended” whiskey.
What made this interesting is that people called rectifiers (not all were bad) would purchase whiskey in bulk and then dilute it, mix it with other spirits like vodka and gin or for flavoring and coloring iodine, tobacco, caramelized sugar, prune juice and licorice were used. Whatever it took to make people believe it was whiskey.
They didn’t make the mistake like they did with bottle in bond where it wasn’t well publicised and when it came out people didn’t know what it meant. This time, when the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed they got busy marketing Straight Whiskey. It was a badge of honor and you knew you were getting a quality product.
In 1933 when prohibition was repealed. Distilling started up once again and in Kentucky they had learned a valuable lesson with prohibition. Hoping to keep the government from making even tougher regulations, the industry created rules and regulations that were self-monitoring. These rules included the regulations from the Taft Decision defining whiskey, but went further, limiting the way whiskey could be packaged and sold. Barrels were no longer a legal package for the open market, replaced by bottles as the only legal package for distilled spirits sold to the public. The use of bottles meant that brand names and labels became a very important part of the industry.