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Let’s Hear it for Dad!

This Sunday is Father's Day, a day to celebrate and honor dear old Dad. That means it's time to pick out a gift to show him how much you appreciate all that he has done for you throughout your life. Here at Oliver's Market, we have the perfect gift for him, and any other father figure in your life - American Whiskey!

That's right, American Whiskey. The brown spirit that encompasses Bourbon, Rye, Tennessee Whiskey and Straight Whiskey among others, is seeing a huge resurgence in popularity.

I've always wondered how and why American Whiskey has become synonymous with Father's Day. Thinking it would be an easy task, I pulled up Google and began to dig around. Much to my surprise, I came across almost nothing related to the topic. Finally, I came across a blog post from a writer based in Lexington, Kentucky that shed a little light on the subject. Robbie Clark says that American whiskey has become the go-to Father's Day gift because of the family tradition that is steeped in the industry. Through the years, generations of family members have helped to craft some of the most well known and iconic brands on the market, such as the Beam family, the Pepper family the Russell family (Wild Turkey) and the Van Winkles.   

Read on to learn more about this infamous brown spirit. From its history, to what it is and the different types, you'll find all you need here to help you select the perfect bottle for Dad.

The History of American Whiskey

Whiskey has been produced in America since the first settlers arrived on the East Coast in the early 1600's. The first commercial distillery was opened in 1640 and the master distiller used corn and rye among other things, making him the first known whiskey distiller in the colonies.

The 1800's saw an explosion of distilleries open in Kentucky, and steam boats on the Mississippi River and the expanding railroad helped open new markets and exposed more and more Americans to whiskey.

The National Prohibition Act destroyed many of the legitimate distilleries operating in Kentucky. Of the 17 in operation before Prohibition, only seven were still making whiskey in 1935. American whiskey experienced several rises and falls through the rest of the 20th century due to many events that affected the American public, including World War II, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. American whiskey started regaining popularity during the 1990's and early 2000's. American distillers took a page from their Scottish friends and started offering small batch, single barrel and limited edition whiskies.

What is American Whiskey?

It can be a challenge to find one standard definition for American whiskey (unlike Scotch). Basically, whiskey is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash of grain produced at less than 190 proof, so that it possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to whiskey, stored in oak containers and bottled at no less than 80 proof.

The Different Types of American Whiskey

Since the general definition of American whiskey is pretty vague, the definition of each different type of American whiskey should shed some more light on the subject.


The most prominent of American whiskeys, bourbon contains a minimum of 51 percent corn, and is aged in charred, new American oak barrels. The mandate that bourbon rest in only new oak barrels is a key reason why used bourbon barrels end up aging Scotch, amongst other products. Contrary to a commonly held belief, bourbon does not need to be made in Kentucky, but can be produced anywhere in the United States.


American rye whiskey must be made with a minimum of 51 percent rye; corn and malted barley often make up the difference. Like bourbon, it has to be aged in charred, new oak barrels. The common aromas and flavors are similar to bourbon.  The biggest difference is that Rye will be a lot more spicy and less sweet.

Tennessee Whiskey

An offshoot of bourbon, Tennessee whiskey is actually its own category. Laws require that it be produced in Tennessee, and meet the requirements of a bourbon. Prior to aging though, it undergoes an extra charcoal filtering process known as the "Lincoln County Process," which is a thick layer of maple charcoal.


Straight whiskey is any whiskey which has been aged for a minimum of two years, and does not include other added colorings or flavorings. If aged less than four years, it must list the age on the label. When applied to bourbon or rye, it's required to meet all other standards for that classification.  


About the Author: Matt Rice

Matt Rice

Matt Rice is Oliver's intrepid blogger on all topics related to wine, beer, cider, spirits, and other gourmet products.


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From the day we opened our doors in 1988, we’ve built our business on the simple premise that the best food and wine in the world are produced here, in Sonoma County. We didn’t feel like we were pioneers at the time, but as people have come to understand and embrace the value of locally grown and made food and the value of shopping locally, we realize we were part of the early days of the movement.

As a Sonoma County business, we’ve built enduring relationships with local growers, makers, and manufacturers, because they make the foods and wines we love. Many of them were getting started when we were. Now they are nationally known, but for us, they are still old friends who often delivered products to our Cotati store in their cars back in the late 1980s.

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This Sunday is Father's Day, a day to celebrate and honor dear old Dad. That means it's time to pick out a gift to show him how much you appreciate all that he has done for you throughout your life. Here at Oliver's Market, we have the perfect gift for him, and any other father figure in your life - American Whiskey!

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