Bourbon, Defined You can produce bourbon anywhere in the 50 states, but it must be made from at least 51 percent corn and aged in charred new white oak barrels. In the late 1800s, there were hundreds of distilleries in Kentucky. Now, ten major distilleries produce hundreds of brands.
How George Washington Helped Invent Bourbon In 1789, frontier farmers violently rebelled against their new American government for trying to tax their whiskey (which they used as currency and bank for surplus crops. They also drank it, obvs). George Washington rode at the head of an army out west to quash the rebellion. He succeeded (as he was wont to do), and some of the disgruntled distillers fled further west, to Kentucky, where they’d go on to invent the bourbon we know and love.