Here’s to America!

Too long overshadowed by Scotch and Japanese single malts, American-born whiskies are finally finding the love they deserve among Bangkok whiskey drinkers. In the past five years, the number of imported bourbon and rye whiskies on the local market has swollen exponentially, in line with a growing consumer hunt for unusual, craft and quality spirits. 

The latest arrival, Kentucky's small-batch Michter's, announced itself just last month, but its not the only name hoping to make inroads in Bangkok's American wiskey scene. “The number of American whiskies on the market here might have gone up by 50 percent, but that means from 10 labels to 15, not 50 to 75,” says Minway Chi, founder of Bootleggers Trading Co. and The 88 bar.

There are two main types of American whiskey—bourbon and rye. The difference between them is basically the main ingredient: bourbon must be made with 51-percent or more corn; and rye must be made with 51-percent or more rye grain. Both must be made in the USA. No additives are allowed. The spirits cannot be distilled over 80-percent ABV. They cannot exceed 62.5-percent ABV when put into barrels to age. They must be bottled at no lower than 40-percent ABV.

To be called “bourbon” or “rye,” the liquid needs also to be aged in freshly-charred American oak barrels, meaning the barrel is being filled with liquid for the first time after charring. If it’s not the first time a barrel’s been filled, then that makes your product an “American whiskey,” even if you have the ingredients and numbers exactly correct.



Bourbon is characterized by a sweet taste. “because of the dominance of corn,” says Chi, who name-drops Rebel Yell Bourbon, Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve as some of his favorites.



Buffalo Trace, B1,595 at Godfather
“It has a smooth taste, perfect for an old fashioned cocktail with the distinct aromas of oak.” - Oil Wareewan, head bartender at Bunker 

Woodford Reserve, B2,195 at Godfather
“I’ve been drinking this brand since I started working as a bartender in the UK and have loved it since.”
- Chennarong “Janz” Bhumichitr, Managing Director at Majestic Bar Management and Consulting

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 67%, B4,955 at Wishbeer
“Another one of my favorites. It’s very strong but well worth the price.” 
- Chennarong “Janz” Bhumichitr, Managing Director at Majestic Bar Management and Consulting


Rye has more complex flavor and can be somewhat more harsh. “When you make the main ingredient rye, the result has a spicy kick, some bottles more than others” says Chi. “To really taste the spicy kick in rye, seek out Rebel Yell and Rittenhouse.”


Wild Turkey 101 Rye, B1,689 at Wishbeer
“The taste of spices stands out very nicely.”
 -  Pailin “Milk” Sajjanit, Beverage Manager at The Bangkok Edition

Rittenhouse, B1,811 at Godfather
“It has the signature characteristics of bottled-in-bond rye and its 50-percent ABV alcohol rate makes for a strong, flavourful drink.”
- Oil Wareewan, head bartender at Bunker 


Bulleit Rye, B2,295 at Wishbeer
“I like this bottle because it has a high percentage rye concentration of 95%, which gives you the spicy taste.”
- Chennarong “Janz” Bhumichitr, Managing Director at Majestic Bar Management and Consulting 

Drink Speak

The other American whiskey terms you need to know


Sour Mash

Sour Mash whiskey follows the same regulations as bourbon but the mash begins with leftovers from a previous batch, much like sourdough bread. The sour mash process gives a sweeter, deeper flavor to the final product.



Straight means the product has been aged for a minimum of two years. So, if a bourbon has been aged longer than two years, it’s called a Straight Bourbon.

Bottled in Bond

Bottled in Bond whiskeys have been aged for a minimum of four years at 50-percent ABV and produced in one season. “The system was created by the government to help distillers delay paying taxes on distillate until it is ready to be sold,” says Chi. 



AKA white dog or new make, moonshine is a white, unaged whiskey made from corn and traditionally produced illegally and untaxed. Nowadays, brands like Ol’Smoky and Georgia Moon (available at Wishbeer) are doing it legally.