A History of Water and Whiskey

& Why Bourbon is Made In Kentucky

There is no law that says bourbon
has to be made in Kentucky
and yet 95% of them are.

Why is That? It is The Water.

Kentucky's limestone aquifer purifies our spring water while infusing it with delicious hints of calcium and magnesium. The result is a smoother, richer water, which is ideal for making bourbon, plus one with no iron, which would turn a bourbon mash black. In the 1800s, bourbon makers discovered that water and the rest is history.

Today, a splash of water opens up a bourbon releasing its entire spectrum of flavor and aroma nuances. The alcohol burn is diminished as a smooth, rich taste emerges, enhanced, never diluted.​

The next time you visit Kentucky, take a day to travel down the Bourbon Trail and visit a few of our distilleries. At the beginning of each tour you’ll hear how important our water is to bourbon making, and not just any water but the right water, limestone filtered spring water.

“Kentuckians Will Tell You
It’s The Water That Separates
Their Product From The Rest”

“Kentuckians will tell you it’s the water that separates their product from the rest; indeed Kentucky sits atop a vast stretch of limestone, through which water drawn for whiskey making, percolates. The limestone naturally removes the iron, which inhibits yeast development, and deposits magnesium and calcium, both of which make the water taste sweet.” American Whiskey Bourbon and Rye:
A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit

“Water, fire and time…the three essential elements for the manufacture of whiskey. However, the most important of these is undoubtedly water…. The nature of the water has a direct influence on the quality of the whiskey produced….Part of the reason why Kentucky was chosen more than two centuries ago as bourbon-making country was for the purity of its water.” Thierry Benitah The Little Book of Whiskey

The Perfect Location

Our horse farms tell you a lot about our water.
The calcium and magnesium in Kentucky’s spring
waters help build strong bones in million-dollar
thoroughbreds. Here’s the view on the way out
to Old Limestone’s bottling line.

The tour at Wild Turkey starts with
a map of Kentucky’s limestone aquifer.
Kentucky is indeed “the perfect location
to make the world’s best bourbon.”

Visitors to the Woodford Reserve distillery are
greeted by this handsome graphic. It helps you
understand the importance of having the right
water when you make bourbon.