What Does Proof Mean in Whiskey?

Proof is a common term used to describe alcoholic drinks, and yet it is used so widely and for so many varieties of drinks that it may be misunderstood.

Regular bourbon or whiskey drinkers will be acquainted with this term as it is used often. However, the term is not normally used to describe beer or wine, although it technically could. I am sure you have never seen a person asking the bartender, “How much proof is this beer?” Drinks like beer and wine have less alcohol and therefore do not normally require an explicit proof description. 

If you are now wondering what Proof means in whiskey, let us help you understand the term!

What Is the Meaning of Proof in the Context of Alcohol?

It is nothing complicated. Proof is defined as two times the percentage content of the alcohol per volume. So if you want to find the alcohol percentage of the bottle, all you need to do is divide the proof by two and you will get the alcohol content of the bottle.

For instance, if the Proof of a whiskey is 120, the bottle contains 60 percent alcohol. Suppose a bottle says 190 proof. In that case, there is 95 percent alcohol present in the bottle. Generally, it is impossible to acquire 100 percent alcohol.

The Story Behind the Proof System

If you want to know the history of the proof system, you will need to go back to the 18th century when people used ships to trade alcohol.

The soldiers of the British army, or some say the Royal Navy, used to check the quality of the whiskey by applying it into a small quantity of gunpowder.

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When lit, if it burns in a steady flame, then the alcohol was stated full Proof. If it burns violently or explodes, it is considered Over Proof. If the mixture does not react as it supposed to be, then it is labeled Underproof.

High Proof vs. Low Proof

Bottles filled with grain alcohol are 190 proof, which means they consist of 95 percent of alcohol. On the other hand, drinks like bourbon have 80 to 100 proof with their amazing palate taste.

Some whiskeys have an insufficient proof of 70 to 60 which means an average of 35 percent of alcohol. But some special bottles give an authenticated experience and contain 100 proof to retain their original quality.

How much Proof is enough for whiskey?

The law declares that whiskey needs to have a minimum of 80 proof per volume in certain places. This is the bottom limitation. Drinks like scotch whiskey contain 80 to 88 proof, but you can also find 90-115 proof and even stronger.

What is a Barrel-Proof Whiskey?

The term originated in 1979, and later, some guidelines were stated with terms like original, barrel, entry proof, and much more. But terms like this all explain the same meaning. Still, in different companies, they are mentioned differently. For example, the Proof of a bottle is the same as the drink filled in the barrel.

Generally, we know that the liquid is filled in the barrel to age, but one thing required is that the Proof cannot exceed more than 125.

Barrel-Proof Whiskey

There is a misunderstood belief that for barrel-proof labeled whiskey you need to drink it straight raw. However, there is no rule like that, and depending on the drinker, one can add water or not. So you can adjust the level of Proof according to your taste.

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Why Is Proof Still Used?

Proof is still used for tax purposes, as the companies pay their taxes based on the “Proof gallon.” Now, you must be thinking, what is a proof gallon?

Proof Gallon is one gallon of liquid spirit with fifty percent alcohol at a specific sixty degrees Fahrenheit. So if the drink at 100 proof is 50 percent alcohol, it would be 1.0 proof gallon.

Lastly, if a whiskey maker makes 2000 gallons of liquid of 80 proof whiskey, he has to report that he has made 800 proof(gallons) of whiskey. The tax will be calculated on the reported gallon only by the government.

Labeling of Proof

Labeling of Proof is optional; different distillers can choose to print it or not. However, the makers should mention the content of the alcohol irrespective of any circumstance. You need to mention it in the format of (ABV) – percentage alcohol by volume. 

Whenever a company launches a product, the distiller must report legally to the government the drink details and especially the information on proof gallons(mentioned above). But while manufacturing the bottle, it is not mandatory to print the Proof.

Points which one should look for other than Proof while you are purchasing hard drink:

  1. Strength of cask – This means that the amount of spirit consisted in the bottle and its strength when it was in the cask without water.
  2. Barrel Proof– It is simple, and the Proof is measured in the barrel when you fill it with liquid.
  3. Double barrel– This means how many times the liquid is poured or aged in the barrels made of wood. Though it is not mandatory to mention it in the label, you can find out on the label or the website, depending on the makers.
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Parting Words

I hope this article helped you and provided you with useful information about alcohol content. The tips mentioned above will help you to understand the making of whiskey and what role Proof plays in the entire process. 

So, what do you think of this article? Do you now feel more comfortable shopping for whiskeys? We would love to hear from you!