History: Backwoods rumors abound regarding early distillers like Elijah Craig and Jacob Spears. What's known for sure is that early distillation processes were introduced and later honed by Scottish, Irish, English and German settlers who began to farm Kentucky in the late 18th century

Specifics: Must be made from at least 51 percent corn and aged for at least two years in new charred-oak barrels

Where it's from: 95 percent is made in Bourbon County, Kentucky, though it can be made legally elsewhere in the United States

How it tastes: Large amounts of corn give a relative sweetness, while charred-oak aging leaves a distinct spiciness

Common brands: Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey, Old Crow