What Does Full Proof Mean?

What Does Full Proof Bourbon Mean?

Some bourbon bottles will say “Full Proof” on the label, such as Weller Full Proof and 1792 Full Proof. The term Full Proof is distinctly different from the terms Barrel Proof, Barrel Strength, or Cask Strength.

Full Proof Meaning

Full Proof is the proof at which whiskey or bourbon goes INTO the barrel, not the proof of when it comes out of the barrel. In 1979, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms “recognized the need to establish guidelines for use of the terms Original Proof, Original Barrel Proof, Entry Proof on distilled spirits labels.” (See ATF Ruling 79-9) Original prooforiginal barrel proof, full proof, and entry proof on a label indicate the same thing: “that the proof of the spirits entered into the barrel and the proof of the bottled spirits are the same.” This means that whiskeys with these phrases on their labels must be at the same ABV (proof) as when the whiskey was put into the barrel.

Most American whiskeys and bourbons will actually increase in proof during the aging process. This is because most whiskey operations in the US are in warm climates, or house their whiskey barrels in a warm environment, and over the course of the aging process water will evaporate from the whiskey which of course increases the ABV or proof.

If the distiller wants that higher proof whiskey then they can label it at the proof that it came out of the barrel at and call it barrel proof (see a full explanation here). But if they want to lower the proof down to what it was when the alcohol went into the barrel then they may choose to call it Full Proof. Well Full Proof goes into the barrel at 114 proof, so after the aging process Buffalo Trace adds enough pure water to bring the proof back down to 114 proof. 1792 Full Proof goes into the barrel at 125 proof and when they bottle it (i.e. when they remove it from the barrel) they add water to bring it back down to 125 proof.

One of the advantages of making their bourbons Full Proof is that they can then create a consistent product because they know the proof that they want to target. This means the proof can always be the same for the Weller Full Proof and there is a greater chance of controlling the final product at the time of bottling.

Some Full Proof Whiskeys

  • Weller Full Proof Wheated Bourbon
  • 1792 Full Proof Bourbon
  • Benchmark Full Proof Bourbon
  • Wheat Penny Full Proof Bourbon
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5 months ago

This information is super helpful in defining the differences between a cask strength bourbon and a full proof bourbon.

Seth Woolson
5 months ago

This is very helpful. I’m a year into really hunting down harder to find whiskeys, and I’ve learned with a bit about them in the last year. But I hadn’t thought to look into full proof definitions before. Thanks got the knowledge!

5 months ago

Really great explanation. And as a side interesting to see here the different entry proofs used by different distillers.

Bernardo Mireles
5 months ago

Coming from Single Malt Scotch, this Full proof term is new to me. Thank you for such a good explanation.

4 months ago

Like the definition. I had it wrong all along.

Bryan Macke
1 month ago

Did u see the Green River post today about their “Full Proof” release? I’m wondering how they can call it full proof at 117.3 proof when they’ve already released Full Proof single barrel picks all at 119 proof. Pretty sure it enters the barrel at 119.

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