Why This Non-Boozy Bourbon Has Everyone Talking

To those that love it, bourbon is a sacred spirit, made with a grain mixture that is at least 51 percent corn, distilled with nothing other than water, and in new, charred oak barrels (via Epicurious). Some bourbons are made with corn, barley, and rye. Some can even be made with 80 percent corn, although those are fairy rare. No matter what the mix is, bourbon needs to be distilled to no more than 160 proof. So when the drink is reverse-distilled so that it looks and tastes like bourbon — but it's almost non-alcoholic — it becomes an almost-bourbon in the likes of Kentucky 74. To make the drink, manufacturer Spiritless (Kentucky's 74th distiller) begins with a neutral grain spirit, it then extracts the alcohol using a reverse-distilling process. Beverage manufacturers are left with a liquid with just 0.5 percent of alcohol and flavors imparted by the oak extraction process. 

Lauren Chitwood, CEO of Spiritless, the company that distills Kentucky 74 tells USAToday, "It's our big, bold goal... to create a high-quality, truly delicious product line that allows people all over the world to order their favorite cocktail spiritless, or 'halfsies,' blending a spirit with a spiritless to cut the alcohol level and calories in half. It enables you to have a premium experience at a bar that is highly customizable. Spiritless is about options, far more than it is about drinking or not drinking."

Kentucky 74 is designed for a specific audience

Because Spiritless aims to produce mixers that can let people party with fewer consequences, the product is also aimed at a very specific audience. The idea of having a non- or low-alcoholic mixer appeals to people like Chitwood and her partners; the distillery's all-woman management team all together have eight children under 8 years old. "We realized we needed this nonalcoholic space. It doesn't mean we don't consume alcohol occasionally, but it's so hard to keep up with the demands of career and family and the myriad of challenges of being a woman. This was a wonderful tool for us to take the foot off the gas a little and also participate if we're not drinking," Chitwood says.

Because it has an ABV that USAToday points out makes it similar to kombucha, Kentucky 74 isn't bourbon either. Despite the skepticism surrounding the product, Whiskey Advocate admits that there are reasons someone who loves whiskey may also want to cut back a bit, leaving room for a product like Kentucky 74 to hit the market. 

Kentucky 74 is still on pre-order, which means bourbon lovers will just have to wait and see before they find out whether this shadow spirit, with just a hint of alcohol, is worth the wait.