Top 50 Best Different Tattoo Styles Of All Time – Most Popular Types And Kinds
From the earliest days of self-expression, man has inked his flesh with permanent markings:
Tribal symbols and protective totems, military and combat rankings, the names of loved ones, and a number of other sacred images intended to tell the wearer’s moving story, as well as transform the body itself into a work of art.
Our passion for tattoos certainly hasn’t waned; if anything, the trend has become a minted way of life well into the 21st Century. Around the world, men and women continue to honor the ancient art of tattooing, some in ritual tradition, others for the sake of aesthetic pleasure. For many, receiving a tattoo is a rite of passage, and few stop at just one.
It would be impossible to list the sheer plentitude of tattoo options and inspiration, as truly the tattoo’s image is as unique as the individual who selects it. One thing is certain: a tattoo is a lifelong commitment, and what we wear under the skin will no doubt accompany us to the end.
The question therefore remains: what is sacred to you? What emblem speaks of your own struggles and triumphs, as well as your humor and penchant for living life to its fullest? Do you live–and ink–boldly, large and out loud, or conversely prefer the smaller, subtler mysteries that linger seductively on the peripheral?
Clothes may not make the man, but the ink he commits to certain does. And where tattoos are concerned, the only rule is to stay true to the man you are, and are no doubt striving to become. With that said, go ahead and explore these top 50 best different tattoo styles below featuring the most popular types and kinds throughout the course of history.
It’s “in your face” ink. If you want body art that stands out and grabs attention, then this is it. While the skin might be flat/curved, artists today can bring virtually any image you have in mind to life. Three-dimensional tattoos take modern ink styles to an entirely new level. From city skylines to cartoon characters, geometric shapes and beyond, if you want a tattoo to truly “pop”, 3D is the way to go.
Do you lean more to the creative/artistic side? Consider going with an abstract tattoo style. While abstract designs are fun to look at, their best feature can be found with their hidden meaning.
Let’s face it, a human portrait with four eyes, geometric cubes, colorful lines and two paint drops, doesn’t exactly send a crystal clear meaning or message. However, it most certainly does to the beholder of the design. If you want a piece of ink that’s truly unique or perhaps a design that has a hidden meaning, abstract tattoo styles make for an excellent choice.
Read it this way or read it that way. Ambigram tattoos feature words with unique lettering designs that allow them to be read the same way from different viewpoints. While this tattoo style used to be extremely popular years ago, today it has more or less died down in favor of more modern styles.
Of course, that’s not to say the style hasn’t evolved. In reality, ambigram tattoos have become more ornate and elegant with artists putting their own spin on script and lettering styles.
From muscles to bones to hearts, and beyond, if you love human body parts, anatomical tattoo styles might just be for you. Anatomical tattoos are as realistic to human anatomy as it gets, though you don’t have to be a doctor or dentist to appreciate them.
In fact, a lot of people get anatomical tattoos to remember broken bones from athletic injuries, mountain biking, car accidents and beyond. They can hold a whole host of meanings. Even an anatomical pair of lungs can server as a symbol of being a lung cancer survivor.
If you like gears or just the Terminator movie franchise, then you’ll love biomechanical tattoo styles. These often 3D styles feature gears, wires, metal pieces, and much more all connected below the skin’s surface.
Perhaps you have always wanted an electronic robot arm or leg but simply couldn’t afford one. Here’s your chance to get one.
6. Black And Grey
For when you want your artwork to do all the speaking, black and grey tattoo styles are a fine choice. Heavily shaded body art while not colorful, can still make a significant impression. Just take note of the design above, even without a single drop of color, this piece is absolutely jaw-dropping to look at.
7. Blackwork / Blackout
Traditional tribal tattoos aren’t your style? Then consider post-modern patterns found in blackwork and blackout designs. While it is one form of tattoo style, it blackwork tattoos combine elements from other styles including geometric, line, negative space, dotwork, and beyond.
In reality, a blackwork tattoo can be as unique as you want to make it. Even traditional tribal ink can be enhanced by surrounding it with solid black ink for a more bolder and modern look.
8. Blast Over
Have a fading colorful tattoo? Throw a bird, skull or any other design you want over it in black ink and you’ve just discovered the blast over style. Let’s face it, tattoos are forever but your perception of the world is always changing.
If you’ve got a wonky piece of ink from the past but want to hold onto it due to a significant meaning, a blast over tattoo is the perfect solution. Sure, the old design won’t be one-hundred percent visible but it will still poke on through.
While technically a cover-up tattoo style, the true invention of blast over ink comes from those who have too much body art but simply want ink. When sace is short, blast over tattoos are a great way to add another layer of artwork over an already full canvas of skin.
9. Broken Glass
While not super popular outside of the gangster and pocket watch realm, the broken glass trend is catching on. This type of 3D effect can be placed over virtually any design you want, adding more visual interest to your body art.
10. Paint Brush Stroke
The paintbrush stroke tattoo style offers a serious level of uniqueness. Unlike a traditional tattoo, this style can be nearly impossible to replicate thanks to its different variations in watercolor and gradient design.
Most commonly, you’ll find the paintbrush stroke style being used for things like the Enso symbol or OM symbol. More modern artists are pushing the limits of this style by doing more than just symbols and instead opting for designs like rose flowers, sailing ships and beyond.
Cool knots and complex curves are what you’ll find when it comes to Celtic tattoo styles. While you can’t travel back to the Iron Age to tour badges of honor found on warriors from Celtic tribal societies, you can, however, do something else.
For inspiration just seek out The Irish Book of Kells and you’ll find plenty of interwoven and interlocking knotwork. In terms of popularity, the Celtic cross is by far one of the most popular designs, while bears, dragons, owls, and wolves are commonly used as well.
Perhaps one of my favorite types of tattoo styles, Chicano body art is truly breathtaking. If you’ve ever seen this style applied to designs with statues of Greek gods then you’ll know just how captivating it is to look at.
Known for their cornucopia of Hispanic themes, Chicano tattoos feature everything from the Day of the Dead sugar skulls to The Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and beyond. Of course, you’ll also find everything from guns and gangsters to money roses and clocks, all themed with the iconic Chicano style in today’s day and age.
Dotwork tattoos beg for closer inspection, which is where the artistry shines! From simple to complex, dotwork showcases one level of talent from afar, and another up close. Images, cuffs, or sleeves look great at first glance, but on closer inspection, reveal surprising details. Each is created solely with a multitude of dots, rather than full lines or fill.
Based on the most basic of shapes, geometric tattoos are anything but! Squares, circles, triangles, and polygons come together in abstract images, mandalas, or low-poly models. There is no limit to the possibilities.
These designs are ideal for those who want to show a love of beauty while recognizing the set rules of nature which surround us.
Glitch tattoos remind us to question our reality. Like an old VHS tape with tracking issues, glitch tattoos are flawed or glitched in some way. Zig-zagging or offset lines obscure parts of the image and suggest that, despite our outward appearances, we are all flawed in our own ways.
16.Glow In The Dark / UV Ink
Take your tattoo to new levels with glow in the dark ink. Ultraviolet (UV) ink absorbs light during the day and glows when darkness falls. Use it to highlight your existing ink or to add artwork that is only visible at night.
A reminder that all is not what it seems, and that our daytime self often changes when the lights go out.
A gentle flow from one color to the next, gradient tattoos do away with hard lines in favor of a natural flow. Light to dark, blue to red, day to night; where does one end and the other begin? Rarely is the answer simple.
Adding a gradient to your tattoo as the background, or as the primary color scheme, adds a degree of softness not easily achieved with solid borders.
Lover of graffiti art? Showcase your own tags with a graffiti tattoo.
Use your body as a graffiti artist would use a wall and express yourself without the fear of your work being painted over. From personal tags to full murals, you’re only limited by your imagination, and not by how much spray paint you can carry.
19. Hyper Realistic
Is that a tattoo, or is it a photo? With hyper realistic tattoos, it can be difficult to tell. This style requires an expertly skilled artist and a lot of time, but the results are breathtaking.
Often leaving us questioning our perceptions, a hyper realistic tattoo has the depth, shading, and flow of reality. Expect lots of looks, and some touching, with this style.
Flip from the positive to the negative with an inverted tattoo. Taking the traditional black on a white tattoo, and changing it up to white on black, an inverted design is the reverse of the standard image.
Reminiscent of a film negative, with an image of whites, grays, and blues on a black background, you have this style of tattoo.
Japanese culture has permeated art throughout the world. Showcase your appreciation with your tattoo. Creatures from legend, lotus flowers, and Japanese lettering come together to create the ultimate tribute to Eastern culture. These images are perfect for everything from small, one-off designs to sleeves, and full body tattoos.
Get your message across with a tattoo showcasing custom lettering. Use a favorite font, or create your own! Combine your lettered design with any other style to create a tattoo that is uniquely yours. Block, script, or gothic, if it can be written, it can be transferred to your skin.
Get back to basics with a simple line tattoo. Sometimes simple is better. A line drawing is made using a simple line. While shading or coloring can be added for effect, the premise remains the same.
Sometimes the simple messages are the most important, and elaborate is not always “better”.
24. Mambo / Destrutturato
While not as well-known as other styles out there, the “Mambo” as I like to call it or “Destrutturato”, is an entirely new style that’s gaining in popularity. The simple black ink design features colorful backgrounds that resemble the bright and flat colors often found in Japanese tattoos.
It’s different, unique and comes straight out of Milano, Italy thanks to a gentleman named Mattia Mambo.
A mandala is a product of patience, love, and mindfullness, and can remind us of those qualities when carried with us. Starting in the center and working your way out, round by round, pattern by pattern, Mandalas have been created for centuries as a form of meditation as well as art.
Generally round is shape, these are well suited for forearm, chest, or back tattoos.
The Mayans existed for nearly 3500 years, now their artwork lives on. The Mayans were known for their art, which features intricate designs honoring their myths and culture.
A lot can be learned by studying the Mayans and a tattoo honoring them is a great way to spiritually connect with this strong, ancient civilization.
Simple. Short and sweet. Understated. A minimalist tattoo is all of these. Minimalist tattoos forego the elaborate designs of other styles in exchange for a simple word or small image.
Often symbolic to the wearer, the meaning is not always clear to onlookers. This is a great way to express yourself without drawing too much attention.
28. Negative Space
Easy to confuse with an inverted tattoo, a negative space piece draws your attention to what is not there. Instead of drawing a tree, a negative tattoo artist will draw the space between the branches and let the tree come together from there. This is a subtle technique, but can have a powerful affect on the finished piece.
Classic American themes are the focus of neo traditional tattoos. Native American images, art deco, and cartoons are common themes in this style, often accented by thick, strong borders and bright, lively colors. This is great way to honor the imagery of times past while adding a modern touch.
30. New School
Take old-school images and mash them up with graffiti stylization, and you are left with new school tattoo work. The finished product of this technique is similar to the neo-traditional style, with bright, colorful images and heavy, black borders, but there are subtle differences. Image content tends to have a more modern flair with an older feel to it.
Big. Bold. Strong. These describe not only Vikings but also Norse themed tattoos. The Vikings were tough. Nobody is going to argue with that. Norse tattoos are based on ancient Viking designs and provide a sense of strength, power, and control. Intricate designs are frequently presented in full sleeves or torso tattoos, serving as a testament to the artist’s devotion to the craft.
32. American Traditional
Classic images from America’s past are at the forefront in American traditional tattoos. From the tales of crossing the sea to reach America, to stories of gunslingers from the Wild West, American traditional tattoos feature images inspired by American history. Often accentuated with modern features, these tattoos show a reverence for the past while staying rooted in the present.
33. Optical Illusion
People will have to look twice at an optical illusion tattoo to fully appreciate it’s complexity. Tattoo artists can create illusions so realistic that one might think there actually IS a hole in your hand.
Is your arm really carved out of wood? These tattoos make people stop and think about what they are seeing.
Simple and understated, an outline tattoo is a great entry into body art. Having an outline of your tattoo image is the perfect way to see how it looks before committing to hours of filling and coloring.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you, though. A simple outline can make just as strong a statement as a full color image.
Pinstripe tattoos contain incredible detail but are not overwhelming. Think line drawing meets Spirograph, and you have the basic idea behind a pinstripe tattoo. These tattoos feature amazingly intricate designs, all created with simple, thin lines.
Variations in color, thickness, and angle all come together for a limitless amount of design possibilities.
While video game graphics continue to improve, love for the 8-bit images of the past grows. Pixel art tattoos remind us of our first adventures in video gaming. They are also reminiscent of cross-stitch patterns and perler bead designs.
Whether it is a classic Mario image, or a newer character given a pixel treatment, these tattoos make us nostalgic for the simpler times.
Pointillism tattoos take dotwork art to the next level of detail. While dotwork tattoos take a great deal of skill to create, pointillism pieces take much more. Areas of highly dense points give the appearance of solid blocks of color and allow for unmatched levels of shading and blending. Generally done in all black, color can be added for a different effect.
38. Pop Art
Made famous by Andy Warhol, pop art can be used to create striking tattoos as well. While fine art encompasses the more traditional art seen in museams, pop art features subject from pop culture. Pop art tattoos frequently feature comic book images or musical icons, but any subject matter that is derived from popular culture is a good choice.
Memorialize your loved ones or your idols with a portrait tattoo! Frequently done in a hyper realistic style, a portrait tattoo is the perfect way to pay tribute to someone. Whether it is a pop icon, historical hero, or a passed love one, keep them with you with a tattoo of their portrait.
40. Quote / Word
Always have your inspiration with you with a quote tattoo. Do you have a favorite phrase, or a power word? Keep it with you all the time as a tattoo. Quotes work best as a simple font, while single words look great when embellished upon. Many quote tattoos can be found on the forearm, upper chest, or lower back.
If a full colored portrait or image is too much for you, consider a silhouette tattoo. The beauty in this style is in the simplicity. While color can be added for some striking results, most silhouette tattoos are done in all black. These work well on any part of the body, and can range from a small icon to full torso coverage.
Take a piece of an artist’s sketchbook with you in the form of a sketch tattoo. While an image with full color and details is stunning, a sketch tattoo has a charm that is hard to match.
A work in progress, an idea, a quick render; these are thoughts that come to mind when we see a sketch. Room to grow, but beautiful as it is.
43. Stained Glass
Let your light shine with a stained glass tattoo. Heavy black borders represent the ironwork, filled in with vibrant colors to create the illusion of an illuminated stained glass window. Use a tradition design, or take any image and have your tattoo artists turn it into a stained glass window.
Surrealism tattoos show us a world where something is not quite right. Or, perhaps, it is… Artists like Dali have made surrealist art famous, and tattos artists can build on this by taking a common scene and working a bit of the bizarre into it. Is that face melting? Why is there an eye in his mouth? These are questions that a surrealism tattoo may make us ask.
45.Torn / Ripped Skin
A specific type of optical illusion, a torn skin tattoo features flesh ripping away to reveal what is underneath. This technique takes time to achieve, but leaves a remarkable finished image.
What do you have lurking under your skin? Bones, gears, pistons? For best effect, these tattoos are done on larger areas, such as the chest or upper arms.
46. Trash Polka
Combining realism and trash, trash polka tattoos offer a unique, bold style choice. Originated in Germany, trash polka takes traditional art and collages it with “trash” or smudges, smears, and words, to create a one of a kind style.
True trash polka is done in all black and red, although variations can be made to change the final effect.
47. Tribal / Polynesian / Maori / Hawaiian
One of the more popular styles, tribal tattoos pay homage to our ancestors. A tribal tattoo features bold designs, based on the artwork of tribal civilizations. Many cultures can be represented, but frequently designs are based on Maori, Indonesian, or Hawaiian motifs. These tattoos look great in any location, from a small cuff to a full body cover.
Watercolor art has a distinct softness to it that other mediums struggle to replicate. Watercolor tattoos offer the same feeling. Carefull blending of colors and use of varying intensities leads to a tattoo that looks like it was painted right on to your skin. This technique works especially well as a background for more a more solid, well defined image, but easily stands on it’s own.
49. White Ink
For a very subtle effect, a white ink tattoo may be what you’re looking for. Depending on the natural color of your skin, white ink can be almost invisible.
You know it’s there, and it can be seen if it’s being looked for, but often it goes undetected. It can also be combined with inks of other colors for some truly amazing results.
50. Wood Carving
A specific type of illusion, a woodcarving tattoo looks as if your body is made of solid wood, into which a design has been carved. This look is achieved through careful use of shading and highlighting.
Take the time to find the right artists, and this can look very relistic. This technique works especially well on the arms and legs.
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The 10 Best Grilling Tools for Your Summer BBQ
If you want to be a grill master, you need the right tools for the job. While having a top-quality grill is obviously vital, there are many other things you need to make your life at the grill as easy as possible.
There are plenty of tools out there that will enhance the flavor of your food and allow you to cook your meat and veggies to perfection. We’ve looked at a range of them from meat thermometers and grilling gloves to cedar planks and grill baskets.
While all these tools are different, they’re all great ways to enhance your grilling experience. We’ve searched high and low to come up with 10 that you’ll love. All you need to do is read on and choose the best grilling tools for you. Let’s get started!
1. Kizen Digital Meat Thermometers for Cooking
When cooking on the grill, it can be easy to be a little nervous about whether or not your meat is ready. With this Kizen meat thermometer, you can put those fears to bed and know exactly when your meat is done.
The reading on this thermometer only takes around three seconds, so you’re not going to be waiting around for your results. It’s waterproof and durable. This is a tool you’ll be using time and time again.
It’s versatile too. Thermometers are often required for beverage and candy making, among other things. This tool is perfect for them all and will give you readings to a very high level of accuracy.
It will automatically turn on/off when you take out the prong and there is also a temperature guide written on it. It’s very easy to use and the magnet and handle hole also makes it simple to store.
2. Alpha Grillers Heavy Duty BBQ Grilling Tools Set
You can’t become a grilling master without having a high-quality set of grilling tools. While you can buy them all separately, it makes sense to get a set such as this. It’s brilliant and comes with a spatula, fork, basting brush, and tongs.
All of them are made out of thick steel so you don’t need to worry about them succumbing to the heat. They’re also fitted with silicone grips which keep your skin safe and the tools firmly in your hand.
Their design also makes them very simple to use, including the lockable tongs that allow them to stay compact when not in use. Added to this, all four of the tools have hooks for easy storage.
One downside of grilling tools is needing to clean them after use. With this set, that won’t be an issue. Not only are they easy to wipe down, but they are also dishwasher safe. This is perfect for anyone needing a brilliant set of essential grilling tools.
3. GEEKHOM Grilling Gloves
Your hands are going to be near very hot pieces of metal and you also have the risk of fat spitting onto your skin. For those reasons, it makes sense to invest in a pair of high-quality grilling gloves.
These are made of silicone which can cope with very high heat of up to 446F. On the inside is soft cotton, making the gloves very easy to wear. The material is breathable, so you won’t need to worry about your hands sweating.
The safety of these gloves doesn’t stop at the high-temperature resistance. They also cover your wrists and have a non-slip surface, allowing you to securely grip whatever you’re holding.
Usability is also exceptional as the gloves are non-toxic and machine washable. Five colors are also available, so you can pick ones that suit your style. If you want to grill in safety and comfort, these gloves are a must.
4. Kona 360 Clean Grill Brush
You’ve cooked all your food, everyone’s loved it, and you’ve had a fantastic day. You then look down at your grill and your heart sinks. You know that it’s going to take a long time to clean and you simply can’t be bothered.
If that sounds like you then you need to get the Kona 360 Clean Grill Brush. It will drastically cut down the time you need to clean your grill. It takes minimum effort and you won’t have that dreaded feeling after you’ve finished cooking.
A great aspect of this brush is that it can be used on all grill types. The three-pronged brush allows you to clean three times faster than most other models. It’s also very easy to use with the textured finger grip and 18” handle.
Impressively, the durability is also very high here. You get a limited five year warranty which is no surprise due to its solid construction. It’s going to last for a long time and you’ll enjoy that super-quick clean time and time again.
5. Primal Grilling Premium Cedar Planks For Grilling
For those that want a unique way of cooking their food, using cedar planks is a brilliant way to do it. All you need to do is soak them in water and then grill away. It results in food that is full of moisture and flavor.
These planks are quite thick which means they don’t burn easily at all. You can use them repeatedly before they become too charred to use. They come in a pack of five, which is going to last a very long time.
The natural cedar doesn’t contain any chemicals and is a very natural way of cooking food. It’s particularly good for fish but the planks will also enhance the moisture and taste of any meat, along with any veggies you want to cook.
When you’re finished using your planks, you can pop them in the drawstring bag provided and use them again whenever you want. You’ll love the results and if you’ve never done it before, you should definitely give it a try.
See more about - The 10 Best BBQ Grills For Your Summer Cookout
6. The Seasoned Griller Store Professional Grade Stainless Steel Grill Basket
While we love grilling, there’s no doubt that it can get messy. Veggies can also be very difficult to cook as they are hard to move around with your grilling tools and can easily fall between the gaps.
An ideal solution is to get this grilling basket from The Seasoned Griller. It’s a great way to keep all your cooking contained while heating it perfectly. The holes are big enough to allow the heat in without letting any food out.
It’s made of stainless steel and can be used on almost any grill. It is worth double-checking the dimensions to make sure it’s a good fit for your model. It’s not too big, so it shouldn’t be an issue. While it’s great for vegetables, you can cook anything with this and it makes it exceptionally easy. It saves cleaning your grill and prevents any lost food. It’s a great addition to your BBQ.
7. Victoria Cast Iron Grill Press
When it comes to pressing down your meat, most people will use the back of a spatula. It’s not what it’s designed for and isn’t great for the task. Instead, you should get a cast iron grill press.
It will help to reduce cooking time while also adding excellent flavor to your food. This model is seasoned with flaxseed oil to produce great results. It’s the ideal tool for searing or flattening meat.
It’s also simple to use, thanks to its excellent design. It has a removable cool-touch wood handle along with a textured bottom for a secure hold. It can be used for a wide variety of different meats and is ideal to have while grilling.
8. OXO Good Grips Meat Shredding Claws
Shredded meat can add an extra dimension to your food in both texture and taste. It works brilliantly with pork but you can also get wonderful results with the likes of chicken and beef.
When it comes to shredding meat, most people try to do it with regular forks, which can be extremely difficult. With these meat shredding claws, you’ll find the task to be incredibly easy.
The long handles and interlocking teeth mean that the task will get completed in no time at all. The grips are also comfortable and have a high level of heat resistance. If you want delicious shredded meat, then there’s no better tool than this.
9. Ofargo Plastic Marinade Injector
Adding flavor to your meat can be difficult. One method is to pierce holes into it with a fork or knife and try to rub marinade or seasoning in. The problem with this is that it’s not very efficient and produces mediocre results. With a marinade injector, you can put that flavor directly into the meat. The difference in results is huge.
You’ll find the meat to be much tastier and the flavor to be much more consistent throughout the meat. This injector is perfect for the job. It’s lightweight and compact so you can just place it on your shelf next to the grill, ready to go. It can easily be used one-handed and is food-safe too.
There are two different needles, one for sauce and another for liquid. It’s a great addition to your grill and takes the flavor to another level.
10. Hudson Durable Goods - Professional Grade Chef Apron
Unless you want clothes that are full of grease, food splashes, and charcoal stains, it’s a good idea to get an apron. This one comes in six different colors and they all look stylish. They’re made from heavyweight cotton that is very tough while still being comfortable to wear. Once you’ve finished using it, then you can throw it in the washing machine before using it again.
There are some great features here, such as the back straps which will prevent any neck pain. There are also four pockets and a towel look, for easy use. It’s easily adjustable and can be taken off quickly with the back buckle.
The versatile apron can be used for a lot more grilling and can be used time and time again. The quality is excellent throughout and most importantly. It’ll keep you and your clothes protected.
See more about - The 8 Best Aprons For Men Who Love To Cook
Grilling Tools FAQs
At a very basic level, you definitely need a spatula, fork, and tongs. After that, it depends on what you’re cooking and how you want it to be cooked. For safety, an apron and gloves are essential whereas other tools such as cedar planks are a great luxury extra.
Grilling tools need to cope with a high level of heat and need to keep you protected from that heat. They should also be comfortable and allow you to grill with ease. Once they tick those boxes, it’s all about how they make your life easier or improve the taste of your food.
This is difficult to answer as there is a vast range of brands that make a wide array of high-quality grilling tools. We think it’s more important to focus on the quality of the product if the tool meets your needs and the customer reviews. All the tools we looked at here get our seal of approval.
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The Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey
The difference between bourbon and whiskey is as clear as mud when you’re trying to choose between brands and bottles. Bourbon needs to be American-made, aged in oak for four years, and have at least a 51% mash bill, while other American Whiskeys are made using wheat and/or rye or utilize other variations in the distillation process.
Whiskey was a term first employed during the late 1800s to differentiate Irish Whiskey and American liquor from Scotch whisky and Canadian whisky (which everyone called rye). The in-vogue Japanese whisky also went with the Scotch spelling (click here for the full breakdown of whisky versus whiskey).
The following article defines what mash bill is needed to make bourbon, but also identifies the other major American whiskey styles, bottled-in-bond, Tennessee whiskey, and single malt varieties that are beginning to become more prevalent in the US.
What Makes a Liquor Bourbon?
A frequent refrain that can be heard in Kentucky is: “Not every whiskey is a bourbon, but every bourbon is a whiskey.” To be called bourbon:
The liquor needs to be crafted from at least a 51% corn fermented grain mash bill that has been stored in charred oak barrels for four years. The spirit must have been distilled within the United States.
95% of the bourbon whiskey bottled in the U.S. is distilled in the state of Kentucky.
Is All Bourbon From Kentucky?
Kentucky is considered bourbon country, and your home bar is most likely to be stocked with expressions from the Bluegrass state. The majority of bourbon has been distilled in Kentucky since American whiskey production was drawn from the corn-producing farms of the 1700s.
Despite this, other regions – such as Tennessee, Colorado, California, and even New York – are beginning to craft and/or bottle amazing bourbon expressions. Just like with peat and barley malt for Irish Whiskey and single malt and blended Scotch in the British Isles, your liquor of choice comes from the source material.
Finding the best Kentucky bourbon is like finding the best single malt Scotch – it’s entirely subjective and based on a wide variety of factors including flavor, taste, aroma, price, and accessibility.
See more about - The Top 10 Best Kentucky Bourbon Brands To Try In 2021
Wheated bourbons are those made with a large proportion of the mash bills secondary grain being wheat, in addition to the mandated 51% minimum corn. Wheat as the secondary grain provides subtlety and contrast, adding a creaminess and gradual sweetness to the spirit than that derived from the majority corn, malted barley, or rye recipe.
Wheat is also useful during oak barrel aging, with a tendency to age much better than many traditional bourbons (up to around the 20 year mark).
Best choice: Maker’s 46 Wheated Bourbon
Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon and Whiskey
The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 was a set of legal regulations created by the U.S. Government to standardize and authenticate the quality of American distilled alcoholic beverages, especially bourbon, wheat, and rye whiskey.
Prior to the time the Bottled-in-Bond Act was legislated, the American whiskey market was being decimated by inferior quality, unregulated booze. Bottled-in-bond is a whiskey label that adheres to a set of legal regulations contained in the United States government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits.
The regulatory jargon breaks down as follows:
- The whiskey must be the product of a single distillation season
- The distilled spirit must be made by one distiller at one distillery
- The distilled spirit must be at least four years old
- It must be stored and aged in government bonded warehouses
- The whiskey must also be at least 100 proof (50% ABV)
- Only water may be added to the mash bill
If you purchase a bourbon whiskey or rye labeled bottled-in-bond the regulations from the Act must be met.
Best choice: New Riff Straight Bourbon Whiskey
American Rye Whiskey
For a spirit to call itself American rye whiskey, the grain mash must be made up of at least 51% actual malted rye cereal grain.
Certified rye whiskey’s initial alcohol content can’t be higher than 160 proof, or roughly 80% alcohol before it’s distilled down and eventually bottled.
Aside from the straight rye whiskey, you’ll find some rye mash bills filled out with brown sugar, corn, or malted barley, or have the wooden barrel finish in wine, rum, or brandy casks to add another flavor dimension.
Best choice: WhistlePig Rye 10 Year
American Single Malt Whiskey
Single malt and blended whiskey expressions made from malted barley are becoming more popular craft spirits in the U.S.
With Scotch whisky at its highest popularity level of all time and the emergence of Japanese whisky as a power player in the billion-dollar market for blended malt whisky, there’s an opportunity for local distillers to make quality single malt. While it lacks the cultural cachet of Scotch, American malt whisky is meticulously crafted and caters well to craft distillation.
Best choice: Westward American Single Malt
There’s a simple, yet important distinction between Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey which makes a huge impact on the taste and what goes on the label. The crucial difference is that Tennessee whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal as part of the Lincoln County Process, a charcoal filtration method in which fresh whiskey passes through charcoal chips and is then put in oak casks for maturation.
For a whiskey to attain the Tennessee label, it must go through the charcoal mellowing stage, in the state of Tennessee.
Best choice: Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey
To be called bourbon, your whiskey needs to be distilled in America for a minimum of four years in oak barrels, with a mash bill of at least 51% corn. If it’s predominantly rye, wheat, or malt grain-based, then by law the spirit can’t be called bourbon.
Figuring out what constitutes whisky or whiskey is a lot simpler than in the past when nobody really knew what was going on. The simplest way to remember is If the country of origin has an “e” in it, then spell it whiskey. See, clear as mud!
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The 10 Best Jordans of All Time
Even if you are not a sneakerhead and don’t know all the nitty-gritty details of every pair of kicks on the market, you’re sure to recognize a pair of Jordans when you see them. Or not. I can spot a pair from a mile away; however, I have a friend that doesn’t know the difference between a pair of Nike Jordans and a pair of Adidas Gazelles, which is upsetting, but I digress…
One of the most classic and iconic sneaker styles ever, Jordans have been around for over 30 years and continue to be a part of rare and exclusive collaborations, making them a collector’s dream, with some pairs going for $12k or more. So get your wallet and credit cards out because you may just max them out as you go through this list.
1. Jordan 1 Retro Chicago (2015)
Undoubtedly the most popular style and colorway of all time as far as Jordan’s go. Last released in 2015, this iconic high-top silhouette has become the staple for street ballers, basketball fans, and sneakerheads alike. Since the airing of The Last Dance, the white/varsity red-black Chicago colorway has skyrocketed in popularity, but for the right price you can still get your hands on a pair.
2. Jordan 3 Retro Black Cement (2018)
To celebrate Mr. Jordan’s 55th birthday in 2018, the Jordan 3 Retro emblazoned sneakers feature the original “Nike Air” branding on the black cement for the first time since 2001. This mid-top kick has a black-based leather upper with cement grey, fire red, and white accents. Finished off by the iconic elephant print detailing, it’s one of the most iconic Jordan’s around.
3. Jordan 6 Retro Black Infrared (2019)
The Air Jordan 6 Retro “Infrared” is a 2019 re-release of the OG colorway. The shoe’s black nubuck upper includes a reflective 3M layer with perforations throughout for breathability. The heel, tongue, and lock sport Infrared accents, with the color also featured on the signature midsole detailing. Visible Air in the heel provides cushioning, while the translucent sections continue down onto the outsole for traction.
4. Jordan 1 Retro High OG Shadow 2.0
This very rare OG colorway has hit shelves only three times in the 30 year history of Jordans, making these a must-own for any AJ1 collector. The shoe features a black and grey leather upper with original “Nike Air” branding on the tongue tag and insoles, along with a white midsole and black outsole. It should be noted that the grey leather panels found on the “Shadow 2.0” are lighter in color than the original grey leather on the first “Shadow.”
5. Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG Shattered Backboard
Released in 2015, the “Shattered Backboard” Air Jordan 1 High is inspired by a 1985 exhibition game in Italy in which Michael Jordan broke the glass backboard after a dunk. Constructed in high-quality tumbled leather in the original high top silhouette, the orange, black, and white colorway is taken from the team uniform MJ wore during the game and modeled after the OG “Black Toe” AJ1 color block. Highly limited upon its initial release, the “Shattered Backboard” Air Jordan 1 disappeared quickly and is now one of the most sought after pairs of not just Jordans, but of sneakers, in general.
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6. Air Jordan 1 Retro Royal (2017)
An original colorway of Michael Jordan’s first signature shoe, this 2017 re-release receives an upgrade in regards to the quality of materials used and its shape, which is truer to the actual 1985 release. The Varsity Royal blue paneling appears in tumbled leather on the toe box, Swooshes, heel, and ankle.
Black premium leather covers the remainder of the upper to complete the classic color blocking. A clean, white midsole balances out the shoe, maintaining the iconic motif along with the Varsity Royal outsole.
7. Jordan 13 Retro Low Chutney
Putting a spin on the iconic Jordan 13 design, Tinker Hatfield designed the Chutney as a stand out in the Air Jordan family. And stand out they do.
The difference between this chutney design and a traditional 13 lies in the cut. These retros replace the classic high top style with a mid top and feature a tan suede upper.
8. Jordan 1 Retro High Dior
If you happen to have $10k-12k burning a hole in your pocket then here is a place for you to spend it. One of the most highly anticipated launches, The Dior x Air Jordan 1 High sneakers are the first collaboration between the luxury brand and sneaker giant.
Featuring a premium white leather upper with wolf grey overlays and the classic Dior logo on the swoosh, this version of the iconic high-top silhouette is a stand-out. The collar has also been altered, stamped with a special “Air Dior” logo.
9. Air Jordan 1 Retro High Rust Pink
Again, if you happen to have $6+ grand just waiting to be spent, first, what do you do for a living, if I may ask, and second, please buy these shoes. These Jordan 1 Retro High Rust Pink kicks were released in early 2017, adding a coral pink “Rust Pink” hue to the two-tone color blocking previously seen on other classic AJ1 silhouettes.
The black paneling features a premium tumbled leather construction, while the midsole appears in white.
10. Air Jordan 5 Retro SP PS “Off-White - Sail
Every sneakerhead remembers when Nike teamed up with Virgil Abloh for the now iconic “The Ten” collection. Abloh added a second colorway to his Jordan 5 collaboration with the Jordan 5 Retro High “Off-White Sail.” This release pays homage to the first pair of Jordans that Virgil ever owned, the Air Jordan 5.
In signature fashion, Virgil has reimagined this classic silhouette with his own recognizable style. This Jordan 5 consists of a sail textile mesh upper with translucent netted panels and circular window inserts throughout the shoe. 3M reflective tongues, fire red Jordan branding, and an aged translucent outsole completes the design.
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