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Is Bourbon Whiskey?

Bourbon and whiskey are two terms that are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion about their differences.


While many people believe that bourbon is a type of whiskey, there are some key distinctions between the two. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made primarily from corn, while whiskey can be made anywhere in the world and is typically made from a variety of grains.

One of the main differences between bourbon and whiskey is that bourbon must be made in the United States, while whiskey can be made in any country.

Additionally, bourbon must be made from a mash that contains at least 51% corn, while whiskey can be made from a variety of grains, including barley, rye, and wheat. Bourbon must also be aged in new, charred oak barrels, while whiskey can be aged in a variety of barrels, including those made from oak, sherry, or port.

Despite these differences, bourbon is considered a type of whiskey under U.S. law. This means that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. Understanding the differences between these two spirits can help you make more informed decisions when it comes to choosing the right drink for your taste preferences.

What is Bourbon Whiskey

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made primarily from corn. According to the U.S. government, bourbon must meet certain requirements to be labeled as such.


These requirements include:

  • The mash bill (the mixture of grains used to make the whiskey) must contain at least 51% corn.
  • The whiskey must be distilled to no more than 80% alcohol by volume (ABV).
  • The whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak barrels.
  • The whiskey must be bottled at no less than 40% ABV.

Bourbon is often associated with the state of Kentucky, but it can be made anywhere in the United States. However, if a whiskey is made outside of Kentucky, it cannot be labeled as “Kentucky bourbon.”

Bourbon has a distinct flavor profile that sets it apart from other types of whiskey. It is often described as having notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak. It is also typically sweeter than other types of whiskey due to the high percentage of corn in the mash bill.

Bourbon is a popular spirit in the United States and around the world. It can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in a variety of cocktails. Some popular bourbon cocktails include the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan, and the Mint Julep.

History of Bourbon Whiskey

Bourbon, a type of American whiskey, has a rich and storied history that dates back to the late 18th century. While the exact origins of bourbon are unclear, it is believed to have been first distilled in what is now Kentucky, specifically in Bourbon County, hence the name.

a bottle and glass of bourbon drink

Early bourbon was likely made from leftover grains that farmers had after their primary crops were harvested. It was a way to make use of surplus grain and prevent waste. In fact, many of the early bourbon distillers were farmers of Scots-Irish origin who settled in the area.

One of the most famous legends surrounding the origins of bourbon involves a man named Elijah Craig. It is said that Craig, a Baptist minister and distiller, was the first to age his whiskey in charred oak barrels. This process gave the whiskey its distinctive flavor and color and is still used today.

Bourbon became so popular that it was often referred to as “Old Bourbon” in the 19th century. However, the industry faced challenges during Prohibition, when the production and sale of alcohol were banned in the United States from 1920 to 1933. Many distilleries were forced to close during this time, and some never reopened.

Despite these setbacks, the bourbon industry rebounded after Prohibition and continues to thrive today. In fact, in 1964, Congress declared bourbon to be a “distinctive product of the United States.” This designation ensures that only whiskey produced in the United States and aged in new, charred oak barrels can be called bourbon.

Today, bourbon is enjoyed all over the world and has become synonymous with American culture. Bourbon Street in New Orleans is a popular destination for tourists looking to experience the city’s famous nightlife, and there are countless bourbon distilleries throughout Kentucky and beyond.

Bourbon Production Process

Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is distilled from a mash bill of at least 51% corn, with the remaining grains typically being rye, wheat, or malted barley. The process of making bourbon involves several steps, including fermentation, distillation, and barrel aging.

Barrels of Bourbon Whiskey in an aging cellar

The first step in the bourbon production process is creating the mash bill, which is a mixture of grains and water that is cooked and then cooled to a temperature suitable for yeast. Yeast is then added to the mash bill, which begins the process of fermentation. During fermentation, the yeast consumes the sugars in the mash bill and produces alcohol.

After fermentation, the mash is distilled to separate the alcohol from the solids. The resulting liquid, known as “white dog” or “new make,” is then aged in charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years. The barrel aging process gives bourbon its distinctive flavor and color, as the liquid absorbs the flavors and tannins from the wood.

During the aging process, the bourbon also undergoes a natural reduction in alcohol content, as some of the liquid evaporates through the barrel. This process, known as the “angel’s share,” can result in a loss of up to 10% of the liquid over the course of several years.

Bourbon Aging Process

Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is aged in new, charred oak barrels. The aging process is crucial to the development of the spirit’s distinctive flavors and colors.

Godfather cocktail with scotch whiskey, almond amaretto liqueur and ice cubes.

Straight bourbon must be aged for a minimum of 2 years in the United States, while there is no specific aging requirement for whiskey. However, many whiskeys are aged and matured for extended periods to develop complex flavors and aromas.

The aging process of bourbon involves a few key steps. First, the spirit is placed in a new, charred oak barrel at no more than 125 proof. The barrel is then stored in a cool, dark place where it can mature and develop its unique flavor profile.

During the aging process, the bourbon interacts with the wood of the barrel, which imparts flavors and colors to the spirit. The charred wood helps to filter out impurities and adds a smoky, caramelized flavor to the bourbon. The longer the bourbon is aged, the more complex its flavor profile becomes.

Bottled-in-bond bourbon is a specific type of bourbon that must meet certain requirements set forth by the U.S. government. Bottled-in-bond bourbons must be aged for at least four years, and any other age statement on a bottle must reflect the youngest whiskey used in its blend. This process allows producers to maintain a consistent flavor profile.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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