What is Bourbon?

American whiskey called Bourbon is mostly manufactured from corn. It is a well-liked spirit that many people like, yet some people are still unsure of its specific description and traits.

With a few distinctive qualities that set it different from other varieties of whiskey, bourbon is a strictly controlled beverage that must be made in the United States.

The requirement that bourbon be matured in brand-new, charred oak barrels is one of its most famous features. The whiskey’s distinctive flavor and color come from this. In addition, bourbon cannot be distilled to an alcohol content of more than 80% by volume and must be produced from a mash that comprises at least 51% maize. These laws guarantee that bourbon is a distinct, premium product that is loved by whiskey connoisseurs all around the world.

Despite being widely consumed, there are still lots of myths about bourbon’s composition and production. We shall examine the background and qualities of bourbon in this post, as well as some of the most often asked queries regarding this popular American liqueur. This book will give you a thorough knowledge of what makes bourbon so exceptional, whether you are an experienced whiskey drinker or a curious novice.

What is Bourbon?

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made primarily from corn (maize). It must be produced in the United States and aged in new, charred oak barrels.

The precise source of inspiration for the name “bourbon” is uncertain, but it is believed to be derived from Bourbon County in Kentucky or Bourbon Street in New Orleans, both of which are named after the French Bourbon dynasty.

To be classified as bourbon, the whiskey must follow specific regulations. It must be made from a mashbill that contains at least 51% corn, with the remaining ingredients usually being a combination of wheat, barley, and rye. The mash is fermented, distilled to no more than 160 proof, and then aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years.

The charred oak barrel is an essential component of bourbon production. The barrel imparts flavors of vanilla, caramel, and oak to the whiskey. The longer the bourbon is aged, the more complex its flavor becomes.

Bourbon is often referred to as “America’s native spirit” because of its deep roots in American history. It has been produced in the United States since the late 18th century and has become an integral part of American culture.

Bourbon is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed on its own or used as a base for cocktails. Its unique flavor profile makes it a popular choice among whiskey enthusiasts. With its rich history and complex flavor, bourbon is a true American classic.

The Bourbon Making Process

Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is made from a specific mash bill, distilled in a particular manner, and aged in charred oak barrels.

Here is a brief overview of the bourbon-making process.

Mash Bill

The first step in making bourbon is to create a mash bill, which is a mixture of grains that will be used to make the whiskey. The mash bill for bourbon must contain at least 51% corn, with the remaining grains typically rye, barley, or wheat. The exact proportions of the grains used in the mash bill can vary between distillers and can have a significant impact on the flavor of the final product.


Once the mash bill has been determined, it is mixed with water and heated to create a mash. Yeast is then added to the mash, which converts the sugars in the grains into alcohol. The fermentation process typically takes several days, during which time the yeast consumes the sugars and produces alcohol.


After fermentation, the mash is distilled to separate the alcohol from the solids. The distillation process typically involves two or more rounds of distillation, with the resulting alcohol becoming increasingly concentrated with each pass. The final product of distillation is a clear, high-proof spirit that is ready for aging.


The final step in making bourbon is to age the spirit in charred oak barrels. The barrels are typically made from American white oak and are charred on the inside to impart flavor and color to the whiskey.

As the bourbon ages in the barrels, it takes on flavors from the wood, such as vanilla and caramel, and develops a rich amber color. Bourbon must be aged for at least two years to be considered “straight” bourbon, although many distillers choose to age their whiskey for much longer.

Overall, the bourbon-making process is a carefully crafted combination of science and art that produces a unique and flavorful whiskey. From the mash bill to the aging process, every step of the process is carefully controlled to ensure that the final product meets the high standards of bourbon enthusiasts around the world.

Bourbon vs. Whiskey

Bourbon and whiskey are two alcoholic beverages that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.

Here are some of the key differences between bourbon and whiskey:

Definition and Origin

Whiskey is a distilled spirit made from grains like corn and rye and aged in wooden barrels. Bourbon, on the other hand, is a type of whiskey that must be made in the United States and distilled from at least 51% corn. Most bourbon is produced in Kentucky, which is known for its bourbon distilleries.

Mash Bill

The mash bill is the combination of grains used to make the whiskey or bourbon. Bourbon must have a mash bill that contains at least 51% corn, while whiskey can be made from any combination of grains. This means that bourbon has a sweeter flavor profile than most whiskeys, which tend to be a bit more complex.


Both bourbon and whiskey are aged in wooden barrels, but there are some differences in the aging process. Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, while whiskey can be aged in any type of wooden barrel. This gives bourbon a distinct flavor profile that is characterized by notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak.


Bottled-in-Bond is a designation that is given to American whiskeys that meet certain criteria. To be considered bottled-in-bond, the whiskey must be the product of one distillation season, made by one distiller at one distillery, and aged for at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse. It must also be bottled at 100 proof. While bottled-in-bond can apply to any American whiskey, it is most commonly associated with straight bourbon.


Scotch is a type of whiskey that is made in Scotland. It is made from malted barley and aged in wooden barrels for at least three years. Scotch has a distinct smoky flavor that is the result of the malted barley being dried over peat fires.

In summary, bourbon is a type of whiskey that is made in the United States and must have a mash bill that contains at least 51% corn. It is aged in new, charred oak barrels and has a sweeter flavor profile than most whiskeys. While there are many different types of whiskey, bourbon is one of the most popular and well-known varieties.

Bourbon Cocktails

Bourbon is a popular foundation for many classic and modern cocktails.

It’s so versatile that you will enjoy it in almost any drink recipe that does not call for a specific style of whiskey. There are a number of famous bourbon cocktails that should be on every whiskey lover’s radar.

Mint Julep

The Mint Julep is a classic bourbon cocktail that is often associated with the Kentucky Derby. This refreshing cocktail is made with bourbon, muddled mint leaves, sugar, and crushed ice. The Mint Julep is traditionally served in a silver or pewter cup and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.

Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is a timeless bourbon cocktail that has been around since the 1800s. This cocktail is made with bourbon, sugar, bitters, and a twist of citrus. The Old Fashioned is typically served over ice and garnished with a cherry and an orange slice.


Drinking bourbon neat means that it is served at room temperature in a glass without any ice or mixers. This is the purest way to enjoy the flavors and aromas of the bourbon. Neat bourbon is typically sipped slowly and savored.

On the Rocks

Bourbon on the rocks means that it is served over ice in a glass. This is a great way to enjoy bourbon if you prefer a slightly diluted and chilled drink. Bourbon on the rocks is typically served with a twist of citrus or a cherry.

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

Written by Rocco

Rocco is a Florida State University alumnus with years of bartending and hospitality experience. From slinging hundreds of vodka sodas a night in jam-packed college bars to serving carefully crafted cocktails in upscale restaurants, there’s not much he hasn’t done behind a bar. Now, Rocco shares his knowledge and passion for all things alcohol-related here on My Bartender for bibulous readers everywhere to enjoy.

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