Bourbon vs. whiskey

21/11/2020
Updated: 24/12/2020
2 mins read
Bourbon vs. whiskey

Bourbon is a very popular spirit. In fact, it is one of the most popular types of whiskey.

You heard that right; you can’t compare bourbon to whiskey, as bourbon is a whiskey. It’s just one of the many different varieties of whiskey available.

But where does bourbon come from, how is it made, and how does it differ from other whiskeys?

In this article, we compare bourbon with other types of whiskey so that you can find out what makes it unique. 

The United States produces Bourbon.

Bourbon refers to whiskey that is made in the United States. It is primarily made in Kentucky, with 95% of all bourbon distilled being produced there. 

Some people may claim that bourbon needs to be from Kentucky to be considered an actual bourbon. However, this is not quite true. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States; however, for a whiskey to be called a “Kentucky bourbon,” it needs to be distilled and aged in Kentucky. 

The name of the spirit comes from Bourbon County, which is in Kentucky. 

Tennessee whiskey is similar in many respects to bourbon, however this needs to be made explicitly in Tennessee and will need to follow a particular distilling process, which differs from the methods used in bourbon. 

Bourbon is made from 51% corn.

Bourbon is made from a mixture of fermented grains, which are then left to age in oak barrels. One of the most significant differences between bourbon and other whiskey types is that bourbon contains at least 51% corn. 

The American Bourbon Association requires that the corn content is over half of the contents.

It is the corn that gives bourbon its distinctive sweet flavor. 

This is different from whiskies such as scotch, for example, which is mostly made from malted barley. 

Bourbon is made in new charred oak barrels.

Bourbon is aged in new charred oak barrels. Its essential barrels have not been used to age other spirits previously, as the barrel needs to be fresh for the whiskey to be defined as bourbon. 

Some other whiskeys may be aged in barrels that have been used for holding or aging other spirits. But bourbon mustn’t be. 

The aging process has to be at least two years. 

Bourbon needs to be at least 40% ABV.

This type of whiskey needs to be at least 40% ABV (alcohol by volume) to be considered bourbon. 

When bourbon is barreled, it needs to meet a particular proof.  Proof relates to the alcohol content of the spirit. 

The mash needs to be distilled at 160 proof- this translates to 80% ABV or less. This is then aged in barrels until it is less than 125 proof (62.5%). When it comes to bottling the spirit, bourbon is filtered and then diluted down to 80 proof (40% ABV).

By Ashleigh Cain

Ashleigh is a key part of the editorial team at Whiskey Rocks. You'll often find her either writing educational articles or reviewing the latest artisan whiskeys. Her favorite drink? Ashleigh loves smokey scotches like Laphroaig, but you'll also often find her with an old fashioned in hand.

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