What is Bourbon?


Kentucky Bourbon is synonymous with American whiskey; however, bourbon’s namesake is unclear. It could reference the Kentucky county or it could be paying homage to that legendary street in New Orleans. Either way, if you want to appreciate and explore bourbon, here are is an overview to get you started.



Bourbon’s Mash Bill

US requirements mandate that bourbon be made with a mixture of grain containing at least 51 percent corn. Most bourbons produced contain 70 percent or more corn, together with the remaining mixture being comprised of barley, rye or wheat. No flavorings or color additives are permitted in bourbon blends.



Bourbon cannot be distilled to more than 160 proof. That translates to an alcohol by volume content of 80 percent. When it is put in the distillation barrel, it can be at no more than 125 proof. Otherwise, it needs to be diluted with water. A double distillation process, which is done by quality distillers and producers, ensures smoothness.

Aging Laws

Bourbon has to be aged for a minimum of two years in new oak barrels. These barrels must be charred inside. Distilleries typically use a Number 4 Alligator char inside their barrels. Straight bourbon comes from contents of the barrel that are at least two years old, and they must be labeled as such. A bourbon that is aged four years or more does not need to list its age on the label. One way to choose an older bourbon is to look for those without an age listed on the label.

The Flavors Of Bourbon

The general profile of bourbon’s flavor lies somewhere between strong vanilla flavor mixed with caramel and oak notes. Rye lends a spicy hint to the spirit. Wheat provides a sweetness that compliments the corn.

Bourbon 2

Some bourbons to try in order to sample the flavoring include Bulleit bourbon, which contains rye giving it a spicy taste. Bourbons with wheat, such as Makers Mark lend a soft, sweet feel to the mouth.

Bourbon Vs. Whiskey

  1. All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. For example, Tennessee whiskey, Canadian whiskey or scotch are not bourbon.
  2. Bourbon is all-American and is supposed to be made in United States.   In 1964, under President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, Congress declared bourbon America’s Native Spirit.
  3. The one thing that may be included in bourbon is water (and just to lower the proof). Other whiskey producers could add colors and flavors to their spirits.
  4. Whiskey can age in re-used barrels. Legally, bourbon distillers must use new charred American white oak barrels. Scotch whisky frequently recycles barrels first used for bourbon.
  5. Bottle can’t say “bourbon” on the label if it’s not produced in the U . S .. And it can not be “Kentucky Bourbon” unless it’s made in Kentucky.