Whiskey vs. Bourbon: The Rules And The Rewards
“There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others.”
- Raymond Chandler
All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. So if you love bourbon, you love whiskey, but if you love whiskey, you might not love bourbon. Confused yet? We laid out the differences between bourbon and other types of whiskey to make it clear once and for all.
What separates bourbon from whiskey?
Simply put, whiskey is any alcohol distilled from fermented grain. The grain can be corn, wheat, barley, rye, or a combination of the above. You can age the product for as little as a month or as long as 25 years in different types of barrels. Rye, Scotch, and bourbon are all different types of whiskey made with various production methods and standards.
Bourbon is a specific type of whiskey that has become more popular in recent years than ever before. It is an American-made whiskey distilled from between 51-79% corn, with the rest of the mix made up of wheat, rye, or malted barley. Under strict legal requirements, bourbon must be at least 51% corn; be bottled at no less than 80 proof; and be aged in new, charred white oak barrels.
What will tickle your taste buds?
Do you have a sweet tooth?
Bourbon’s most notable characteristic is its sweet flavor and full-bodied texture – a result of the high corn content. Some bourbon has a significant amount of rye that lends the spirit a spicy note.
Try: Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon
Do you prefer time-tested tradition?
Scotch whisky is less sweet and more complex on the palate than bourbon. It can taste full-bodied and smoky or light and floral, depending on its age and ingredients. It is more refined compared to bourbon’s rustic nature.
Try: The Macallan Fine Oak 18 Year
Wishing for more of an edge?
Rye, often conflated with Canadian whisky, is spicy, robust, and very dry with fruity notes from the rye grains. It has a slightly bitter taste and lighter body, making it a tasty choice for classic cocktails.
Try: Crown Royal
Love bourbon, but want to explore your options?
Bourbon can be further categorized based on its mash bill, or the combination of grains used in the recipe. Try one of each type to see how different ingredients can alter the final product:
Traditional bourbon: Willet Pot Still
Willet Pot Still is small batch single barrel bourbon with spicy, citrusy notes and flavors of honey, caramel, black tea, toasty cocoa and charcoal. It’s delicious neat or in a cocktail for a taste of true Kentucky bourbon.
High-wheat bourbon: Old Weller 107
Old Weller 107 indulges your taste buds with lush caramel and vanilla flavors, ending with a hint of spicy cinnamon and pepper. The wheat in the mash bill provides a sweet, light, and easy-to-sip flavor.
High-rye bourbon: Basil Hayden’s
Basil Hayden’s bourbon gets its bold, spicy flavor from its high rye content — approximately 30% of the mash. This variety packs a wonderful punch for those looking for a dramatic, yet smooth taste.
What type of whiskey do you think stands above the rest? Let us know in the comments!
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