Bourbon Vs Whiskey: What’s the difference?

The difference between bourbon and whiskey is the origin. Bourbon is made in the US and qualifies as a type of whiskey. Bourbon is a whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbons. Whiskey is a family of distilled liquor, and bourbon is a type of American whiskey.

Bourbon or whiskey, which one tastes better for you? Is it whiskey or whisky? If you love American bourbon or Irish whiskey, you may wonder if there is any thin line between these two categories of drinks.

Whiskey is spelt without an ‘e’ in Canada and Scotland. It is spelt as “Whiskey” in the United States and Ireland.

You are on the right page if you want to learn more about whiskey. Continue reading to find out more about bourbon and whiskey and what makes them stand out in the liquor industry.  

Whiskey, Bar, Bourbon, Scotch, Shot, Wood, Pour, Taste

Where do bourbon and whiskey come from?

Whiskey is a family of distilled liquor made by fermenting a grain mash like barley, rye, and corn. There are different types of whiskey out there in the market, and you can choose one that suits your specifications. 

 Most of the whiskey in the market is usually named based on the country of origin. The most popular types of whiskey include:

  • Rye whiskey – Canadian and American 
  • Bourbon – American whiskey 
  • Scotch – Scottish whiskey 
  • Irish whiskey 
  • Japanese whiskey 

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey made from 51% corn and is aged in white oak barrels. Bourbon is a name of a place in America, Bourbon Country, Kentucky. This is the region or place where this type of whiskey was invented.

Today, at least 95% of world bourbon is made in Kentucky, making this one of the most popular locations in the world.

Woodford Reserve, Bourbon, Whiskey, Kentucky, Drink

The difference in taste between Bourbon and Whiskey

An essential question that most whiskey lovers would ask is the difference in tastes between bourbon and typical whiskey drink. Yes, all bourbon is whiskey, but what distinguishes bourbon from other types of whiskey is the taste.  

So what does bourbon taste like? This type of whiskey comes in a sweet flavor compared to other types of whiskey on the market. It has notes of caramel, oak, and vanilla. There is always a wide variety of different flavors depending on the brand of bourbon you are drinking. 

 You can break bourbon into four different categories depending on its taste. This includes nutmeg, grain, cinnamon, and caramel forward.

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What qualifies whiskey to be called bourbon?

Most whiskey lovers believe that bourbon and whiskey are two different drinks categories. You will hear some people saying they love bourbon and not whiskey when the truth is that what is in front of the table is just some brand of whiskey.

There is no big difference between bourbon and whiskey, if not the origin. They are all whiskeys, and you want to treat them with equal respect.

Now, because bourbon is made in the US, it must meet some standards to maintain its original taste and remain unique in the market. It should be easy to differentiate bourbon from other types of whiskey right from the first sip.

There is a legal definition of what makes bourbon and what constitutes other types of whiskey. Bourbon is just a younger whiskey, and it could be aged as long as a Scotch. 

Here is a breakdown of what makes bourbon:

  • The origin: All bourbon must be aged and distilled in the United States. It should be closely associated with Bourbon, Kentucky, and the southern US. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the US.
  • The grain makeup: Bourbon is a type of grain whiskey. That means it should be able to meet all the legal requirements so that it is distilled from at least 51% corn. The remaining part of bourbon should consist of other grains like wheat, rye, and barley. A combination of fermented grain used in making a whiskey is known as a mash bill. Every corn used in making bourbon has unique properties and adds a unique taste to the drink.
  • The aging process: Typical bourbon must be aged in a new charred white oak barrel from the US. The barrel used in aging the bourbon gives it the smell, flavor, and color. It gets its unique flavor from contact with a wood barrel. The aging of bourbon takes months or even years. In most cases, a whiskey bottle carries a label of how many years it has been aged in a barrel.
  • The proof: Bourbon must be at least 80 proof and contain 40% Alcohol by Volume (ABV). It must be distilled in not more than 160 proof and 80% ABV and should have at least 125 proof as it ages in a barrel.
  • It is straight: straight bourbon means that it adheres to the strict rules of making bourbon. It should be aged for at least two years. If the bourbon has been aged for less than four years, it should have an age statement indicting this. A straight whiskey should not have any colorings or additives like caramel coloring.
  • The taste: You can easily strike the difference between a whiskey and your typical bourbon. Bourbon has a sweet flavor compared to common whiskeys. The most common flavors in bourbon are butterscotch, vanilla, and toffee. 
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Final Thoughts 

So, what more do you want to know about your bourbon. What makes bourbon different from whiskey is the proof, the aging process, alcohol by volume, and the ingredients used in making the mash bill. 

When choosing your bourbon, you want to ensure it has been aged and distilled in the US. Most bourbon comes from Bourbon, Kentucky.

Whether you choose to drink bourbon or whiskey, you should know that there is a slight difference between these two. Bourbon is a type of whiskey, but not all whiskey you buy is bourbon. 

The main difference between these drinks is their origins and the distillation process. The next time you buy bourbon, you want to check if it is made in the US. If not, you are just having another Irish or Scotch on the table.

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