5 Things You Need to Know about Bourbon

You’ve probably heard the old adage that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. But what does it really mean?

5 Things About Bourbon

Bourbon is an iconic American spirit and while whisky/whiskey is distilled from fermented grain and aged in oak casks, Bourbon, by definition has its own regulations set by the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits.

Here are 5 Things You Need to Know About Bourbon:

1. Made in the USA

Bourbon can only to be produced in America. If other countries produce a similar spirit, it cannot be called bourbon. Limeburners in Albany Western Australia produces a bourbon style whiskey which they call Tiger Snake. Similarly in Perth, Whipper Snapper Distillery has a bourbon style spirit currently maturing which will have a different name.

2. Minimum 51% corn

Bourbon must be produced from a grain mix which has a minimum of 51% corn. Bourbon is usually made from a mash of corn, rye, wheat and sometimes malted barley. While each distillery has its own recipe for the grain mixture, only the corn content is regulated.

3. ABV Specific

Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 80% ABV, put in barrels at 62.5% ABV and bottled at minimum of 40% ABV.

4. Aged in New Charred Barrels

Bourbon has to be aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years. Unlike Scotch whisky which uses barrels that have previously had other spirits, bourbon must aged in virgin oak, a regulation that no doubt keeps cooperage in business.

5. No Additives

Bourbon must not contain any added flavouring, colouring or any other additives. If you see any flavoured whiskeys, such as those with honey or black cherry, they’re not bourbons. Jack Daniel’s is not bourbon; it’s a Tennessee Whiskey. The spirit undergoes Charcoal Mellowing where every drop passes through 10 feet of hard packed charcoal made from hard sugar maple hence it cannot be called bourbon.

If you’re looking to get started on bourbon, popular brands include Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Hudson Baby Bourbon, Knob Creek and Eagle Rare.

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5 Things You Need to Know about Bourbon was last modified: September 6th, 2015 by Corinne Mossati
Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of Cocktails & Bars and popular online magazine Gourmantic. She is named in the Australian Bartender Magazine Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The World’s 50 Best Bars Academy who judges the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions. Read the full bio here.