Understanding How Bourbon Fits Into the Whiskey World

bourbon vs whiskey

When comparing bourbon vs whiskey, bourbon stands out from the numerous whiskey types with its deliciously sweet flavor. Bourbon is an amber-colored pioneer in American history, establishing itself as one of the most well-known distilled spirits around the world.

Knowing the Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey

Whiskey is an alcoholic beverage distilled from fermented grains. Within the category of whiskey drinks lies multiple subsets including bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey. Advancements in technology have given manufacturers control over all aspects of production from harvesting grains to storing spirits.

Whiskey is made in different parts of the world. Distillers use diverse grains including wheat, rye and barley. On the other hand, bourbon must contain a grain mix of at least 51 percent corn. Bourbon must be stored in barrels at no higher than 62.5 percent concentration, while whiskey can be stored at a minimum of 40 percent concentration.

Whiskey encompasses a variety of unique spirits that are found in liquor and grocery stores. The world’s leading whiskey guide evaluates over 4,600 different types of whiskey with helpful, unbiased information.

The History of Bourbon Whiskey as America’s Native Spirit

In 1897, the government set the standards for distilling whiskey with the Bottle in Bond Act. This act requires bourbon to be distilled no more than 160 proof. The aging of the barrels often adds alcoholic content that can be dissipated with water as needed. Other whiskeys can go up to a maximum of 190 proof, making them more concentrated.

Bourbon has not always been the popular drink it is today. In the early 1900’s, bourbon was viewed as a cheap commodity with an extremely bitter taste. Bill Samuels transformed the bourbon landscape with the emergence of Maker's Mark Distillery.

Straight From the Whiskey Barrel to the Bottle

A fundamental difference between bourbon and whiskey lies in the whiskey barrel. The government requires bourbon to be stored in new, charred white oak barrels which can be reused for other types of whiskey such as scotch and Irish whiskey.

If aged for less than four years, the bottle must be labeled with the age duration. Straight bourbon is aged for at least 2 years for a full-bodied flavor. Jim Beam leads the bourbon whiskey industry with their aged Kentucky straight bourbon with its smooth, mellow flavor.

Guaranteeing the Authenticity of Bourbon Whiskey

Legally, for whiskey to be classified as bourbon, it must be produced in America. Other whiskey makers operate around the world using color and flavor additives, but authentic bourbon only adds water to reduce the proof percentage as needed.

The popularity of the alcoholic beverage subset is unmatched by other types of whiskey in the industry. Spirits such as Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey may qualify under government regulations but are not marketed as bourbon. Production regulations extend to other types of whiskey, such as rye whiskey that is distilled from at least 51 percent rye.

When comparing the two, bourbon represents an American-made spirit that is popular throughout the world. Whiskey lovers know the difference between bourbon and whiskey lies not only in the manufacturing regulations but in the smooth, sweet taste of bourbon.


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