The Difference Between Bourbon And Whiskey

The Difference Between Bourbon And Whiskey: A thrilling Encounter With The Liquor World

Whiskey and bourbon are two types of alcoholic beverages that are cherished by liquor enthusiasts worldwide for their rich flavors, warm texture, and soothing abilities. But how many of us truly understand the difference between the two? Yes, all bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbon. Puzzled? Let’s delve into the fascinating world of liquor where we unravel the defining differences between bourbon and whiskey.

Whiskey, the Umbrella Term

The term “whiskey” is an umbrella term for a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. These grains could be barley, corn, rye, or wheat. The production process of whiskey involves distilling the fermented grain mash and aging it in wooden casks, generally made of charred white oak.

Whiskeys can be further categorized based on the type of grain used, the length of aging, and the type of cask used for aging. One can find Scotch whiskey, Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and more, each with distinctive elements defining their unique taste and color.

Bourbon, the All-American Drink

Bourbon, on the other hand, is a type of American whiskey with specific legal regulations governing its production. The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 CFR 5) provide crystal clear mandates on what makes a bourbon. The rules state that bourbon must be:

1. Produced in the United States.
2. Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn.
3. Distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof (80% alcohol by volume).
4. Aged in new, charred oak containers.
5. Entered into the container for aging at no more than 125 proof (62.5% alcohol by volume).
6. Bottled at 80 proof or more (40% alcohol by volume).

No specific duration of aging is prescribed for bourbon. However, to be called straight bourbon, it needs to be aged for a minimum of two years. If aged less than four years, the duration of aging must be stated on the label.

Dark and Flavorful

The signature color and flavor of bourbon are significantly derived from the new charred oak barrels in which it is aged. The charring of barrels leads to caramelization of the natural sugars in the wood, which the bourbon absorbs during aging. This lends a dark color and a sweet, full-bodied flavor, which is swayingly smooth.

Unlike bourbon, regulations for whiskey vary depending on the category, with different requirements for grain percentage, aging, and labeling. Therefore, whiskies, depending on their type, may exhibit a wide range of colors and flavors.

Simply put, bourbon’s distinction from other types of whiskey lies mainly in its strict production regulations. The use of at least 51% corn, the new charred oak aging process, and the specific proofing requirements lead to its distinctive full-bodied and sweet flavor profile.

In conclusion, the major differences between bourbon and whiskey are reminiscent of the adage that “all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.” While bourbon shows its class as distinctly American, bold, sweet, and robust whiskey, other types of whiskeys, each with its own uniqueness, continue to bewitch liquor connoisseurs across the globe. Whether you savor bourbon or whiskey, the critical element is to enjoy each sip and appreciate the craftsmanship that has gone into producing these delightful spirits.