Whether your go-to drink is brown liquor or not, you may not realize that there is a difference between bourbon and whiskey. Let’s face it, both bourbon and whiskey look the same and taste so similar that unless you are a connoisseur of brown liquor, the two may seem interchangeable. Adding to the confusion, many people refer to all brown liquor as either whiskey or bourbon, which isn’t entirely wrong, just not exactly right.
If you’ve been wondering what the difference is between bourbon and whiskey, or you are just now realizing there is a difference, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at the subtle yet crucial differences between bourbon and whiskey.
One of the primary differences between bourbon and whiskey is the way it is manufactured and aged. All whiskey is made from grain that is fermented then aged in barrels. The kind of grain and the barrels used in this process determine the variety of whiskey that is the result.
The American Bourbon Association classifies bourbon as a whiskey that must be distilled from a mixture of grains, or mash, at least made up of 51% corn. Corn is what gives bourbon its distinctively sweet flavor.
It’s All In The Barrels
The aging process for brown liquor is essential to producing the final product. Bourbon must be aged in new charred oak barrels without any colorings or additives. Other whiskeys can be aged in barrels previously used to age other spirits, not necessarily whiskey barrels. Aging whiskey in barrels used for port, rum, or sherry, for example, actually allows for subtle notes in taste profiles that offer distinctive flavors.
A designated “straight bourbon whiskey” has to have been aged for a minimum of two years in a new charred oak barrel.
A Place Of Distinction
You may have heard that bourbon has to be made in Kentucky; however, that’s not exactly the case. To be designated a “Kentucky Bourbon,” the spirit must be both distilled and aged in Kentucky; however, bourbon can be manufactured outside the state.
Bourbon gets its name from Bourbon County, Kentucky, making the liquor somewhat synonymous with the state even though it may be produced elsewhere.
This dynamic is similar to that of the Champagne region of France being linked with champagne. So, the next time you sip on a bourbon, or a whiskey, you’ll have a little more insight into the true nature of the delicious spirit.