You voted, we listened! This week the polls said you prefer whiskey over vodka, so we’re here to share that there’s more to this robust spirit than just stirred drinks.
Shake it up with our unique collection of cocktail kits, handy bar tools, and even learn a little about bourbon while you’re here.
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Whisky is for Scotch, Irish and Japanese (generally, all worldwide) whisky, while whiskey with an “e” refers to American whiskey! All bourbons are whiskey, but not all whisk(e)ys are bourbon!
In order to be classified as bourbon whiskey, there are a few specifications that must be met. From the grains of the mash bill to the wood of the barrel, bourbon has some special requirements.
Read on to up your bourbon knowledge!
A mash bill is the recipe of mixed grains used to make bourbon. Theses grains are cooked and fermented to begin the bourbon making process.
There are typically three grains in every bourbon mash bill: Corn, Rye or Wheat, and Malted Barley. You can use any grains though (like rice and oats) and still qualify as a bourbon, as long as the mash contains over 51% corn. Since corn has a high sugar content, this is why bourbons tend to run sweeter than rye whiskeys!
If the 2nd largest percentage in your bourbon is rye, known for being spicier, it is often referred to as High Rye Bourbon (think: Bulleit Bourbon). Or if the 2nd largest percentage is wheat, you’ll have a sweeter wheated bourbon as a result (think: Maker’s Mark).
Why make a brand new white oak barrel just to light the insides on fire?
The char on the inside of the barrel does more than just add a smokiness to whiskeys (and look super cool)!
The char actually enables the chemical compounds naturally found in oak wood to interact with the whiskey to impart a whole range of complex flavors like vanilla, caramel and more! Plus the charred barrel also creates a layer of carbon that can actually help remove impurities from the spirit (think: charcoal filtration).
Bourbons actually carry no age requirements for how long (or little) it must be aged, only that they must be aged. However, if the bourbon is labeled Straight Bourbon, it must be at least 2 years old and if it is younger than 4 years old, they must disclose the age of the distillate.
Did you know that the age listed is actually the youngest age in the bottle? So if 8-year, 10-year and 12-year whiskies all go in one blend, the label will say 8 years. Most Straight Bourbons over 4 years old simply do not list an age.
Bourbon has specific restrictions about the proof of the spirit at distillation (80% ABV), and then again at the proof they are stored in the barrels (62.5% ABV), and finally a minimum required for bottling (40% ABV minimum). The higher proof you distill at, the less flavor you retain.
If it is labelled simply whiskey, you technically can add caramel colorings, flavorings or other additives. But bourbon whiskeys are regulated so that only water may be added to this spirit, and usually producers only add water to adjust to correct proof for distillation, aging and bottling according to specifications.
Some whiskeys like Jack Daniel’s, choose to label themselves differently, asTennessee Whiskey for example (where it has additional requirements to meet those labelling laws) and opt out of bourbon labels. But Jack Daniel’s is technically produced to the same rigorous standards as bourbon, even if they don’t want to be called as such. So even if you don’t enjoy the popular Old No. 7 whiskey, now you know it’s a bourbon too!
While the popular belief is that bourbon must come from a specific region (and some producers argue that their climates and the dramatic temperature changes in their states are necessary to produce the best bourbon whiskeys), bourbon legally only needs to come from the United States.
You can currently find bourbons made in a majority of states!