Interested in diving into a glass of bourbon but not sure where to start? Bourbon doesn’t have to be intimidating once you discover the intricacies of the ever-evolving world of these delicious spirits! Using this simple guide, you can arm yourself with the basic knowledge of bourbon, and have the groundwork to go from confused to connoisseur.
What Makes Bourbon, Bourbon?
You’ve probably heard the basic, “All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.” What that means is bourbon is a subset of a wider category — whiskey. That wider category includes other types such as Scotch, Japanese Whisky, Irish Whisky, Canadian Whisky, and even other American whiskeys like rye whiskey. So what makes bourbon a category of its own? Five very important distinctions:
- Only whiskey produced in the United States can be called bourbon.
- Bourbon must be made of a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn.
- Straight bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years.
- Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 proof, barreled at no higher than 125 proof, and bottled at no less than 80 proof.
- Bourbon can have nothing added to it except water.