Bourbon vs Whiskey – ever wonder what the difference is? It’s one of our most asked questions and we’re here to help! The main thing that makes bourbon and whiskey different is the way it’s manufactured and aged. Below are some key things that set them apart. We’ll call them the “ABCs of bourbon.”
- ABV – Bourbon has to hit certain ABV (alcohol by volume) marks as set by the government. It’s all about the mash(bill)! The cooked and fermented grains, or mash, must be distilled at 160 proof (80% ABV) or less, and aged in barrels until it’s no more than 125 proof (62.5% ABV.)
- Barrels – Bourbon is always aged in new charred oak barrels, which gives bourbon its particular oaky profile. No additives like flavorings or colorings.
- Other whiskeys can be aged in barrels used previously for other spirits such as sherry or rum casks.
- You’ll also find a large variety of whiskey in flavors like cinnamon, peach, apple, dill pickle, and many more. This is NOT bourbon. It is whiskey!
- Corn – True bourbon is made with at least 51%, which gives it its distinct sweet flavor.
- Distilling process – as mentioned earlier, the mash must be distilled at 160 proof or less, and aged in barrel until it’s no more than 125 proof. Before it goes into the bottle, it’s filtered and diluted down to no less than 80 proof.
- Non-bourbons have different ABV rules for barrelling and distilling.
- Extra Time – Bourbon becomes “straight bourbon whiskey” as a result of being aged in new charred oak barrels for two years minimum. Great things come to those who wait.
All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.
One more thing
Bourbon does NOT have to be from Kentucky. You can get bourbon outside of the state…it just won’t be true Kentucky Bourbon. Many other states produce quality bourbon like Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about one of our favorite spirits. Now you know the differences between bourbon vs. whiskey!
Your friendly Macadoodles team member would be happy to recommend a bourbon (or whiskey) that fits your needs! We’ll see you soon.