Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey
Bourbon and whiskey are two of the most popular distilled spirits in the world. While many people use the terms interchangeably, there are some significant differences between the two. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between bourbon and whiskey, including their production methods, ingredients, aging requirements, and taste profiles.
What is Whiskey?
Whiskey is a distilled spirit made from a fermented grain mash. The most common grains used to make whiskey are barley, corn, rye, and wheat. These grains are mashed together with water and then fermented with yeast to create a liquid called wash. The wash is then distilled to remove the alcohol, which is then aged in oak barrels to create whiskey.
There are many different types of whiskey, including Scotch, Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, and American whiskey. Each type of whiskey has its own unique flavor profile and production methods.
What is Bourbon?
Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made from a mash bill that consists of at least 51% corn. The remaining grains can be any combination of rye, wheat, or barley. The mash is then fermented and distilled, and the resulting alcohol is aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years.
To be classified as bourbon, the whiskey must be made in the United States, and the barrels used to age the whiskey must be new and charred. There are also strict regulations regarding the proof of the finished product and the use of additives such as coloring or flavoring.
The Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey
The main difference between bourbon and whiskey is the mash bill. While all bourbons are whiskey, not all whiskeys are bourbon. Bourbon must be made with at least 51% corn in the mash bill, while other types of whiskey can have a variety of different grains in their mash bills.
Another difference between bourbon and whiskey is the aging process. Bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, while other types of whiskey can be aged in barrels that have been used previously. The use of new barrels gives bourbon its distinctive flavor profile, which includes notes of vanilla, caramel, and oak.
Finally, bourbon must be made in the United States to be considered bourbon, while whiskey can be made in many different countries around the world.
Types of Bourbon
There are several different types of bourbon, including:
Straight Bourbon – Straight bourbon is aged for a minimum of two years in new, charred oak barrels.
Kentucky Bourbon – Kentucky bourbon is made in Kentucky and is often associated with a sweet, smooth flavor profile.
Tennessee Whiskey – Tennessee whiskey is made in Tennessee and is similar to bourbon in its production methods and flavor profile. However, Tennessee whiskey is filtered through charcoal before it is aged, which gives it a slightly different taste.
Small Batch Bourbon – Small batch bourbon is made in smaller quantities and is often aged for longer periods of time. This results in a more complex and nuanced flavor profile.
Single Barrel Bourbon – Single barrel bourbon is bottled from a single barrel, which gives it a unique flavor profile that can vary from barrel to barrel.
Tasting Bourbon and Whiskey
When tasting bourbon and whiskey, there are several things to consider. The first is the aroma, which can give you a sense of the flavors that you can expect to taste. The aroma can also give you an idea of the age of the whiskey, as older whiskeys tend to have more complex aromas.
Next, consider the flavor profile. Bourbon and whiskey can have a wide range of flavor profiles, from sweet and smooth to spicy and bold. Some of the flavors that you might taste in bourbon or whiskey include vanilla, caramel, oak, spice, and smoke.
Finally, consider the finish. The finish refers to the sensation that you experience after you have swallowed the whiskey. A long finish indicates a high-quality whiskey, as it means that the flavors linger on your palate and continue to evolve even after you have finished the drink.
When tasting bourbon or whiskey, it is important to take your time and savor each sip. Begin by taking a small sip and holding the whiskey in your mouth for a few seconds. Swirl the whiskey around in your mouth to coat your palate and release the flavors. Then, swallow the whiskey and take note of the finish.
It can also be helpful to taste several different types of bourbon or whiskey side by side to compare their flavor profiles. This can help you to identify the nuances of each type of whiskey and develop your palate.
Pairing Bourbon and Whiskey with Food
Bourbon and whiskey can be paired with a wide range of foods, from hearty meat dishes to sweet desserts. When pairing bourbon or whiskey with food, it is important to consider the flavors and aromas of both the food and the drink.
For example, a bold, spicy bourbon might pair well with a rich, fatty cut of meat, while a sweet, smooth bourbon might be better suited to a dessert with caramel or chocolate flavors. Similarly, a smoky whiskey might be a good match for grilled meats or vegetables, while a lighter, fruitier whiskey might pair well with a salad or seafood dish.
Some classic food pairings for bourbon and whiskey include:
- BBQ ribs with a smoky bourbon
- Steak with a bold, spicy bourbon
- Chocolate cake with a sweet, smooth bourbon
- Grilled salmon with a light, fruity whiskey
It can be helpful to experiment with different food and whiskey pairings to discover your own personal preferences.
While bourbon and whiskey are often used interchangeably, there are some important differences between the two. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made with a mash bill that consists of at least 51% corn and is aged in new, charred oak barrels. Whiskey, on the other hand, can be made with a variety of different grains and can be aged in barrels that have been used previously.
When tasting bourbon or whiskey, it is important to consider the aroma, flavor profile, and finish. Bourbon and whiskey can be paired with a wide range of foods, from hearty meats to sweet desserts, and experimenting with different pairings can help you to develop your palate and discover your own personal preferences.