Whiskey vs Bourbon: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?

Discover the key differences between whiskey and bourbon, from their ingredients and aging processes to their distinct flavor profiles. Learn what sets these two spirits apart and why it matters.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between whiskey and bourbon? After all, they both come in a similar shape, are made from grains, and are aged in oak barrels, right? However, there are some key differences that set these two spirits apart.

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 American Whiskey

First, let’s start with the basics. Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from grains such as barley, wheat, rye, or corn. It is aged in oak barrels for at least three years and can be found all over the world. On the other hand, Bourbon must contain at least 51% corn, giving it a unique sweetness and smoothness not found in other whiskies. It also has to be aged in new, charred oak barrels and cannot contain any additives or colorings.

Bourbon is an American whisky mainly produced in the United States, particularly in Kentucky. However, it can be created anywhere within the country as long as it meets specific legal requirements. On the other hand, whisky is produced worldwide in countries like Scotland, Canada, Japan, and Ireland. Each nation has its regulations for whisky production, affecting aspects like flavor and the aging process.

Bourbon and whiskey age in oak barrels, differing only in duration. Bourbon necessitates a minimum of two years of aging in new, charred oak barrels. This process imparts flavors of vanilla, caramel, and oak to bourbon. After this period, some bourbons undergo extended aging to develop more complex flavors. Conversely, whiskey can be aged in various barrels such as oak, sherry, or bourbon barrels with aging time depending on factors like type and country of origin. For instance, Scotch whisky requires at least three years of aging while Canadian whisky may age for a minimum of three years.

Another difference between whiskey and bourbon is their flavor profile. Different ingredients, regions of origin, and aging processes cause distinct flavors between bourbon and whiskey. Bourbon’s sweetness comes from the use of corn.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey

One more thing to note is that while bourbon can technically be considered a type of whiskey, not all whiskies can be classified as bourbon. This is because bourbon is regulated by law and has to meet specific criteria in order to be considered bourbon.

In conclusion, while whiskey and bourbon may seem similar on the surface, there are some key differences that set them apart. Understanding the differences can help you choose the best drink for your taste preferences and also prevent any confusion when ordering a drink or discussing it with others. Whether you prefer whiskey or bourbon, both offer a unique drinking experience and are worth exploring.

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