What’s The Difference Between Bourbon And Whiskey?
Whiskey and bourbon can have very deep and complex flavors. A conversation about the vanilla and floral notes could be had while sitting by a fire sipping out of a highball glass. These flavors really delight some people, and that is why that certain types of whiskeys have a loyal following. Most followers understand the difference between whiskey and bourbon and to them this is all common knowledge, but the rest of us need to be informed, especially those beginners out there looking to age their own whiskey.
All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. That is to say that bourbon is a sub-class of whiskey. It is whiskey that is made a certain way and this formula meets federal legal standards. Both whiskey and bourbon have their own legal standards.
Defining whiskey is easy. It is an alcohol that is fermented from a mash of grains that include corn, barley, rye and wheat. When whiskey is first made it comes out white and it is pure gasoline as far as alcohol content is concerned. Some young whiskey distillers sell this white liquid under the name white lightening or white dog whiskey. It’s become a favorite among hipsters. The flavor and distinctive color of whiskey comes from the aging process inside oak barrels. The liquor expands in the heat, seeps into the wood of the barrel and draws back out as it contracts with the cool of the night. It actually pulls flavor out of the wood when it contracts. It also pulls that deep crown color.
Bourbon is whiskey made in a distinctive manner that is set forth by law. The first thing that needs to take place for a whiskey to be called bourbon is the composition of the grains in the mash – it needs to be at least 51% corn. That white lightening, the first batch of un-aged whiskey that resembles moonshine, must not be more than 125 proof and the finished product must be at least 80 proof. The liquid must be aged in new oak barrels, but there is no minimum amount of time for the aging process.
New oak barrels impart the most flavor into the liquor. New oak will also age the whiskey a lot more quickly than previously used barrels. Craft bourbon makers will hire boutique barrel makers as a part of their company so the whiskey gets the best flavor possible.