Difference between Bourbon and Whiskey

January 14, 2017 by Editorial Team

If you are offered one glass of Bourbon and one glass of whiskey, you might not be able to identify which is which. Although both have the same amber color and consistency, they are actually very different. For starters, Bourbon is a type of whiskey but not all whiskeys are Bourbon. Confused? You’re in the right place. This article will discuss the difference between Bourbon and whiskey.

Descriptions

Bourbon vs Whiskey

Bourbon is one of the many types of whiskey. It is named after a place in Kentucky called Bourbon County. Certain rules must be strictly followed in order for a drink to be considered Bourbon:

  1. It must be produced in the United States.
  2. The formulation must contain at least 51% corn. The remaining 49% can be made from any other types of grain like wheat, rye, or barley.
  3. The mixture should not contain any additives like artificial coloring or flavoring, but may contain added water for the sole purpose of decreasing proof.
  4. The liquid should be aged in brand new oak charred barrels. Producing Bourbon does not require a minimum aging period.
  5. The product must undergo distillation at a maximum of 160 proof. Upon entering the barrel, the liquid should be at 125 proof and at least at 80 proof when it enters the bottle.

It is important to note that when a manufacturer does not comply with any one of the rules, then it cannot call its drink “Bourbon.” For instance, a company that adds artificial flavor to the mixture cannot label the end product as “Bourbon.” They may simply label it as “whiskey.”

Bourbon has hints of sweetness and a heavy texture. It can be served with ice cubes and is sometimes mixed with other ingredients like soda and water to create cocktails.

Whiskey

Whiskey is an alcoholic drink made from fermented grain mash that is distilled and then aged in wooden barrels. The grain mash can be barley, corn, rye, wheat, or a combination of multiple grains.

Whiskey can be produced in other countries and not just in America. The term “whiskey” is mainly used in America and Ireland. However, in Scotland and many other countries, the drink is referred to as “whisky.

Whiskey has many types: Rye Whiskey, Bourbon Whiskey, Single Malt Whiskey, Scotch Whiskey, etc. Each type of whiskey may have different ingredients and formulation but all types should undergo distillation at 40% to 94.8% alcohol by volume.

Bourbon vs Whiskey

What, then, is the difference between bourbon and whiskey?

Whiskey is a general term for alcoholic drinks that are made by fermenting, distilling, and then aging grain mash made of wheat, rye, corn, or barley. Bourbon is a type of whiskey, but not all whiskeys are Bourbon.

There are specific rules to follow for a whiskey to be called “Bourbon.” The liquid should contain a minimum of 51% corn, be free of additives, and be distilled in new oak charred barrels. Distillation should be at a maximum of 160 proof. Upon entering the barrel, the liquid should be at 125 proof and at least at 80 proof when it enters the bottle. Also, it has to be produced in the United States. Any whiskey that is produced without following the said rules can simply be called “whiskey.”

In terms of taste, Bourbon is sweet and has a heavy texture. Whiskey may have varied tastes, depending on its type.

Comparison Chart

BourbonWhiskey
A specific type of whiskeyA general term for alcoholic drinks made by fermenting, distilling, and then aging grain mash
Contains at least 51% corn; remaining 49% may be wheat, barley or ryeMay contain various amounts of corn, rye, wheat, or barley
Can only be made in AmericaMay be made in any country; “whiskey” is used in Ireland and America while “whisky” is used in Scotland and several other countries that produce the drink
Aged in brand new oak charred barrelsAged in wooden barrels that do not have to be brand new or charred
Should not contain flavoring and coloringCan contain additives
Distilled at a maximum of 160 proof; 125 proof upon entering the barrel; 80 proof upon entering the bottleDistilled at 40% to 94.8% alcohol by volume
Has a sweet taste and heavy textureThe taste depends on the type: Rye Whiskey, Single Malt Whiskey, Scotch Whiskey, etc.