When it comes to exploring types of distilled liquor, you’re going to experience a palette of flavors. This is because bourbon and whiskey can be extremely complex and varied in their compositions, not to mention their aging process. For example, both are almost always aged in barrels, but the amount of time they are aged can be anywhere from a few years to decades.
While whiskey and bourbon are both distilled throughout the world, there are a number of differentiators. What’s not to love about variety? With choices, everyone has an opportunity to find a brand or style they enjoy. To learn more about the differences between bourbon and whiskey, and the essential makeup of both, keep reading.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Standard Bourbon Flavors
- Bourbon Mash Bills
- Standard Whiskey Types
- Brindiamo Group Helps Companies Enter the Alcohol Business
Standard Bourbon Flavors
While all bourbon is whiskey, not all whiskey is bourbon. With that being said, standard bourbon is aged the same way as whiskey. To achieve that classic, bourbon flavor you know and love, the base spirit must follow the below stipulations:
- Aged in American Oak: Known mostly for its notes of vanilla, coconut, and spice, the American Oak Barrel is a common aging process for standard bourbon. A spirit aged in an American Oak Barrel obtains these flavors from lipids, like cis-oak lactone and trans-oak lactones, that mix with the lignins and char of the barrel.
- Wood charring: When aged in a wood-charred barrel, a base spirit can soak up volatile phenols that create aromas and flavors of vanilla, smoke, woods, clove, and even sweet textures.
- Corn-based: When aged from corn, classic bourbon can produce a liquor that’s sweet, soft, creamy, and fruity.
- Yeast strain: When aged from yeast, classic bourbon flavors can produce more fruity and floral flavors with solvent or buttery notes.
Bourbon Mash Bills
As a general rule, bourbons tend to fall into one of three categories when it comes to mash bills. While not all bourbon falls under these categories, the three main mash bills for standard bourbon are as follows:
- A standard mash bill will comprise of 70–79%* corn, 10–20% rye, and even 10–15% malted barley.
- Through a high corn percentage, the flavors can enhance those sweet, soft, creamy, and fruity notes.
- Low rye concentrations can add a subtle layer of baking spices, pepper, and help dry the aging spirit.
- Malted barley concentrations can provide subtle notes of roasty toffee and malt.
- A high-rye mash bill will comprise of 51–65% corn, 21–35% rye, and 10–15% malted barley.
- With a high rye concentration, your bourbon will highlight dry, peppery, spicy, pungent, earthy, and herbaceous notes.
- Moderate corn percentages can provide underlying notes of sweetness and fruit.
- A light concentration of malted barley will create subtle notes of roasty toffee and malt.
- A wheated bourbon mash bill will be made up of 60–79% corn, 10–20% wheat, and 10–15% malted barley.
- Here, moderate concentrations of wheat, unlike when aging in rye, will create a mild, aromatic liquid. Served to soften up the spirit and enhance all those sweet flavors, a wheat bourbon may taste of honey, fruit, caramellic, and vanilla from the corn and charred oak.
- Still aged with a high concentration of corn, a wheat bourbon mash will still make use of corn to create a baseline notes of sweetness and fruit.
Standard Whiskey Types
As we mentioned earlier, not all whiskey is bourbon. So, when it comes to whiskey, you’re going to find quite a few different aging processes that result in the plethora of flavorful whiskies.
Here are the standard types of whiskey that you may find:
While some whiskies are consumed to get drunk, scotch is not one of them. With a deep potency, rich history and tradition, scotch is a timeless, classic type of whiskey. As with wines, each region of Scotland has its own distinctive flavors and varieties when producing scotch whiskies. To be called “scotch,” a base liquid must be aged from malted barley for no less than three years.
With a history as rich – and turbulent – as scotch, Irish whiskey offers light, fruity flavors that are much less peaty than its Scottish counterpart. Varying from traditional bourbon whiskey, Irish whiskey is not aged in a barrel. In contrast to scotch, Irish whiskey is triple distilled in copper pots rather than being double distilled in oak barrels.
Some American whiskey varieties are aged in new, charred oak barrels and contain less than 80 percent alcohol by volume, making them much different from European styles. Among the six categories of American whiskey, there are bourbon, Tennessee, rye, wheat, and single Malt. Although there are differences between Scotch and Irish whiskey, American whiskey is generally sweeter, less smoky, and less peaty.
There is a resemblance between Japanese whiskies and Scottish lowland and Speyside whiskies. This is due to the fact that they are all aged and distilled to produce smooth, delicate, and often honey-perfumed flavors, creating an overall sweetness to the entire base liquid. Today, mizunara oak aged Japanese whiskey is becoming more and more popular outside of the original region.
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