Whisky vs. Bourbon: What’s the Difference?

Among the many types of alcohol, bourbon is the only variety that must be 100% made in the US. That’s because Congress passed a resolution in 1964 declaring bourbon to be “a distinct product of the United States.” 

Any whisky made outside the US cannot be labelled or described as bourbon.

You might be wondering what is bourbon. And what exactly is the difference compared to whisky? Continue reading and you’ll learn everything you need to know.

What’s the Difference between Whisky and Bourbon? 

The first important distinction is that not all whiskies are bourbon, but all bourbons are whisky. The American spirit bourbon is a type of whisky, like how champagne is a type of wine.

Another major distinction is the grain makeup. Whisky is always made from fermented grain and so is bourbon. However, to earn a bourbon classification, the spirit must contain a mixture of grains that’s at least 51% corn.

The aging process also differs. Bourbon must be aged in new, charred American white oak barrels. And the brown liquor has a minimum aging requirement of at least two years to be considered a straight bourbon.

Meanwhile, other whiskies are often aged in barrels previously used to age other spirits. Used port, sherry, and rum casks can each give whisky a unique flavor. Whisky casks can vary greatly, with different casks offering different flavors.

Upon bottling, bourbon must have at least 80 proof, or 40% alcohol. And bourbon can’t be distilled at higher than 160 proof, or put into a barrel higher than 125. Whiskies can differ in requirements, depending on the variety.

Manufacturers must produce bourbon in the USA, while whisky produced today has no geographical limitations. Previously, there was a requirement for bourbon to be 100% made and distilled in the state of Kentucky, but now distilleries exist all over the country. 

Do Whiskies and Bourbons Taste Different? 

Yes. Bourbon often has notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak because of the specific casks it’s aged in. Due to its high corn content, the American spirit tends to be smoother and sweeter than other types of whisky, making it more palatable for entry-level whisky aficionados.

Whiskies can vary more in taste because there are fewer strict requirements, which creates a world of different styles. The flavor of whiskey depends on how long it’s been aged, where it’s from, and how it’s made.

When comparing whisky and bourbon, it’s impossible to objectively say which tastes better. It’s a matter of personal preference, so get out there and decide for yourself.

Both Types of Alcohol are Popular for Good Reason 

Congratulations! You’re now a bourbon expert and you understand the significant differences between the American-made drink and whiskey, the global brown liquor.

They’re both excellent types of alcohol and you can’t go wrong with either. 

Did you enjoy this article about whisky and bourbon? Have a browse through more informative blogs on our website before you leave.


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