When it comes to whiskey and bourbon it’s hard to tell them apart. They both look the same and it’s often hard to discern by taste alone how they’re different apart from the sleight burn that both can give you. But it’s time to learn how to tell the difference between both alcohols.
Whiskey is any spirit that hasn’t been distilled to 190 proof. Anything beyond that and you’ve successfully created Vodka! In order to create Whiskey, it must also be exposed to oak wood which is why barrels are typically used to create and age whiskey. But the rules surrounding what can be called whiskey are much stricter in America compared to globally made whiskeys. Any whiskey that hopes to be branded as an American whiskey, must undergo the strict regulations set forth by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Under their regulations, an American whiskey must be aged in new oak barrels and the grains have to be a certain percentage.
Similar to whiskey, bourbon also has strict guidelines. While Kentucky is famous for bourbon, any state can make it. However, mash that is used to make bourbon must contain at least 51% corn. It must also be aged in new oak barrels and can not be proofed beyond 160. Though in many other countries these proof limitation isn’t in place.
However, whiskey and bourbon get a little murky with the way the two alcohols can be changed while in their aging process. Water can usually be added to whiskey in order to bring it down to any desired proof level, so long as the proof isn’t below 114 and it can be added into a barrel in order to be aged further.
Why bourbons and whiskeys taste different
There’s a reason why bourbons and whiskeys taste different from one another and it has plenty to do with the initial ingredients that are used to create the two different alcohols. Bourbon is mostly made from distilled corn while whiskey is mostly made from distilled rye. Which is why whiskey often has a wheat-like taste.
For a more interesting fact, Jack Daniel’s Distillery uses a yeast strain that dates all the way back to the Prohibition in order to innoculate the fermentation in their spirits. As the yeast strain provides a massive source of flavor to their whiskey and using any other yeast strain from a different source would create a noticeable difference in taste for their product.
While it may be hard to tell bourbon and whiskey apart at times due to the fact that both spirits tend to have regulations guidelines in America that have them aged in a similar manner. But their proof levels before aging and during aging make them different. Also, their base ingredients set them and their taste apart and are what makes it easy to differentiate the bourbon and whiskey from each other, even to drinking novices.