Bourbon is an American whiskey distilled from a puree made mainly from corn. Despite its popularity, the spirit is still a mystery to many.
How is it made? What does it taste like? What else should the beginner know? In this article, you will learn all about this iconic drink and where it comes from.
How is Bourbon Made?
The first step involves joining the rounds of the barrel using hot steam. Next, the casks with the other side are still open. It is held over a modest controlled fire to seal the barrels. This fire will help to seal in the distinct sweet wood flavor.
Its mash mixture must contain at least 51% corn to be called bourbon. The bourbon mash must be distilled at 160 proof more or less & the distillate must be stored in brand new oak barrels charred at 125 proof or less.
It can also contain an additive. Once the mash has cooled at a temperature ranging from about 77°F to 86°F (25°C to 30°C), it is transferred to a fermentor next to the yeast.
There are different types of bourbon-based on how you age and create the spirit. Bourbon is made by distilling fermented corn called a mash bill, which consists of various types of grain. Some varieties of bourbon follow stricter rules to gain an additional label or certificate. Nonetheless, the above defines the most elementary requirements for a standard bourbon whiskey.
Bourbon is so intrinsically connected to Kentucky that it’s easy to think it is exclusively made there. However, the reality is that it can be produced anywhere in the United States, and new bourbon distillers appear all over the country.
The distillery must be located in Kentucky to qualify as Kentucky whiskey. However, the grain can originate elsewhere. Bourbon must follow the basic rules of American whiskey to be recognized as Kentucky bourbon whiskey. However, it must also undergo a minimal aging process of one year.
It is a whiskey that has been bottled from a single barrel rather than a mix of several. Although similar in principle, single-barrel bourbons are produced as premium types of bourbon whiskey. Given that they are offered in small quantities and selective ingredients, this often entails rarity and exclusivity.
What’s the Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey?
What sets bourbon apart from other whiskies is the manufacturing process and age. All whiskey is the spirit made from fermented grain and then aged in barrels. But the kind of grain and barrels determines the variety of whiskey.
Per the American Bourbon Association, a whiskey must be distilled from a mixture of grains or mash and has to have at least 51% corn mash to be classified as bourbon. That corn gives bourbon its distinctive fresh flavor and sweetness.
To be named “straight bourbon whiskey,” the bourbon must have been aged in new charred oak casks for a minimum of two years. It is a distinct product of the United States and that the word “bourbon” can never be used to describe any whiskey or whiskey-based distilled spirits not produced in the United States.
This stipulation caused problems for many significant distillers during the bourbon boom of the past ten years. There was a massive shortage of new aging barrels for unexpectedly increased demand. Much of the bourbon we buy comes from Kentucky, where the name originated in a particular area called Old Bourbon, now known as Bourbon County.
What Does Bourbon Taste Like?
Bourbon is sweeter than other whiskey styles with hints of vanilla, oak & caramel. Of course, there’s a wide variety of different flavors between bourbon brands. One expert breaks bourbons into four major categories: grain, nutmeg, caramel & cinnamon.
Does Bourbon Have Gluten?
Bourbon is primarily a gluten-free spirit. The mash bill is mixed with 51% corn and a combination of other ingredients such as wheat, rye & barley. In this mixture, corn is considered a gluten-free grain, but the rest that contributes 49% to the spirit are the top three gluten grains.
Whiskey, in general, undergoes distillation which burns off any possible gluten found on the ingredients. While it is a general rule that no additional additives should be added in the oak barrel where the bourbon is aged, some brands add flavorings that have gluten content after the distillation process, so be aware of that.
The next time you walk into a liquor store and pick out your type of bourbon or take a look at the bourbon menu here at Fine & Rare, you will understand the differences between each style that can assist you in finding the drink that best suits your taste and style.
Whether it is bourbon or any other kind of whiskey, there are years of work and centuries of history behind each bottle.