Bourbon Vs Whiskey – What is The Difference?

This vs That

A lot of people use bourbon and whiskey interchangeably, but they are different from each other. While bourbon could be whiskey, it is not every whiskey that is bourbon. It could seem a bit confusing, but as a person that loves whiskey, the differences between them will not be strange to you.

We have two major differences to distinguish between bourbon and whiskey. The first one is the grain mixture used in distilling the alcohol, bourbon is distilled from a minimum of 51% corn. Then the second one is where they are made; while bourbon is made most famously in Kentucky, the US but it could be distilled at any location, “whiskey” is traditionally distilled in Ireland or the USA and “whisky” is distilled in Canada, Scotland, or Japan.

Their difference is beyond just whiskey and scotch, and you could also consider Rye and Scotch. We will try to break things down for you so that you can understand exactly how to differentiate them.

What Is Bourbon?

There are strict guidelines associated with how bourbon could be made. As against people’s belief, bourbon could be made in any state within the USA and not compulsorily in Kentucky where it is most famous. Bourbon is a straight American whiskey, however, the grain mash must have a minimum of 51% corn. It also has to age in newly charred oak barrels.

Bourbon should not be subjected to distillation above 160 proof to allow it to retain the flavors of the grains when the process of distillation is ongoing. It should also not be added to an oak barrel of more than 125 proof. Water is often added to whiskey that is yet to age to ensure it is brought down.

Tennessee Whiskey

Have you heard about Tennessee whiskey before? Yes, there is Tennessee whiskey and the key thing is that it must be created in Tennessee. The minimum corn percentage should be 51%, the distillation should be less than 160 proof, and it should age in newly charred oak barrels. These three properties make Tennessee whiskey to qualify to be bourbon.

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However, an additional step is involved to make sure that it is exactly Tennessee whiskey. This is the step called charcoal mellowing and it is the final one. For instance, Jack Daniel makes their charcoal by burning down maple wood for coal at their distillery. The coal will then be tightly packed into a very large vat with the un-aged whiskey that has just been freshly distilled being filtered through this charcoal.


The first thing we will like to point out about whiskey is the spelling, this has been a debate for a very long time. It is spelled “whisky” in Japan, Scotland, and Canada while it is spelled “Whiskey” in Ireland and the US. Either of the spellings is correct and can be used, it all depends on the location it came from.

Now, whiskey is very broad to deeply go into, this is an alcoholic beverage made from various fermented grain mash like wheat, rye, corn, barley, and several others. Aged inside wooden barrels where whiskey has gotten the flavor and color it is very famous for. Whiskey is referred to as moonshine or white whiskey at first distillation. After then, it is allowed to age by placing in wooden barrels to get the needed taste and color.

The grain that is used for making whiskey should be subjected to distillation at less than 190 proof, once the proof is higher, it is considered to a neutral spirit such as vodka. Also, true whiskey should be exposed to the oak. Where whiskey has been distilled and the grain used in the process of fermentation is the major differentiation point about all kinds of whiskey.


Scotch Whisky

Because it is derived from Scotland, the spelling is Scotch Whisky without the ‘e’. The thing about this whisky is that it is usually aged for a longer time than other spirits and that is why the smoky flavor is very strong. Many people think this taste is an acquired one. Once you sip it, you will know that it is Scotch whisky you’re drinking because of the unique and strong flavor.

This overwhelming and distinctive taste is the reason why Scotch whisky is not usually used for cocktails compared to other spirits. It is rather enjoyed on neat or rocks, this will allow you to enjoy the profile of the flavor.

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Rye is just like whiskey, it is gotten from a mash containing at least 50% rye. Rye is not as sweet as bourbon but it is usually used as a replacement for bourbon. Rye has a spicy flavor that is very distinctive and when compared to Scotch, it is usually considered to be easier to drink. Rye is like whiskey that needs a minimum of two years to age in entirely newly charred-oak barrels.


Is There A Difference In Taste Between Bourbon And Whiskey?

If you don’t often drink whiskey, you are likely not to notice a big difference between how the two of them tastes, but if you love drinking these spirits, you will notice the differences without any difficulty. Their tastes are different because of the individual ingredients used in creating them.

Whiskey is gotten from barley while bourbon is from corn, surely, they will have a difference in taste. Also, the strain of yeast that is used during the process of fermentation makes a difference between the two. Jack Daniel uses yeast strains from the Prohibition time where the yeast is still being freshly grown daily from the mother culture. A very big flavor factor is this yeast strain and it means you will notice a major difference in taste if another yeast strain is used.

Another case is where whiskey is being made, there are traditionally American whiskey, Irish whiskey, Japanese whiskey, and Scotch whiskey, just to mention a few. It would be impossible to pinpoint the exact defined taste. You can easily tell bourbon apart because it usually has a strong note of oak, caramel, and vanilla. This means it is easier and smoother to drink and bourbon also adds a great flavor to a cocktail.

The Most Expensive Whiskey

If you try to imagine how much people that love whiskey spend on purchase it, you will be amazed. You cannot doubt that they spend expensively big to happily drink their whiskey. Whiskey is very expensive, it is considered one of those most expensive types of spirits that you can buy. Different factors affect the costs of one bottle of whiskey and the factors include uniqueness, rarity, and age.

The most expensive type of whiskey that has ever been sold is regarded as the Macallan Valerio Adami 1926. In 1986, this whiskey got bottled and that means it was about 60 years when it got bottled. It was sold in October 2018 at Bonhams where it cost $946, 000. It is single malt whiskey, gotten from the distillery of Scotch Whiskey in Craigellachie.

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Peter Blake and Valeron Adami were the two stand-out pop artists commissioned to help design the labeling for this limited edition of 24 bottles. Apart from the fact that the whiskey is rare, the bottle also added to its price tag because it is presented especially in a commissioned cabinet. In case you want to start collecting whiskey, you must ensure to have some additional money to spend to be effective.

Related Questions

Bourbon And Whiskey – The Difference

Bourbon is regarded as a whiskey, but not every whiskey is bourbon. You may find it confusing to know their difference. The grains that are used in making them are also different, corn is used for making bourbon, rye for making rye, and barley for making whiskey.

Bourbon is made only commonly in the USA while whiskey is made just anywhere though the traditional type is from Scotland.

How should you drink bourbon?

Get your wide mouth and slowly pour your bourbon inside a glass if you want to enjoy bourbon, the glass should only be filled to the quarter area. Allow your bourbon to become settled for some seconds and your mouth should then be placed on the glass edges, with the nose on the glass for you to taste and smell it at this same time. You will take in all of the notes associated with the aged bourbon.

Why is Jack Daniel not considered a bourbon?

Jack Daniels tick all bourbon boxes, but it has an extra step associated with it and this is found in the process of distillation, helping it to be different from bourbon. Usually, before they place Jack Daniels to age in the barrels, it is filtered slowly through the maple charcoal signature has an excellently distinctive taste.

Is bourbon smoother than whiskey?

Usually, bourbon is smoother as compared to whiskey and bourbon is the stepping stone of spirit that leads to the drinking of whiskey. You will cringe at the complex and strong flavor if you sip whiskey as a new drinker. Bourbon is slightly gentler with the flavor being softer with flavorful composition. Some whiskeys are, however, designed smoother and an example is an Irish whisky that is subjected to triple distillation to ensure it is smooth and easy to drink.

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