Whiskey (or whisky) is a distilled spirit made from grain and aged in oak containers. Dozens of types of whiskey are created around the world, including Scotch whisky, Canadian whisky, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, and American whiskey styles like rye whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and, yes, bourbon.
All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. In addition to being distilled in the United States, bourbon must meet a host of other legal requirements, including:
- It must be distilled from a mash of at least 51 percent corn. The rest can be made of any grain (even more corn!), although in practice most use either rye or wheat, plus a little bit of malted barley.
- It must be distilled at 160 proof or lower. This ensures that the distillate retains the character of the main ingredients.
- It must be aged in new, charred oak barrels
- It must go into that barrel at 125 proof or lower.
- It must be released at no lower than 80 proof
- It can’t contain any added colorings or flavorings--just grain, water, yeast, oak, and time.
There are even sub-categories of bourbon, like straight bourbon (aged at least two years) and bottled-in-bond (aged at least 4 years old, at least 100 proof, and distilled at a single distillery and aged in a federally bonded warehouse).
But what about how it tastes?
It’s tough to make generalizations, but because it’s aged in new, charred oak casis, bourbon often has a very rich oak flavor compared to other styles of whiskey. You might notice flavors like vanilla bean, caramel, brown sugar, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and coconut, as well as fruits like cherry, apple, or peach.
Mash & Grape has loads of different bourbons to try. Some of our current favorites are:
From an all-woman-run producer in Texas, Milam & Greene Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a single cask bottling selected from deep stocks of sourced casks. Each barrel is chosen for its “elegance and personality” and bottled individually, which means just about 280 bottles of each release are available. The good news is that, even if your favorite is out of stock, you can expect rich flavor and distinctive character from every batch.
Headquartered in Louisville, Barrell Craft Spirits doesn’t have a distillery. Instead, they source great bourbon from producers around the country, then painstakingly blend their casks into works of whiskey art. The latest small batch bourbon release is a stunner. Batch 029 is a blend of six-, seven-, nine-, 10-, 14-, and 16-year-old bourbons from Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Bottled at cask strength and without chill filtration, it's a rich flavor experience of warm spices, juicy tropical fruit, and aromatic herbs.
This high-rye bourbon from the Nelson Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee, delivers the perfect combination of warm spice and sweet brown sugar. It’s great in cocktails (try it in a summery sour with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup), but equally delicious sipped on its own.
Made by Brown Forman, one of the oldest and most storied producers of American bourbon (and Tennessee whiskey–they also own Jack Daniel’s), Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond pays homage to the 1897 legislative act that created the Bottled-in-Bond category. BiB bourbons must be at least four years old, made by a single distillery during one distilling season, and bottled at 100 proof. This release is “lightly filtered” to create a rich, bold flavor profile similar to old-fashioned bourbons.
Want more? Check out our Bourbon club. Members get a hand-selected bottle of amazing bourbon delivered to their door every month, complete with tasting notes and background info on the producer. It’s like a birthday surprise - if your birthday happened every single month.