The Differences Between Bourbon And Whiskey

One of the most notable differences between bourbon and whiskey is the recipe of their initial grain mixes. As noted by the American Bourbon Association, bourbon must be made with at least 51% corn, but may also include grains like wheat or rye to create a different taste. On the other hand, whiskey in general does not have any recipe requirements other than using grains, but that’s not the case for specific whiskeys. For example, a recipe of 51% rye is needed for rye whiskey. Bourbon also cannot contain any additives to change the color or flavor. Perhaps most importantly, bourbon must be made in the United States, while whiskey can be made anywhere.


Bourbon goes through the same distilling process as most other whiskeys but has a lot of peculiarities when it comes to the barreling stage. Unlike other whiskeys, which often reuse barrels, bourbon must be stored in new charred oak barrels to aid in the aging process. Additionally, rather than simply being stored upright around a warehouse, bourbon barrels are kept in ricks. Ricks, also known as racks, are able to hold barrels sideways in tall stacks. Per the American Bourbon Association, the airflow allowed by this storage solution “is a major differentiating factor in the bourbon craft.” There is also a set alcohol by volume for bourbon — it must be at least 80 proof or 40% ABV.

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