What Does Bourbon Taste Like? Your Full Guide

What Does Bourbon Taste Like? Your Full Guide

Bourbon is a corn-based whiskey that can only be produced in America. If a similar whiskey is produced outside of the country, it doesn’t have the legal right to be called bourbon. There are a few other requirements which bourbon must meet. For example, the mash it’s made from must contain at least 51% of corn. In this article, we are going to explain what bourbon tastes like, cover some important facts about it, and explore its history.

Bourbon: The Main Facts

While the exact origins of bourbon are unknown, many believe that the name comes from the House of Bourbon, a European royal family known for its influence in 18th century France. Some also believe that it’s named after Bourbon County in Kentucky or Bourbon Street in Orleans.

Bourbon has a deep amber color, which it gets from aging in charred oak barrels, though younger whiskies tend to have lighter hues. Owing to a high percentage of corn in its mash, bourbon usually has a sweet taste, along with hints of vanilla, oak, and caramel. In 1964, bourbon was “designated as a distinctive product of U.S.” It is a spirit that’s as important to the American cultural landscape as baseball or apple pie.

What Is the Alcohol Content of Bourbon?

Bourbon produced in the US must have an alcohol content of 40% alcohol by volume. It can be higher than that, with some exceeding 50%. Canada and countries in the EU follow the requirements set out by the US, but other countries may sell bourbon under their own regulations. For example, Cougar Bourbon, a brand of bourbon that’s sold in Australia contains 37% alcohol by volume. It’s produced in the US and then exported to Australia.

What Is Bourbon Made From?

Bourbon is made from a mixture of grains like corn, rye, wheat, barley, and corn. A minimum of 51% corn must be used in the production process for a whiskey to be classified as bourbon. Most bourbons use around 71% corn in their “mash bill,” which is what the mix of grains used in the fermentation process is referred to as.

If wheat is used instead of rye in the mash bill, it is called “wheated bourbon,” which has a slightly different flavor compared to traditional bourbon. Rye or malted barley are added in bourbon to give it a more complex flavor profile.

What Is the Primary Ingredient of Bourbon?

The primary ingredient of bourbon is corn. Every bourbon uses at least 51% of corn in its production process. This isn’t just a personal preference for distillers, it’s a legal requirement that practically defines bourbon’s distinct identity. The reason why corn is so integral to the production of bourbon isn’t just because it gives it a sweet taste. It’s also because growing corn is easy in Kentucky and has been a staple since settlers arrived there in the 18th century.

How Is Bourbon Made?

The first step is to create the mash bill, which involves combining corn and other grains like wheat, rye, and barley by grinding them into a powder. The mash bill is then added to hot water, which causes the starches in the grains to break down and turn into fermentable sugars.

To begin the fermentation process, yeast is added to the mixture, which converts the sugars into alcohol. This whole process produces a beer which contains very little alcohol content. To increase the alcohol content, the beer is added to copper pot stills or column stills where it is distilled to produce a high-proof liquid. The liquid is then transferred into a charred oak barrel for aging.

There is no minimum requirement for how long bourbon needs to be aged, but if it’s aged for 2 years, it’s referred to as “straight bourbon.”

How Is Bourbon Distilled or Filtered?

Bourbon is usually distilled twice. First, it is distilled a column still and then in a doubler or a thumper. In the column still, the fermented mash is heated, which releases alcohol vapors. These are then collected as a liquid. This process raises the alcohol content to 50-60%.

Then, it is distilled again in a doubler where it is heated, and the vapors are collected. This further increases the alcohol content of the mixture. Once the process is finished, it is aged in a barrel, which is what develops its flavor and color.

Can You Make Bourbon Yourself?

Yes, but making bourbon yourself isn’t easy at all. You have to find all the ingredients and equipment, which can be quite costly. Most importantly, you have to check with your local laws to find out if you’re allowed to make distilled spirits at home.

In the US, it is illegal to produce distilled spirits at home unless you have a license. We suggest that you research the laws in your area before you decide to make any distilled spirit at home. If you have the permission and resources, then all you really need to do is create a mash bill, ferment the mixture, distill it, and then age the distilled spirit in charred oak barrels.

This may seem like an easy process, but it’s not and it takes a lot of time. Buying bourbon from a reputable supplier, like Speakeasy Co, is usually much easier and less expensive.

America’s National Spirit

glass of bourbon on a barrel

Bourbon is officially recognized as America’s National Spirit because of its history. It is a drink that’s uniquely American. Bourbon is made from a mixture of grains which contains corn, rye, wheat, and barley.

At least 51% of corn must be used in the production process for it to be called bourbon. It must have a minimum alcohol content of 40%, but some brands may contain more than that. After it’s been fermented and distilled, you have to age it in charred oak barrels for a few years.

It’s possible to do all this at home, but depending on where you live, it may not be legal. Plus, it takes quite a lot of effort and time, so it’s a lot easier to just purchase from a supplier you trust.

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