Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey

For the uninitiated, the difference between Bourbon and Whiskey might not be much, but for a seasoned Whiskey drinker, they couldn’t be more different.

Of course, preferences are subjective and taking sides in the Bourbon Vs Whiskey debate is an entirely different conversation but there are no excuses for not knowing your Whiskey and where it comes from.

While some distinctions between the two are minor, and some could also be chalked out as similarities, Bourbon and Whiskey are legally classified as two separate entities altogether. So although, Bourbon is technically a Whiskey, not every Whiskey is a Bourbon.

Let us understand what sets Bourbon Whiskey and Whiskey apart from each other.

Places of Origin

Bourbon Whiskey is the legal definition of Whiskey developed in the United States of America, whereas Whiskey is the legal definition and spelling used by the Irish.

Other countries such as Scotland, Japan, Canada and India spell it as Whisky but they cannot refer their product as Bourbon either.

Ingredients

Legal requirements for a Bourbon Whiskey dictate the use of a Corn mash that is no less than 51% to obtain it.

Whisky or Whiskey can be developed from any number of grains, in any ratio, and in a malted or unmalted state. Irish Whiskey

Taste

Owing to the heavier use of Corn in the mash that is used to create Bourbon Whiskey, the final product is slightly sweeter as compared to the traditional Irish Whiskey or Scotch Whisky.

This lends more perspective to the prevailing Bourbon Vs Whiskey debate as many drinkers prefer tasting notes that do not lean towards the sweeter side.

Aging Period

The difference between Bourbon and Whiskey is further solidified when talking about aging and maturation of the distilled spirit.

Bourbon Whiskey faces no necessary specification for aging their product and sometimes, Bourbon matured for mere months is also sold on the market. Straight Bourbon is a term only spirits that have been aged for more than 2 years can use, whereas Bourbon aged for less than 4 years has to carry an age statement.

Whiskey on the other hand, Irish Whiskey or Scotch Whisky, needs to complete a necessary maturation duration of over 3 years. Even a day more than 3 years is fine, and the spirit can then be bottled.

Alcohol Strength

A category wherein the Bourbon Vs Whiskey is rendered moot since both Bourbon and Whiskey, Irish or otherwise, are legally required to be bottled at the same strength.

The bottling strength limit for both Bourbon and Whiskey remains 40% Alcohol by Volume, or 80 US Proof as referred to in America.

Although cask strength Bourbons and Whiskeys that register a significantly higher bottled alcohol strength do exist, the standard legal requirements dictate the same alcohol strength for both Bourbon and Whiskey.

These are the factors that answer the oft misunderstood question, ‘what is the difference between Bourbon and Whiskey?’.