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Whiskey vs. Bourbon: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 7, 2023
Whiskey is a spirit distilled from fermented grain mash, aged in wooden casks, whereas bourbon, a type of whiskey, must be made in the U.S. from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels.

Key Differences

Whiskey serves as an overarching term for a variety of spirits that encompass numerous types and origins, providing a canvas that artists of distillation paint upon globally. In contrast, bourbon carries a uniquely American identity, with strict legal requirements defining its production, character, and even geographical origins, ensuring a spirit distinct from other types of whiskey.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
A fundamental principle of whiskey is its derivation from fermented grain mash, then aging in wooden casks, a method employed in countries like Scotland, Ireland, and Canada. Contrastingly, bourbon adheres to more specific regulations, like originating in the United States, and being produced from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn, lending it a characteristically sweet and full-bodied flavor.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
Whiskey, as a broader category, entails various styles such as Scotch, Irish, and Rye, each exhibiting unique characteristics influenced by regional practices and laws. On the other hand, bourbon’s distinctiveness is accentuated by its maturation in new, charred oak barrels, unlike many whiskeys which might be aged in reused barrels, imparting it with a recognizable richness and depth.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
A universe in itself, whiskey encompasses a myriad of flavor profiles, aging processes, and mash bills, each variant from single malts to blends offering diverse experiences to savor. Whereas bourbon, with its caramel and vanilla notes resultant of the new charred oak aging, presents a consistent yet varied palette within its defined boundaries, ensuring a reliably robust and sweet sip.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023
Whiskey production spans across the globe, each country or region fostering unique expressions and traditions, creating a tapestry of spirits varying in taste, texture, and aroma. Bourbon, however, despite its narrower geographic and production scope, invites a journey through subtle variations - exploring different brands provides insight into the finesse and nuances practiced within its defined framework.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Definition

A spirit distilled from fermented grain mash.
A type of whiskey with specific U.S. production regulations.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Grain Mash

Can be made from a variety of grains.
Must be made from at least 51% corn.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Aging Barrels

Can be aged in new or used barrels.
Must be aged in new charred oak barrels.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Geographic Production

Produced globally.
Must be produced in the United States.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Flavor Notes

A wide range depending on type and region.
Characteristically sweet, with notes of vanilla and caramel.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023
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Whiskey and Bourbon Definitions

Whiskey

The aging process of whiskey occurs in wooden casks.
The character of whiskey is significantly influenced by its time spent maturing in barrels.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

Bourbon

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey with a mash bill containing at least 51% corn.
The sweetness in bourbon is often attributed to its corn-dominant mash bill.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Whiskey

Whiskey encompasses various styles, like Scotch and Rye, each with unique characteristics.
Tasting different kinds of whiskey reveals the depth and variety within this spirit category.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Bourbon

Bourbon, despite its strict production regulations, can vary in flavor profiles.
While enjoying various bourbons, one can explore a spectrum from subtly sweet to robustly rich.
Huma Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Whiskey

Whiskey production is a craft practiced in numerous countries around the world.
From Ireland to Japan, whiskey is celebrated and crafted with regional twists.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

Bourbon

The majority of bourbon is produced in Kentucky, but it can be made anywhere in the U.S.
While Kentucky is renowned for bourbon, exceptional bottles can be found nationwide.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

Whiskey

Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash.
Whiskey, with its myriad of types and flavors, has a global appeal.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Bourbon

This whiskey variant must be aged in new charred oak barrels.
The new charred oak barrels impart a signature caramel color and flavor to bourbon.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Whiskey

Whiskey can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as a key ingredient in cocktails.
A classic Old Fashioned cocktail beautifully highlights the complexities of whiskey.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Bourbon

Bourbon often features flavor notes of vanilla, caramel, and sometimes, a smoky char.
The vanilla and caramel undertones make bourbon a beloved base in numerous cocktails.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

Whiskey

An alcoholic liquor distilled from grain, such as corn, rye, or barley, and containing approximately 40 to 50 percent ethyl alcohol by volume.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 30, 2015

Bourbon

A political reactionary, especially a conservative Democrat in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 30, 2015

Whiskey

A drink of such liquor.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 30, 2015

Bourbon

A whiskey distilled from a fermented mash containing not less than 51 percent corn in addition to malt and rye.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 30, 2015

FAQs

Is all whiskey bourbon?

No, while all bourbon is whiskey, not all whiskey is bourbon due to bourbon’s specific production criteria.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Is whiskey always aged for many years?

No, whiskeys vary in age, and some may be relatively young.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Can whiskey be made from any grain?

Yes, whiskey can be made from various grains, each type influencing the flavor.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

What flavors are typical in bourbon?

Bourbon often showcases sweet notes of vanilla and caramel, sometimes with a smoky finish.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Are bourbon and Tennessee whiskey the same?

No, while similar, Tennessee whiskey undergoes additional filtering, known as the Lincoln County Process.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

What is single malt whiskey?

Single malt whiskey is made from malted barley and produced at a single distillery.
Harlon Moss
Oct 07, 2023

What cocktails commonly use whiskey?

Whiskey is used in numerous cocktails, like the Whiskey Sour, Old Fashioned, and Manhattan.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

Are there whiskey and bourbon clubs or subscriptions?

Yes, numerous clubs and subscriptions offer curated selections of whiskey and bourbon for enthusiasts.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Can bourbon be made outside of the United States?

No, to be legally considered bourbon, it must be made in the United States.
Huma Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Why does bourbon often have a sweeter taste?

The high corn content in its mash bill typically imparts a sweeter flavor to bourbon.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

What is cask strength whiskey?

Cask strength whiskey is bottled directly from the cask and is typically higher in alcohol content.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

What is the difference between whiskey and whisky?

The spelling varies: "whiskey" is used in the U.S. and Ireland, while "whisky" is used in Canada and Scotland.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Can whiskey and bourbon be enjoyed with food pairings?

Absolutely, pairing whiskey and bourbon with complementary flavors can enhance the dining experience.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Can I cook with whiskey and bourbon?

Yes, both whiskey and bourbon can be used to enhance various dishes and desserts.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023

How should I store bourbon?

Bourbon should be stored upright, away from direct sunlight, and at a consistent temperature.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Is ice in whiskey considered acceptable?

Yes, while purists might prefer it neat, enjoying whiskey on the rocks is common.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

How can I learn more about whiskey varieties?

Whiskey tasting events or visiting distilleries can enhance your knowledge and appreciation.
Sara Rehman
Oct 07, 2023

How is the age of bourbon determined?

The age statement on bourbon reflects the youngest whiskey in the bottle.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 07, 2023

Is bourbon suitable for aging at home?

Once bottled, bourbon does not age, so it's best enjoyed rather than stored for future use.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 07, 2023

Is there a minimum aging period for bourbon?

Legally, no, but to be considered straight bourbon, it must be aged for at least two years.
Janet White
Oct 07, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

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