While living in California, I learned to become a wine drinker. Now that I live in Texas, I am learning about Bourbon. I went to my first Bourbon tasting event last night. I was so intrigued by the wide selection of alcohol being served, that I thought I'd try to sort this out.
Here's what I learned.
- Whiskey is a class of distilled spirits made by fermenting grains such as wheat, rye, barley, or corn.
- Whiskey is aged in wooden barrels.
- Whiskey is spelled “whiskey” (with an e) in the United States and Ireland. It is spelled “whisky” (without the e) in Scotland and Canada.
- Bourbon is a type of whiskey, and there are strict rules in place to ensure its quality.
- Bourbon must be made in the US, distilled from at least 51% corn, and aged in new oak-charred barrels.
- The corn mash which is used in Bourbon has a sweeter taste and full-bodied flavor.
- In general, bourbon is a little sweeter and rounder than rye.
- Bourbon is distilled in no more than 125 proof (62.5 ABV).
- The name Bourbon comes from Bourbon Country, Kentucky – the region where the spirit was invented.
- Today over 95% of the bourbon produced is made in Kentucky.
- Rye whiskey is a type of whiskey made with a majority of the grain rye.
- The rye mash used in rye whiskey has a spicy tone and dry taste.
- In general, rye is known for its spicy finish.
- Rye is distilled in no more than 160 proof (80 ABV).
American Rye Whiskey
- The main difference between rye whiskey and other types of whiskey in the United States is that rye whiskey has to be made from a mash bill that is at least 51% rye. There is no limit on how much rye a mash bill can have, but some rye whiskeys have a mash bill that is 100% rye.
- Canadian regulations don’t require whiskey to contain rye, though historically it did.
- Scotch is whiskey made in Scotland from either barley or a mix of various grains.
- Whiskey cannot be called Scotch unless it is made in Scotland.
- Scotch often has a smoky flavor.
- Scotch can be distilled to as high as 184 proof (92 ABV).
Is everything correct? By the end of the evening, my ability to learn may have been impaired. Did I miss anything?
"I started singin' bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
And singin' 'This'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die'"
— Don McLean, "American Pie"
Going broader, it looks like an alcohol breakdown could be:
- Blonde Ale
- Brown Ales
- Perry (made by fermenting pears)
- Mead (made from honey, water, and yeast)
- Brandy de Jerez
- Other parts of the world
- South African
- London Dry
- Navy Strength
- New World
- Old Tom
- Extra Añejo
- Kentucky Bourbon
- Bourbons not made in Kentucky but made in the US
- American Rye
- Ryes not made in America
- Canadian Whisky
- Scotch Whisky
I find this all very fascinating. Hanging out with my Bourbon group will make a bartender out of me yet.
Adult education is alive in the lab.