Southern Stories
Bourbon -vs- Whiskey, Defined
Jul 22/16

Bourbon -vs- Whiskey, Defined Posted by: Drew Ford | 0 Comments

It's the age old question, perpetually asked of bourbon drinkers:  Whiskey and bourbon are the same thing, right? Wrong. Very very wrong. You may have heard the saying that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. But what exactly does that mean? 

 We here at Bourbon and Boots like to pride ourselves on our bourbon knowledge. No, we haven’t done all of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, but we’ve made a few stops! And along the way, we learned these little tips to help us remember that to a trained palette whiskey (or whisky in some parts of the world) and bourbon are very different drinks:

Let’s start with Bourbon:

  • For starters bourbon is an American Whiskey. Key word American, it must be made in America. 
  • Bourbon must be made from a grain mixture that has at least 51% corn. Believe it or not, this is a law dating back to 1897
  • When you think of bourbon you make think of the iconic bourbon barrels. Those barrels aren't just for looks— in order to be considered bourbon, the alcohol must be aged in new oak charred barrels.


By definition, whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage, made of grain, aged in oak barrels. Sound familiar? This is why bourbon is considered a whiskey. However there are big differences: 

  • Whiskey can be made anywhere. Hence the reason that you hear about Canadian Whisky, Irish Whiskey etc. 
  • While bourbon has to have a certain level of corn, whiskey can be a combination of a lot of grains. 
  • Once fermented, the drink is stored in wooden barrels. No rules as to the type of wood or whether or not they must be charred. Also, if you remember with bourbon, each barrel has to be new, meaning once a barrel has been used, it has served its purpose. Not the case with whiskey. 




By Drew Ford
Drew Ford was born in Arkansas, but has been lucky to call several southern states home. She’s currently working on Masters in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. She loves vinyl records, long road trips, and acquiring useless trivia.



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