Bourbon is an alcoholic spirit considered to be the native Whisky to the United States of America. The majority of Bourbon is produced in the state of Kentucky, but it can be made anywhere in the U.S.
Bourbon starts when the producer decides on a Mash Bill.
Basically, a mash bill is the recipe that determines the type of grains used and in what proportion.
Bourbon, by law, must be made with at least 51% corn. The rest of the recipe can be any combination of grain. On average, however, corn makes up about 70% of the mash bill.
Typically wheat, barley and rye are the grains used in addition to corn for the purposes of making Bourbon. Each grain brings something different to the finished product. For example, rye can bring spice to the spirit while wheat can add sweetness.
Once a mash bill recipe has been created, Distillation takes place.
Bourbon cannot be initially distilled to more than 160 proof, which is the equivalent of 80%abv (alcohol by volume).
It then goes into the new oak barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.6%abv).
If the spirit is higher in alcohol than 125 proof, the distillate has to be reduced by adding water prior to going into a new oak, charred barrel.
While in barrel, the spirit rests, or “ages” for a period of no less than 2 years.
Bourbon, unlike other whisky, is All Natural, which means there cannot be any added flavors or color enhancements. For instance, Scotch or Canadian Whisky makers are permitted, should they choose, to add caramel coloring to deepen the hue of the finished product. For Bourbon, the only additive is water.
Bourbon, in a nutshell, can be characterized as having lots of vanilla aromas and caramel notes on the nose. On the palate, you’ll often find spice, orange, red berry and toffee or caramel profiles.