Bourbon is a sweet brown beauty, which is deeply American, a casual spirit, and a whole lot more.
Its history can be traced back to 18th-century pre-revolutionary times in the USA, when Scottish & Irish colonists brought the tradition of distilling whiskey to Bourbon County in Kentucky. But what they were drinking was, unrefined, un-aged, nearly undrinkable whiskey. Over the century people demanded quality, bourbon kept improving while distillers discovered barrel aging. Strict regulations were made for Bourbon which is adhered to till the present day.
Bourbon is a whiskey, which is made in the United States of America, with a minimum 51% of corn mash. Sometimes mixed with other grains like rye, barley, or wheat and aged in new charred oak barrels. Production & resting proof are also highly regulated, and it must be bottled with a minimum of 40% alcohol content.
Regulations do not specify the minimum aging period, but a Bourbon is almost always aged, and this process takes place in new charred oak casks. These barrels are only used once, so, after the liquid is removed, these barrels are often shipped off to Scotland or other whiskey-making countries, which use these barrels to age their spirits.
VARIETY OF BOURBON
There are a number of details & terms used to understand varied processes used to produce different types of bourbon, so one can better distinguish a small batch from single barrel and bonded from blended.
Small batch is a blend from a special selection of barrels
Whereas a single barrel means that your bourbon is bottled from one barrel only. These are unique as each vessel has its own temperature and character.
Straight bourbon, indicates that it has been aged for at least two years.
Bottled In Bond is the product of one distillery and one distilling season, aged in U.S.-supervised warehouses for at least 4 years.
High Rye bourbons have more pronounced spice
High Corn is sweeter, and Wheaters, with a corn-wheat-barley combination, is soft & sweet.
Cask Strength bourbons are high on alcohol, potency, and flavor.
And then of course there is Sour Mash, which is simply a bourbon that has some mash from the previous batch added to the new mash.
Ones with more corn are sweeter, while rye is used for some spice or wheat for a distinct flavor. Most bourbon varieties are smooth and subtly sweet with typical caramel, spicy, and vanilla notes. Its aromatic profile depends on the choice of mash and age.
HOW TO DRINK A BOURBON
Bourbon can be served neat, on the rocks, or mixed with water. In-fact most bourbons benefit from some dilution, as It takes off the heat, spice notes, and lets the sweetness shine through. It is also an important ingredient in classic cocktails such as Whiskey Sour, Manhattan, and John Collins. There is no wrong way to consume bourbon, not enjoying it while consuming it, can be the only mistake!