Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey

Alcoholic beverages have attained a special part in special occasions and parties. Drinking an optimum amount of alcohol with friends is considered cheerful. With the increasing demand for alcoholic beverages, the beverage industry has developed various varieties and flavors of Alcohol. But, the classical drinks always remain iconic. The most known alcoholic beverages are Wine, Rum, Whiskey, Beer, Tequila, etc. But all these types of beverages also have some subtypes which are different.

Bourbon vs Whiskey

The main difference between Bourbon and Whiskey is that the mash which forms the basic ingredient for Bourbon should contain 51 percent Corn. On the other hand, Whiskey can be made with barley, rye, wheat, or corn. Bourbon is comparatively sweeter than whiskey. Bourbon gives a smoky flavor that is not present in Whiskey.

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Bourbon is a type of Whiskey that is considered a classical one. It differs from Whiskey in the type of grain used and the container used to ferment it. It is exclusively made in America. It is a distilled alcoholic drink. It gets its unique sweet taste from the corn used to make it.

Whiskey is made by mashing and fermenting grains. Different grain varieties give different types of whiskey. It was first made and introduced in the 13 century. Irish and Scottish people were the first to produce whiskey. Americans used Whiskey as currency during the time of the American Revolution. Whiskey was introduced to Indians in the 19 century by the British.

Comparison Table Between Bourbon and Whiskey

Parameters of ComparisonBourbonWhiskey
The grain usedCorn Rye, wheat, barley, and Corn
Aging barrel Charred white oak barrelRum casks or Sherry casks
Country Made only in the USMade in Ireland, Scotland, Japan, the USA, and many other countries of the world
TasteSweeter compared to Whiskey Normally Bitter
Flavor Smoky, Caramel, Vanilla, or OakDry fruits, Peaty, sometimes floral

What is Bourbon?

Bourbon is a whiskey so it must be made with a type of grain. Corn is used to make bourbon. The corn must be mashed. Initially, the corn is germinated, then it is dried, the dried corn will be boiled and mashed. This mashed component is then subjected to fermentation. This mash must have a minimum of 51 percent corn.

The aging of bourbon is done in wood caskets. Bourbon mash must be fermented only in white oak barrels. These barrels must be charred to give bourbon its smoky flavor. This specialized casket gives bourbon nutty flavor and caramelized taste. Aging must be done for at least two years.

Bottled bourbon must have only 40 percent alcohol. Kentucky is the American state famous for making Bourbon. Kentucky Bourbons are iconic just like French Champagne. This type of Whiskey is named after a place in Kentucky called Bourbon County. Bourbon can be made anywhere in America not only in Kentucky.

Additional colors and flavors cannot be added to Bourbon. Bourbon is used to make popular whiskey cocktails. Mint julep is one of the famous drinks made with bourbon. Since Corn is the major ingredient in bourbon making it has a slight note of vanilla. Woodford Reserve, Hudson baby bourbon, Brother’s bond bourbon, Elijah Craig, etc are some of the famous Bourbon brands.

What is Whiskey?

Whiskey is commonly made from barley. Barley is soaked in water and left to germinate. Then the germinated grains are dried. Then it is mashed, the liquid obtained is called wort. Yeast is added to this wort and fermented. Then it is distilled and allowed to mature. There are no specifications for the barrels used to age the whiskey.

Rum casks, sherry casks, or whiskey barrels can be used to age whiskey. Previously used caskets can be also used. There are various types of Whiskey like bourbon, Japanese, Irish, Tennessee, Canadian, etc. Some whiskeys can be expensive. The price determines the quality of the drink. Normal ranged whiskeys are used in cocktails and normal drinking.

Highly expensive Whiskeys are saved for special occasions. Scotch is a whiskey with a diverse taste range and is preferred for its classic touch. It is the classical Scottish whiskey. The alcohol content of every type of whiskey differ. Scotch whisky may have 60-70 percent alcohol. Whiskies are provided with an age statement it indicates the number of years the whiskey has been aged.

Rye, Wheat, and barley also can be used to make whiskey. Whiskey is also gifted on special occasions. Jim Beam, Johnny Walker, Jameson Irish Whiskey, Evan Williams, Canadian mist, and Diageo are some of the famous Whiskies. Whisky is normally consumed neat that is, without mixing anything else. But it is also served with ice cubes and made into cocktails.

Main Differences Between Bourbon and Whiskey

  1. Bourbon is made using Corn as the basic ingredient the mash must contain 51 percent corn but, Whiskey can be made with various grains like rye, barley, wheat, and corn
  2. Bourbon is not aged for a long time the aging process takes 2 years but, Whiskies are aged for a long time
  3. Bourbon must be aged in White oak barrels. These barrels must be new. Whereas, Whiskey can be aged in any type of barrel that need not be new.
  4. Bourbons should be made in the USA. Bourbon made outside the US cannot be considered as a Bourbon. Whiskies can be made in Scotland, Ireland, Japan, and other countries.
  5. The barrels used for bourbon-making must be charred before the maturity process but the whiskey barrels need not be charred


Bourbons and Whiskies are classical and have an irreplaceable place in the hearts of alcohol lovers. A man or woman drinking a glass of whiskey is a common scene in most vintage movies. Whiskey became famous in the 1800s and continues to hold fame till today.

Bourbon also has a crucial part in certain movies and TV shows. One of the main characters of the TV show The Vampire Diaries, Damon Salvatore can be seen drinking bourbon always. The actor’s love for bourbon made him start his Bourbon brand. The beverage industry is evolving every day and companies try to produce new types of beverages. But, whatever new drink may come the craze for the classic Whiskey and Bourbon will always be the same among Whiskey lovers.


  1. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0220787
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=UgdG33sI7K8C&oi=fnd&pg=PP2&dq=bourbon+and+whiskey+&ots=0-mWKiT7vR&sig=UkzOqFEqKonCdMbkebAX_3MDSgQ
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