What’s The Difference Between Bourbon and Whiskey

A common questions among new Bourbonrs is “What’s the difference between Bourbon and American Whiskey”?

The answer is pretty simple but yet confusing at the same time.

First, we are going to explain what Bourbon is. Then, we will look at how American Whiskey is different.

Based on the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5) there are six standards a whiskey must meet to call itself Bourbon:

1. Made in America – ““Whisky distilled from bourbon  mash is whisky produced in the United States”

2. The Bourbon mash has to be made up of at least 51% corn. The other ingredients are usually a mixture Rye, Wheat or Malted Barley depending on the flavor profile the distiller is going for.

3. The mash is distilled to no higher than 160 proof or 80% alcohol. Notice, there is no bottom limit here. Just a ceiling for how strong the alcohol can be distilled to.

4 & 5. The alcohol is then put in to new charred oak barrels at no greater than 125 proof or 62.5% alcohol.

6. After coming out the the barrels the alcohol goes in to a bottle at greater than 80 proof or 40% alcohol and you can now slap the name “Bourbon” on the bottle.


7. Any Bourbon that has been aged for greater than two years and has no additional flavoring or coloring can be called “Straight Bourbon”

So what is American Whiskey then?

American Whiskey is any alcohol distilled from a cereal mash that doesn’t meet one of the above requirements.

Distilled from less than 51% corn? American Whiskey

Not aged in New Charred Oak Barrels? American Whiskey

A Bourbon that doesn’t want to be called Bourbon? Tennessee Whiskey 🙂  Made popular by a certain distillery in Lynchburg Tennessee. Don’t be fooled. They are just a Bourbon by a different name.


    $$$ by watering to 90 proof they extend the supply. Evaporation loss during the aging process causes bourbon proofs to rise above their entry proof of 125

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