When delving into the world of Bourbon there is a particular lexicon used to describe this golden amber spirit. The first thing to keep in mind is that Bourbon is a whiskey. Technically, whiskey is the overarching term for any spirit distilled from fermented grain, making Bourbon a subset of whiskey.
The first common myth about Bourbon is that it is all made in Kentucky, but that simply isn't true. The caveat is that in order for whiskey to be called Bourbon, it must be made in the United States. In addition to this, Bourbon's mixture or mash of grains must be at least 51% corn and has to be stored in new, charred oak barrels.Corn yields a sweeter tasting whiskey which is why Bourbon tastes sweeter than Scotch. Corn is mixed with secondary grains like wheat that adds another layer of sweetness or rye that adds a level of spice. The maximum distilled proof of Bourbon, by law, is 160 proof, and it must be bottled at no less than 80 proof. Unlike Scotch whisky, that must be aged for at least three years, legally, there is no requirement for how long Bourbon must be aged. However, "straight bourbon" must be aged for two years.
Taste is subjective and there are many adjectives used to describe Bourbon from tobacco and milk chocolate to spice, praline, and brown sugar. Bourbon has three basic flavor profiles that include oak, caramel notes caused by the conversion of wood sugars as a result of the charring process, and vanilla caused by the breakdown of lignin into vanillin in the oak. Regardless of whether you are new to drinking Bourbon, or have been sipping it for years, bourbon lovers around the world agree that this whiskey is full of flavor.
Even though Bourbon is made throughout the United States, 95% of the world's bourbon is produced in Kentucky. Bardstown, Kentucky is the self-proclaimed "Bourbon Capital of the World," and the home of the week long "Kentucky Bourbon Festival" that takes place every September.
To sound like a pro, whether drinking Bourbon with a group of friends or showing off at a festival celebrating this amber nectar, we consulted the Kentucky Distillery Association to find out the best way to describe the experience.
Angel's Share: The portion of Bourbon in an aging barrel that's lost to evaporation. Because wooden barrels are porous, and over time, the Bourbon gets in those pores and evaporates into ether. Between two and five percent of the total volume of barreled whisky can evaporate and is known as angel's share.
Devil's Cut - This term was coined by Jim Beam for their product of the same name and refers to the liquid absorbed into the oak.
Rackhouse: The building in which whiskey is aged, sometimes referred to as the “warehouse.”
Ricks: The wooden structures on which barrels of whiskey rest during aging.
Bung - The wooden stopper pounded into the hole in the barrel to seal it. Not the above photo of lettered Bungs.
Chips - Chips, planks, staves, or sawdust added to the barrel to add character to the liquid as it matures. For proper Bourbon, the chips must be new wood.
Sour Mash - Before adding the yeast to the grains, some leftovers from the last distillation are added to the new mixture "souring the mash." Most modern Bourbons are made with sour mash.
Bourbon (straight): A whiskey made from a mash containing at least 51 percent corn, distilled out at a maximum of 160° proof, aged at no more than 125° proof for a minimum of two years in new charred oak barrels. If the whiskey is aged for less than four years, it's age must be stated on the bottle. No coloring or flavoring may be added to any straight whiskey.
Wheated Bourbon: Bourbon made from mashbill that contains wheat instead of rye grain.
Rye whiskey (straight): A whiskey made from a mash containing at least 51 percent rye, distilled out at a maximum of 160° proof, aged at no more than 125° proof for a minimum of two years in new charred oak barrels. If the whiskey is aged for less than four years, its age must be stated on the bottle. No coloring or flavoring may be added to any straight whiskey.
Single barrel whiskey: Whiskey drawn from one barrel that has not been mingled with any other whiskeys.
Small batch whiskey: A product of mingling select barrels of whiskey that have matured into a specific style.
Corn whiskey: A whiskey made from a mash containing a minimum of 80 percent corn and, if it is aged at all, must be aged in used or un-charred oak barrels.
New Spirit/White Dog - This is the clear liquid coming off the stills, it is also described as pre-bourbon.
We hope that you have enjoyed this spirited blog on Bourbon, a Braeval favorite!