Bourbon 101: All The Basics You Should Know

Explore the world of whiskey starting with bourbon! There's a lot to learn so sober up because we’re learning Bourbon 101: All The Basics You Should Know.

Bourbon is one of the world’s leading liquor when it comes to sales and marketing. It also has a very colorful history from when its made, up to the giant in the industry that it is today. Today, we will explore the rich culture of Bourbon and how it came to be.

If you’re an avid drinker, chances are, you’ve already had Bourbon in one or two of your mixed drinks. But how well do you know your liquor? You might find out that Bourbon is a common liquor that is being added to your mixed drinks.

To give you a bird’s eye view in the world of Bourbon, we’ve gathered the latest and juiciest information about your favorite drink. So prepare your shot glass because we will be diving in the exciting world of Bourbon.

Humble Beginnings

Bourbon was first created in Kentucky, USA, with the climate and ingredients to make the perfect drink. But surprisingly, not all Bourbon comes from Kentucky. While most of the world’s supply of Bourbon comes from Kentucky, USA. there are those which come from different states within the United States.

According to research, a certain Elijah Craig was the one who discovered whiskey. But the oldest known distiller of Bourbon is being claimed by the Samuels family. Up to this date, they still brew Bourbon as a family business.

The name Bourbon comes from a French dynasty called the House of Bourbon. The idea came from Thomas Jefferson who was widely known for his fondness of France. During the late 1970’s, distillers marked the barrels that they ship and labeled them Bourbon Country.

Legal Facts

There’s a law that governs every liquor that’s distilled. And each type of liquor has its own set of rules followed in order for them to brew. And this is why Bourbon is being made outside of Kentucky.

Under government rules, Bourbon should be 51 percent corn, aged for about 2-8 years, and the barrels used must be new charred oak barrels. Another law that makes Bourbon interesting is that the barrel is used once. The barrels that are already used are being sold to different distillers that make a different kind of drink.

The legal requirements that need to be completed for a person or company to make Bourbon are as follows:

  • It must be 51 percent corn
  • It’s distilled and prepared in America
  • It’s bottled with a 40% ABV to 60% ABV (Alcohol by volume)
  • The barrels used must be new

The Process of Making Bourbon Whiskey

Making bourbon is no joke, the time and effort that the distillers put through to make this liquor. We will explore the different stages in making Bourbon and how distillers mix up the flavors to make the best-tasting drink.

1. Finding And Selecting The Best Grains

The life of a Bourbon starts with the selection of the grains used to make it. In making Bourbon, distillers will need to use 51% of corn grain and the rest would be a combination of two different grains.

The smoothness and the taste of the Bourbon would roughly depend on the remaining 49% of grains. Most distillers use rye and barley as part of their mash to make Bourbon. Each grain adds a different value to the mash.

These grains are first picked fresh and grounded to prepare them for storage. They’re only stored temporarily until they’re mixed with the mash.

2. Using The Best Water

Water is essential in making Bourbon. This is because the quality of the liquor that they brew will depend on the type of water that they use. In making bourbon, distillers use spring water filtered by limestone.

A huge formation of limestone is found in Kentucky that perfectly filters the spring water. The water that the limestone filters appears clean, clear, and fresh. The filtered water is then gathered by the distillers to add them to their mash.

3. Cooking The Grains

The next process in making Bourbon is by cooking the different grains. Grain cooking is done in the factory where the grains are stored. Each grain has a set temperature to which they are being cooked to produce the best results.

The grains are being processed separately as each grain has a different mode of cooking. For example, corn grains are cooked longer and pressure is applied when cooking. On the other hand, Rye is cooked in medium time and Barley is cooked the shortest.

4. Fermentation Stage

During this stage, the Bourbon mash has already mixed and cooled down. The next step is to ferment the cooled mash into a fermenter. Each fermenter is set to a fixed temperature which is 25° to 30°C for the liquid to be perfect.

Fermenters come in different sizes, they are classified between giant and large. During this stage, the yeast in the mash turns the sugar into alcohol. This process takes about 3 days or more to finish depending on the level of alcohol it produces.

The alcohol level should not be less than 8% and not higher than 11%. This will depend on the distiller and the brand of Bourbon that they are producing. After fermentation, the end result of the fermentation process will now undergo distillation.

5. Distillation Stage

After fermentation, the next stage that the raw Bourbon will undergo is the distillation stage. In this stage, the beer is carefully placed inside of column stills. These column stills are where the distillation process begins.
The beer inside of the distiller is then heated where it produces two substances which are liquid beer and alcohol vapor. The alcohol vapor is then collected through a different tube called a doubler. The doubler further enhances the flavor of the alcohol when it enters its chamber.

6. Storage and Bottling

The final stage that the whiskey will enter is the storage and bottling stage. In this stage, the distilled liquor is being stored in brand new charred oak barrels for 2 to 8 years. Distillers have their own storage houses which house thousands of barrels underneath.

The temperature in the storage facilities must remain cool at all times. This is to prevent the whiskey inside of the barrels to change their flavor and color. After a few years of storage, the Bourbon will now be ready for bottling.

And that’s it for Bourbon 101: All the basics you should know about Bourbon whiskey!

What’s your favorite Bourbon? Tell me below in the comments!

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